#111 ~ I speak Ken Saro-Wiwa

If your message isn’t pure, then you are feeding the masses poison.

I have battled within myself about the duty Art has to truth, to the human struggles for liberation, freedom and justice. Surely we place the artistic form on a pedestal which, in itself, lacks the sufficient structures to stand tall and support it. Surely art is not the domain for political activism, but aesthetic beauty, and financial prowess.

Yet time and again Art has become the gladiatorial ring within which the underdog, the slave, the minority gains a win, to the detriment of ‘the man.’

Nneka is an artist I have greatly admired these past five years and her music became the initial structures of my bridge back to Nigeria. Her music spoke to me because it spoke outside the boundaries of what I had come to define modern music by. She is militant in her desire to use her music to illuminate to the world the plight of the Niger Delta, and to galvanise Nigerians, galvanise Africans, to stop wallowing in a miry history of colonialism but to reclaim what is rightfully theirs – their dignity and their role in this vastly changing world.

To proclaim to speak Ken Saro-Wiwa as she does in her new song ‘Soul is Heavy‘ is to state that her message, embedded in the body of Art, is intrinsically tied up with a message of social-justice. Ken Saro-Wiwa fought against the injustice of the Nigerian Government and their treatment of the Niger Delta post-oil discovery. A peaceful environmental activist, he campaigned tirelessly against the extraction of crude oil from the Delta which was making the Ogoni people homeless, destroying the environment and challenged the reluctant position of the Government in their dealings with Multi-National Companies such as the Royal Dutch Shell Company.

Executed under President Abacha on presumably (unfounded) politically motivated (and therefore economically instigated) claims, his murder provoked international outrage. Yet the delta is still being used for extraction and the environmental conflicts that have arisen has seen a revival in guerrilla warfare, especially against MNC’s, neither helping the political, social or economic stability of this naturally rich West-African Nation.

Nneka‘s voice rings loud and clear declaring to the world, declaring to the artists within us, that the creative is a form within which  all struggles, all desires, all voices can conflate and endure. Ken Saro-Wiwa came alive to me, his mission birthed before me and his voice spoke to me, through the power of her music.

Which voice are you speaking? Which struggle are you embodying? Which art form are you manipulating, controlling, and using to educate and feed the ‘masses’?

I am, the voice of Isaac Boro,
I speak Ken Saro Wiwa
I am, the spirit of Jaja of Opobo,
fight for right, for our freedom
You? A power hungry class of army arrangements,
stealing money in my country’s plight
A soldier pretending to be a politician,
you teacher who no nothing do not teach
me lies

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