Attempting to build a new Africana artist movement / "The Maat" {audio}



This is one of the opening statements in the manifesto we received recently titled "MA'AT (Militant Afrikan Artists Troop): A working proposal":

"We talk a lot. Some decry the lack of politically and socially conscious music out there. Others reply that there is plenty of film that is relevant to the freedom goals of Afrikan people. However, until now there has not been a successful unification of all revolutionary Afrikan artists into a functioning whole. The MA'AT seeks to not only address this, but become that unifier."

I'm excited to hear such ideas being wrestled with collectively; folk reaching for balance and truth in the cultural, political and economic spheres. A link to the entire manifesto can be found below, as well as an interview with one of its authors.

On a very realistic note, I believe there are a few questions that must be addressed for this conversation to be productive. For example, is it the responsibility of the artist to create revolutionary art that agitates for a revolutionary environment where there is none, or little? -- risking the sustainability of one's craft? Or is it the responsibility of the people to create revolutionary movements that can support revolutionary art and sustain revolutionary artists?

It's interesting to note that although the Maat proposal quotes Umar Bin Hassan (Last Poets) recalling David Hilliard of the Black Panther Party telling him how important The Last Poets were to helping sustain the movement, Hassan also is quoted as saying he was initially inspired to revolutionary action upon seeing the Panther's armed entrance into the California legislature building in May of 1967 on TV {see: After the Party}. This type of "chicken or the egg" question/examination is helpful to any discussion on the comparative history of revolutionary art and revolutionary movements, especially when discussing strategy for encouraging revolutionary art. Would The Last Poets have been the successfully revolutionary group we know them as if they had been born in the 1990s?

Creating collective movements in times like these is obviously difficult. We are (with the help of new technology and a deregulated capitalist media) fragmenting ourselves into "content channels" favorable to hyper-targeted niche marketing, making it more difficult to identify non-superficial common causes across cultural, economic and political divides -- out of sight, out of mind. On the flip side, many indie artists benefit from this fragmentation and have thrived in their respective niche markets.

Even then, different industries create different circumstances, and new technologies don't work as effectively for some as much as others. While indie music may thrive in a fragmented market, indie film is having trouble even building one, with the traditional studios still dominating the distribution of most feature-length films.

Is the changing market "revolutionary", as some have called the advances in new media, or does it simply costume an enemy?

An enemy is simply any "hostile group of people" (hostile defined as "very unfavorable to life or growth"). When enemies do not seem obvious, people struggle to agree on who an enemy is; people struggle to see the existence of an enemy. When people struggle to see an enemy, people fail to organize to resist an enemy. When people fail to organize resistance to something that is unfavorable to life or growth, they begin to die as a people, no matter how many of them may continue living as individuals (a group can die without the deaths of its members). Divide, and rule.

Only a fool or blind man would believe that there are absolutely no "enemies" of African culture in today's global society. For those who seek the growth and sustainability of the best of their culture, the challenge becomes one of how to identify, and resist hostile enemies -- both systematic and individual.

The age of Obama has seen a major upgrade to the age old game of Three Card Monte (see: Mumia speaks "Inheriting An Empire"), making it as challenging as ever to keep one's "eye on the ace".



Especially in the cultural sphere, agreeing today on what needs to be resisted (see: "The Roots vs. Pimp C") is a challenging task.

Lacking a legitimate, organized collective of talented artists, many individual artists have retreated into themselves or their (in some cases, profitable) niches.

Despite this reality, and the odds of radically altering it immediately, apparently the authors of this proposal seek to draw a clear line between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary choices for the artist.

The questions raised by The Maat Proposal are extremely relevant. The question is, what type of answers will they inspire or produce? Will the proposal itself be relegated to the fringes of cultural society because of its radical tone? Coming after talented, "conscious" artists, with established fan bases, is a risky move; you may alienate not only those artists, but also those who love them.

Or will this proposal inspire broad conversation, meaningful dialogue, and new ideas and actions? Perhaps it will connect with other similar conversations taking place (which obviously exist) and begin to mediate common ground and direction.

Will there be a social movement that compliments the aims of the The Maat Proposal?

One of the most beautiful things about the future, once one accepts the nature of things, is the balance of its mystery and predictability. I look forward, with faith, to good answers. I encourage everyone reading this to take a moment to engage these ideas and contribute a critical response -- if not here, than in similar conversations elsewhere.

Black Power Media interview w/ Sese (Treble Army) on "The Maat" African artist movement

(mp3)
{via Black Power Media}

MA'AT (Militant Afrikan Artists Troop): A working proposal
by Sese of Treble Army and Crisis

"When you say culture, you are going to have to start talking about artists and writers and poets and all kinds of other aspects of the art world. In the art world, the artist’s first thing is to try to capture people’s minds to get their attention on the depravity, the oppression or the indignity, the unconscious nihilism and the self-destruction that is going on around them. So culture is very important because, like I said, that’s the artist. These are the people that know how to get to people’s souls and touch their minds and get their attention, because the best thing an artist could do is … We might not turn nobody into revolutionaries or into hard core radicals, but if we can get them to think it, if the artist could get them to think it, then we’ve done our jobs. And the other politicians or revolutionaries, that’s when they come in and get those minds. Just like a long time ago when I first came to Oakland about 10 years ago and I was talking to David Hilliard, and I told them as I constantly tell them all every time I see him and Bobby [Seale], “When I saw y’all go into that state office with them guns and Huey firing on the cop, I wanted to come here so bad to be with y’all.” He said, “Let me tell you something, Umar.” He said, “Do you know how important you guys were? You were the guys, when people listened to y’all, you made people want to join the Panthers and the Nation of Islam and the Republic of New Africa. Y’all was probably more dangerous anyway because y’all got into people’s minds and raised their consciousness level.” I began to understand how important that is because back then we just thought we was just some revolutionaries that was getting people ready to make a new change. We made some things. We made some mistakes. We made some good things. But the biggest mistake that we made is we was always talking about tearing things down. We got to also talk about building things up so we could leave something for the next generation."
-Umar Bin Hassan of the Last Poets

This quote accurately captures the goal of the Militant Afrikan Artist Troop (subsequently identified as MA'AT). The MA'AT is a global formation of revolutionary Afrikan (continent-born and diasporic) artists who are at the service of the needs of Afrikan people globally. {full article is continued here}