The challenge before us in Africa and the Diaspora is why is excellence important? In every area of people activity where Africans are a concern from manufacture to scholarship, there is a decline in the pressure to produce quality. When substandard continues to be rewarded (fiscally or socially) we block our development. It explains why after 2 decades African films are not getting any closer to the standards of other countries. But back in the '60s with icons such as Ousmane Sembène, the gap in cinema was not that great between Africa and the rest of the world in the same period. The same is true for African scholarship. If you visited any African country in the '70s the quality of the mask in any market was way superior to anything you will find today. If we look at the music we made in the 60's,70's and even 80's compared to the junk we made today it is hard to believe we are the same people. The market has changed, the demands we as consumers place on the market have changed. And therefore the pressures that create genius and excellence are waining from our global community. So name a great artist today. John Legend and Keys. Now go and compare them to someone from the '70s and you realize the total collapse in standards. I can barely recall two songs by Keys yet it is a big deal she plays and sings. Playing and singing was no big deal when Roberta and Nina did it. It was what was expected of an artist.
When we look at African music videos on YouTube or films you have to ask what does Europe and the rest of the world have that is severely lacking in Africa? It is certainly not equipment because Africans love to show off with expensive equipment that they cannot use. We love to give ourselves some of the most elaborate titles seen in Hollywood yet adhere to absolutely no standards of excellence in any field. Audio that is clipping, shots that are poorly exposed or overexposed. Editing sequences that are messy. It is so poor it falls below the dignity of critique. Yet it is consumed and applauded. At a Nigerian film event, the judges reward his substandard work with accolades comparable to Hollywood. But a director of photography in India and a director of photography in Japan and the USA and UK and France all share a certain standard not seen in most of Africa. Why? Are Africans inferior? Only in their attitude to good work. Because how did this same group of people produce such profound work 2 decades ago? And we do see big-budget production in Nigeria so clearly, it is possible. But why is there so little of it? In our own experience in film (because that is what we did and what we do at Ocacia also). The issue is laziness. An editor from Europe will spend 2 days on a 1-minute edit, coloring the shot, checking the sequence, checking for continuity. Now an African editor would not spend that time on an entire film. And we see the same issue with embroidery and fashion in general, there is no pressure for excellence. The attitude is "who cares."
WE ARE ALL BORN POOR AND IGNORANT
A machinist was told by our senior designer "Never use a razor blade to unpick a finished garment" they did it anyway and you know what happened? The entire shirt got a nice big hole in it and had to be redone from start! Nice one! The problem is they told this same machinist the very same thing for the last 3 years, but they still do it! And always get the same result!
We all have different challenges, and the challenge is overcoming these challenges by conditioning ourselves. For example one of my challenges is always losing my car keys. Another person might not have that challenge, or another person might have that challenge but find a different solution than me to that challenge. All of us have different things holding us back in this life, and all of us must actively find unique ways to overcome these things. Messy people must learn to be clean, people who get distracted by phones too much must learn to focus more. Those that overcome their challenges accomplish great things!
Sometimes I wonder if achieving basic quality really that hard? I know for sure achieving excellence above and beyond is pretty special, even for the talented. And I always use music and film as an example. Stevie Wonder did a double album called Songs in the Key of Life and he could never repeat that exceptional piece of work. So I am not talking about gems like that strike once or twice in a lifetime. Just consistent basic quality. We said it before if you practice good techniques the time it takes to do poor work and the time it takes to do good work are the same. And this goes for everything. I do struggle with people that fail to do this.
It might come as a shock to some of you but we get creatively very lazy and hopeless sometimes. Some days you feel like there is nothing you can do right. But we are surrounded by all the good work we have done in the past, and that reminds us of who we are and what we are capable of. This is why we must study our past. But we must never study our past achievements in a vacuum. So to expand if you not doing anything then it makes no difference harping on about past accomplishments of ancient Africans. Makes no difference what shade of black the Ancient anyone was if you not continuing their work/legacy.
We are not in competition with our neighbors in Africa, we are in competition with the entire world. We are all born ignorant but something happens along the way for some of us to escape that ignorance. What others have done, we all can do. And that is down to us if we want to do them or not. You have heard the complaints of racism and this and that. And our response has always been the same. Racism or not, the tasks before us is the tasks before us. And while some people have smaller tasks/obstacles in their way, the race is the same regardless. We either run it and win or sit still and lose. You can shout black lives matter to you turn blue in the face, the race is still the race.
@ Ocacia we have to drag our people to the standards we need in order to secure our place in this world. B/c out of the gates there is a serious serious crisis in this continent when it comes to standards. But it was not always the case. Just go to Ethiopia and look at the Axum stelae. How did they do that? They were not following international standards, that high standard was just their internal standard. What about Ancient Egypt? On their own, they had an accuracy that modern machines aided by computers only now can match--but they did it by hand. And what impresses me most is what mental state they had to be operating at to demand those kinds of standards in the first place.
Standards differ from person to person. But we can agree you would be hard press to shop in an upmarket street in Paris and find a great degree variation of quality. In short, if you went from Channel to Versace on the same road or on the same planet I think there would be some consistency in quality. You could never walk into any tailor shop run by the likes of Ozwald Boateng and see one tailor with a totally different standard to the next one. They are all masters trying to summit perfection.
In Africa, we have nothing like that. In Ocacia--we do not even have that. Our quality is maintained not by having well-trained tailors who share the same quality standards but because we have a quality control department that enforces our quality standards. If something fails--it gets sent back. We are yet to instill true quality standards in our people that are upheld by their own desire to be exceptional.
DEATH OF EXCELLENCE
You can go to Aliexpress and see where all the Black love is going. Cheap African clothes were made in China and sold back to Africa. Now the clothes come at a price because they destroy the local African-owned markets. And what do African people think about that? Read the 1000's comments to see how happy "black" people are for handing over their money to China to make their culture. If this is not stupid I do not know what is. You could argue that we do not make phones, so we need to purchase phones from Korea. But in Africa, we make our own clothes and every day this statement is becoming less true due to Chinese imports. Where on Earth can you find Africans making something and selling it to China other than raw materials? So Aliexpress is powerful due to our support. Tomorrow the only source of African anything will be Aliexpress. It has already happened with the fabric.