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The Cultural Revolution, Artistic Creativity, and Freedom of Expression in Guinea

  • Lansiné Kaba
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The interdependence between art and society, and the subsequent question of the function of art, belong to the old debate which has divided the artistic world into two broad factions. Radical writers and critics, sometimes labelled as ‘revolutionary’, think that the artistic universe is intimately connected with the socio-political context in which creativity takes place, and hence that art must play an active rôle in the society. The ‘conservatives’, while not necessarily opposing the active involvement of individual artists in politics, cleave to the view of art for its own sake and truth.

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page 201 note 1 Such sharp ideological cleavages appeared in the panel discussions on culture, art, and négritude at the First Pan-African Cultural Festival held in Algiers, 1969.

page 202 note 1 Unlike most African radio stations, the Voix de la Revolution, the Guinean network, broadcasts throughout the night and plays revolutionary poems and militant speeches by Sékou Touré. My study is neither exhaustive in the discussion of the pre-1968 literature, nor inclusive of the abundant poetic and historical writings existing among the Muslim elite in Futa Jallon and in the region of Kankan.

page 203 note 1 These records were re-issued in 33 r.p.m. a few years later: Keita Fodéba, Kanté Facelli, and Mouangué, ‘Afrique: chants et danses’, Le Chant du monde, G.U.LDX74381; and ‘Les Ballets africains de Keita Fodéba’, Vogue CLVLX297, Vols. I and II. The cora is a lute–harp type of instrument with 21 strings, extremely popular among the Mandinka.

page 203 note 2 Fodéba, Keita, Aube africaine (Paris, 1951).

page 205 note 1 Ibid. 1965 edn. pp. 25–8.

page 205 note 2 The Niger River Commission was established in October 1963 to bring about more co-operation in the region.

page 205 note 3 Fanon, Frantz, Les Damnés de la terre (Paris, 1961), translated as The Wretched of the Earth (New York, 1968), p. 227.

page 208 note 1 Touré, Sékou, L'Afrique et la Révolution (Switzerland, n.d.), p. 250.

page 208 note 2 A speech broadcast on the radio in 1974. Similar views were previously expressed by Touré, Sékou in Pouvoir populaire, Vol. 16 (Conakry, 1969),Défendre la Révolution (Conakry, 1969), and Le Cliemin du socialisme (Conakry, 1970).

page 209 note 1 Touré, Sékou, L'Afrique et la Réolution, p. 257.

page 210 note 1 Ibid. pp. 188–93. The parenthesis in the third paragraph is mine, but corresponds to an explanation of négritude known as fantothisme, broadcast on the Guinean radio in March 1974.

page 210 note 2 Fanon, Frantz, Peau noire, masques blancs (Paris, 1970), pp. 108–34.

page 210 note 3 After the Portuguese-led invasion of Guinea in 1970, relations between Conakry and Dakar worsened because Touré accused Senghor of complicity. The two countries were on the brink of war during 1973, and the Voix de la Révolution made vicious daily editorials against Senghor throughout 1974– Touré's poem, ‘De la négritude a la servitude’, set the tone of this campaign.

page 211 note 1 L'Agression portugaise contre la République de Guinée: livre blanc (Conakry, 1971), p. 264.

page 212 note 1 Trotsky, Leon, ‘Literature and Revolution’, in Siegel, Paul N. (ed.), Trotsky on Literature and Art (New York, 1970), p. 57.

page 213 note 1 An editorial broadcast on Conakry radio, 1974.

page 213 note 2 Laye Camara received encouragement and suggestions from a Belgian journalist, essayist, and art collector living in Paris; it is possible that this expatriate suggested the idea of writing the biography and edited the manuscript. This process, common in the publishing business, has been intentionally misinterpreted by the Guinean régime to discredit Laye Camara. However, the details, authenticity, and clarity of the narrative testify to an African's penmanship.

page 214 note 1 Bembeyya Jazz National, Regard sur le passé, side a, S.L.P. 10. The concluding songs in Mandinka compare Sékou Touré to Sundiata of the Mali Empire, Alfa Yahya DiaUo of Labé in Futa Jallon who was deported by the French, and to other God-entrusted leaders. Thus in the phraseology of Terence Ranger and Michael Crowder, one of the origins of modern nationalism lay in ‘primary resistance’; and Touré is unique because he is both a political and consanguineous heir to Samori.

page 215 note 1 ‘PDG’, S.L.P. 17.

page 215 note 2 Ahmed Sékou Touré, ‘Poèmes militants’, S.L.P. 13.

page 216 note 1 Ibid.

page 216 note 2 Touré, Sékou, ‘La 5e Colonne’, in L'Agression portugaise contre la République de Guinée: liure blanc, p. 626.

page 217 note 1 Sékou Touré, ‘De la négritude à la servitude, in ibid. p. 632.

* Associate Professor of History, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. An earlier version of this article was presented to the Conference on Conformity and Artists' Freedom to Dissent at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, March 1975. I am indebted to the Social Science Research Council and the University of Minnesota for supporting my research.

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