I have been fighting some heroic battles over the last 16 or so years.
My children have grown up on a diet of Disney characters.
The smallest might, on a given night, sleep under a Spiderman duvet, wearing Ben 10 pyjamas and brilliant red WWE underwear.
Tossed in a corner would be a Mickey Mouse gown. On a weekend we could go watch Shrek, Toy Story 3 or Marmaduke.
So as you can imagine, Disney and Hollywood pretty much occupy our imagination.
When we step out of the fantasy of the movies and our books, we are confronted by the not-so-funny character of a president of a teapot-shaped country spitting the usual tired venom.
Ko blood pressure haikwire here? (Doesn’t blood pressure shoot up?)
So we are all still waiting for the birth of creativity that will save the African child.
For the past few weeks one little one has been pestering me: “Daddy, how come I don’t have ‘powers’? I am trying but I can’t do things like Action Man.”
Ah, OK. Now in the world of my Little Great One (true to Hollywood tradition) the world is divided between good guys and bad guys. So our conversation normally consists of: “Why did God create the devil?”
“Well, the devil wanted to be more powerful than God. He didn’t want to listen.”
“Why did he want more powers?” Why do kids ask questions that show how little you know? You see the little person is fixated with what certain characters can do but cannot do the same.
Power, or the lack of it, consumes his imagination.
But what spurred me into action when he was much younger was when he started clamouring to get inside the TV so he could also be part of Cartoon Network’s 24/7 feast.
I began my search for good African movies – they are not many that really appeal to children (remember you are trying to find something to beat Ben 10 Alien Force) and it’s hard to get them when they exist. What happens to the children of the majority of our people who are not connected to the centres of social power?
Of course, it does not really help to live in southern Africa – a place where the publishing industry cannot fully imagine my existence and struggle.
All I know is that I have been told I am not a market for books here.
On the other hand Accra and Lagos think I exist and cater for me but then one has to travel to get the literature that reflects one’s imagination and existence.
And that is the rub of living in Africa.
You struggle to find good and well-priced books that speak to your child’s world.
Should you want them to watch African movies then you can go to the badly done witchcraft stories on DStv’s African Magic (I know they are popular but that does not take away the fact that they are mediocre films that insult our creative potential).
“So what is to be done?” asked Comrade Lenin, in a different context.
Frankly, I don’t know.
Short of changing the reality of our nightmare of thieving and marauding politicians, I am not sure that we can sustainably create a world of imagination that begins to create the values of an upright and all-conquering people.
Like my favourite writer says: “One just feels this huge vacuum as if one had missed the bus of humanity.” It is a frequent feeling in Africa.
Our continent can be about waiting. Waiting for payday (it’s always a long way off).
Waiting in a bank queue for funds that you are not even sure have been deposited. Waiting for that small break that could put some grub on the table. Waiting to exit the country of your birth. Or waiting to die . . .
Our worst experiences of waiting are akin to what you find in Irish writer Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. As one reviewer described the play:
“Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it is terrible.”
Just to give you the low-down, two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, are standing under some leafless tree and say they are waiting for someone.
That person is Godot. But the problem is they don’t know what he looks like.
To make matters worse, they don’t even recall if they should be waiting by that very tree. All they seem to think they should do is wait.
Well, Godot never comes and they decide they should go. They don’t move, though.
So is this another moaning session on the couch?
I am afraid it is. We need to get rid of those leaders that have turned our countries into Banana Republics. Our children need “she-roes” and “he-roes” so they can begin to dream that they could fly.
All they see on the news are epitomes of mediocrity and mendacity.
But to change the images on our screens we have to change the characters and the storyline. And, eish, that’s the rub.
•Chris Kabwato is the publisher of www.zimbabweinpictures.com