Saturday, May 22, 2010

TEDxDAR: Abdu Simba

Abdu Simba is a bit of a polymath, but for TEDxDAR he's here wearing what I like to think of as his 'visual arts' hat. Abdu was one of the founding members of the Flame Tree Media Trust, supporting photography in Tanzania. His talk is about a rather difficult subject to collapse: iconic images, identity and self-esteem. A subject whose complexity any African who consumes film and television is familiar with as we react viscerally to a range of emotions- from the humiliation of old reels with blackfaced minstrels to the triumphant appeal of Barack Obama's aquiline profile gazing thoughtfully into a beautiful American future.

Abdu took us through a slide show of iconic images, from the West and by contrast from Africa to help us think about the tropes, and expose the stereotypes. His ultimate destination was the iconography of Julius Kambarage Nyerere and how he has come to embody Tanzania's soul because he represents our greatest hour. I'll see about getting the slide show for you, it pretty much speaks for itself.

He did say this about the arts: in Tanzania, just as anywhere else, they are cruel masters. We may talk about 'incentivising' art all we like but at the end of the day artists are the ones who have to serve their craft or else they will die. If you are doing something else because art hailipi, you weren't an artist to begin with.

Sometimes it really is that simple. (Please don't use this as an excuse Not to Pay Artists for their Work!)

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