On Revolutionary Culture and the Role of the Artist
Nehanda Imari: Brother Kwame, first of all how do you define culture?
Kwame Ture: Africa's noble son, Ahmed Sekou Toure, tells us precisely that culture is "all the material and immaterial works of art and science, plus knowledge, manners, education, a mode of thought behavior and attitudes accumulated by the People, both through and by virtue of their struggle for freedom from oppression and the hold and dominion of nature."
Nehanda Imari: How does the artist fit into this definition?
Kwame Ture: Culture is created only by the people. All artists use this culture. They do not create it. A writer writes a song or a book, they did not create music, language or writing; the people did. Thus, the artist only represents the People's culture. The culture of all oppressed is the culture of resistance. The enemy seeks to corrupt the artist into misrepresenting the people's culture, thus betraying them. Thus all artists coming from an oppressed people must represent resistance in their art form. Anything other than this is betrayal.
Nehanda Imari: You were an activist in the 60's and as you continue to be active in the people's fight for freedom. What role does the progressive artist play in the movement?
Kwame Ture: We said the culture of the oppressed is the culture of resistance and it comes to the forefront in mass confrontation with the enemy. Thus in the 60's in the U.S. the culture of the African masses came to the forefront with the spontaneous mass movement. The honest artists continue to represent the noble aims of their people. The artist has a responsibility to represent the people's culture with integrity and dignity. History absolves or indicts us all. And it is those artists who truly represent the people's interests and aspirations that the people praise. Today everywhere we can hear the ringing applause at the mention of the names Paul Robeson, Sony Kandia Kouyate, Miriam Makeba, Bob Marley, etc. Sekou Ture pointed out that " to each people their culture". It is clear that cultures differ, some depend on music to a larger extent than others, etc. But these differences are not necessarily antagonistic; just like the physical differences in the human family. Imperialism will seek to heighten these differences and, where possible, make them antagonistic. African art is basically utilitarian and social. Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah shows us that African art is preoccupied with the moral-philosophical aspect of the society which explains its typical power.
Nehanda Imari: In conclusion can you give us a final comment on the artist today who wants to become a 'Revolutionary Artist' and serve humanity?
Kwame Ture: Revolutionary art is art which inspires the people to fight against all forms of injustice, which is the only true purpose of revolutionary art. Reformist art teaches the people to accept injustice in essence, while fighting against its form. I think the artists must use their form of their art to confront all evils in the society.