Africa Film WebMeeting

Message from: Muhonjia Khaminwa (african-cinema-conference@XC.Org)
About: Re: Katerina's response

Mon, 8 Apr 1996 10:35:19 -0400

Originally from: Muhonjia Khaminwa <>
Originally dated: Mon, 8 Apr 1996 10:35:19 -0400

Hello Katerina,

Thank-you for your response to my posting. I would like to clarify the
following. No I am really more interested in the principle than the
content. If I wanted to discuss family planning in Africa I would have
posted my message to a discussion group on Family Planning in Africa.

The examples I brought up of textiles were what came to mind at that
point. I would not propose that a kanga was the Voice of the People.
However it is an example of a mode of transmission. I know what the
sayings on the bottoms of my kangas mean and if anyone asks me I tell them.

I am also not discussing western influence in Africa. The education
system I went to did not place any importance whatsoever on the
understanding of the role of culture and art, African or otherwise in the
community. As a result those of us who went through that system would
not necessarily understand the "side-effects" implications of using
textiles to
disseminate whatever message we are disseminating and how this impacts
the artistic life of
the community. I am not sure that the words I am using are precise
enough or even correct enough. Which is part of the reason I started
this discussion because I am not sure what exactly it is I am referring

Your example of pagnes in the West African context brings up an a point.
At what point can one say that the community has successfully co-opted
something that was brought in from outside.

As for television programs, and again I do not want to discuss family
planning. The fact is that there was a very well done television show on
Kenyan television during the 1980s that was developed and financed
specifically as a mode of disseminating ideas on family planning. It was
not a western show. It was a Kenyan show with Kenyan actors and overall
Kenyan themes. But the underlying point was to transmit this message.
How does that influence the development of television in the community???

If that is where the resources are available to do the best work as an
artist, a writer or an actress, what implications does this have on how
you develop your craft?? Or where you go with your craft????

Maybe the influence is irrelevant, but that is what I want to discuss,
NOT family planning or even Western influence in African societies.

The concept of outside in the context of Kenya is not limited to West
versus Africa. Within the society there is an insider outsider issue
with rural versus urban, educated westernized versus not, tribalized
versus "detribalized" to name a few.

The political structure of many African countries is such that even that
which is done within the society by centralized government agencies is
not necessarily representative of what the community wants done. The
power of media such as textiles that are produced outside these agencies
might actually
lie in the fact that they are beyond the control of the centralized


On Thu, 4 Apr 1996, Katerina Papadatou wrote:

> Originally from: Katerina Papadatou <>
> Originally dated: Thu, 4 Apr 1996 10:47:55 -0500
> Muhonjia Khaminwa wrote:
> >I am interested in starting a discussion on the subject of how the use of
> >"art" forms by people who are involved in what (no matter how well
> >intentioned) is propagandizing or disseminating a particular message,
> >e.g. Embroidering fabrics with family planning slogans, affects the
> >artistic value of the medium.
> I would like to make some remarks to your argumentation: Firstly, It seems
> that you are more concerned with the content (i.e. family planning
> than with the principle. Secondly, you put the question of legitimation
> the use of traditional expression forms (textile embroidery) for other
> purposes than the "traditional" ones. Well, I don't know about which
> you are talking but in West Africa I've seen similar textiles (pagne) that
> promote this or the other political party, specially during the latest
> elections. And this is not "imported" from Europe or the West in general.
> Thus, we arrive at the next question, this of legitimation. 'Do foreign
> organisations (presupposed) have the right to propagate birth controls in
> African country, by using traditional means?' or better: is the theme of
> birth controls relevant in this country? If it is, I don't see the reason
> not to propagate with the help of traditional means of communication. The
> means as such is neutral, nobody has predefined the messages that can be
> transferred. Furthermore, I find your consideration of embroidered
> as voice of the community a little bit extravagant.
> >And does this process magnified over in television series that are really
> >again vehicles for family planning messages reduce the ability of the
> >medium to effectively address issues that the community would like to
> >resolve on the screen?
> I don't really see how television series, be that American or European are
> vehicles for family planning messages, as you write. I see them more
> (specially the American) as a propagation of the so called "western
> lifestyle" and also as a distortion of the American/European realities. A
> lot of people in
> Africa and elsewhere believe all Americans and/or Europeans are rich,
> successful etc. (the world of Dallas and Dynasty...) Nobody makes serials
> about poverty, slums, ghettos etc. But this problematic is a much wider
> one, that has to do with the bad economic situation of the majority if not
> all of the African states that prohibit own productions. Even the imported
> series are usually B-movies, for the same reason.
> K. P.

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