Nothing comes from outside as technology a priori. It only becomes technology in view of people placing their hand and mind on it and assigning it purpose.
I want an innovation system that really acknowledges the space of the everyday as a site of innovation, and secondly, that we think about the benefit not just to us when we tap into everyday innovation, but how to lift up the living standards of the people who produce that everyday knowledge, an incentive system for them to continue doing so. For now it’s exploitative at the least, theft of public knowledge without acknowledgment at most. And the result is M-Pesa.
And to me, Africans should actually use these creative energies driven by their own imperatives and cosmologies to make sense of what to design for themselves next, not just what’s coming from outside that they can adapt, modify, or repair, but what they can themselves design from scratch.
At first what we now call technology was called ‘the mechanic arts’ and a career as an engineer (the mechanic artist) was less prestigious than the fine arts. There was no such division in Africa: the sculptor makes both masks and hoe handles, and a mask is not just an aesthetic object but regalia of priests and even gods. The smith makes both ornamental things, hoes, and spears.
And because our inspiration comes from further upstream, not just from the limited mortal realm but the roots, the ancestor, how we arrive at design, at building, ceases to be linear in the western sense.
The African artist is not simply aesthetics-maker but engineer, that is, if he/she is genuine. The African artist is indivisible from the people whose everyday he belongs to and speaks from. The energy. That is, if he/she is genuine.
According to whom? Who exactly is the we? I think that’s the mistake of false universalism. The we must be the space of freedom to express without one cosmology being the referee who decides if something is in or out.