Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Kraal on Instagram: an expression of African cultural pride

Masks, Initiés du Bassin du Congo, at the former Musée Dapper*
A few years ago, I found out that the hype about Instagram was justified. I found it to be a great platform to post photos, and it's useful for those aiming to sell a product, as I have already purchased items from several vendors seen on Instagram! And not to forget the beautiful and inspirational photos and posts from all over the world.

It is also a platform for cultural exchange. As a person with more than a little interest in Africa, I soon started following @the.kraal. The stated mission: 
"Exploring the magic of Africa and the diaspora through history, culture, traditions, spirituality, and more."
The feed covers many regions of Africa, especially Sub-Saharan. It features traditions, art, religious practices, but also known and lesser-known heroes of Africa. 
So little is known about Africa's history. Not only that there were kingdoms and erudition in pre-colonial times, but post-colonial heroism is often kept under wraps. Some have well-known names, like Patrice Lumumba; others I had never heard of.

I often comment, but finally curiosity won out, and I reached out to find out more about the person and the motivation behind the feed. Below is my email interview.
Women from the chiefdom of Bamendjou on a ceremonial day

1. Which mysterious entity is behind @the.kraal Instagram feed?
First of all, thank you for personally reaching out to me and for showing love since day one! I am originally from Côte d'Ivoire. I prefer to remain anonymous for now.

2. What was the impetus? When did you start the feed, and what were some of the first posts? 
The Kraal started a while ago. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been in books, researching, studying, and learning so all that work started a while ago. I remember putting together tons of archives about African/black history and culture into binders, which I still treasure to this day. Also, I grew in a household and in a family where all that was really important. My aunt, for example, created the National Library of Côte D’Ivoire so these genes probably helped. 

Actually, I used to do something similar to the Kraal, maybe 10 years ago on Facebook but it wasn’t really organized that way, and I was still very young. Consistency wasn’t something I really knew lol. That’s when I first got the fire before the journey led me back to the point we’re at today. 

Now, the actual instagram feed that we know as The Kraal started as part of my MBA final project. I did media management and instead of writing a thesis, we had to build a media brand and I used The Kraal. I started this feed 2 years ago, and the first posts were about African textiles. 

3. Why the Afrikaans name: Kraal? 
I was waiting for that question, thank you. Words are really powerful. 

I grew up watching Shaka Zulu and the social organizations were called Kraal: royal Kraal, military Kraal, etc… I really love the word and what it represents; that feeling of community, union, and HOME. Also, the way the word sounds is rather catchy. 

Now, it is true that Afrikaans is not an African language (note from Away From Africa: it can be defined as an African language by now, even if the origin is European) and I had a few people complaining about it. To that, I always ask; what language are you using when you communicate with me? What language do you mostly use to interact with people? How many of us, Africans, can speak, think and identify themselves at 100% within an African language? 

In our case, I think we must focus on the message rather than the messenger. When people find out that I’m really an African, they calm down... 
Let me take another example. The Swastika, a symbol of good fortune, found in almost many ancient cultures & traditions. Today, it is associated with nazism and a lot of extremist groups use it. Men give things their meaning and the more people will subscribe to the definition of something, the more that definition will become the norm. Let’s just look at the evolution of language in general… I love to travel at the root of things and a word, at the end of the day, is just a more pronounced utterance of breath fashioned by the mouth and tongue. I’m an African and I resonate with the word “Kraal” without feeling like I’m not respecting my culture. I grew up with that word. I also asked a few South Africans, and I was happy to find out that, indeed, the word is part of their vocabulary. 

4. What keeps you going? Which goal(s) would you like to reach?
The love.
As for the goals, I wish to continue to do my best work and hopefully, reach more people.

5. Who is your target audience?
Everyone who has a genuine interest in Africa and the black world, as I like to call it. My biggest dream may be, through this platform, to have Africa and the diaspora reconnect. Let’s look at Brazil, for example, the country with the largest black population outside of Africa. How can we reconnect them to the motherland in an authentic manner and share our experiences, through storytelling? That’s the kind of question I’m asking myself. I personally don’t put The Kraal inside a box at all. 

6. Do you get unfriendly/aggressive comments?
Yes, I do.

7. What were some of the comments you most appreciated? 
Those from people that share their knowledge and experiences. 

8. Your favorite posts?
I put the same energy into every post but most recently, I really enjoyed the work I did on serpent symbolism. The story of Che Guevara in Congo was also very well received.

9. Who inspires you? 
Everything and everyone. Life itself is the inspiration.

10. What keeps you going?
Passion and breath.

11. What are your sources? 
I obtain the ideas for the posts from everywhere, including all over the web.

12. When will the book come out?
If you can help me put it together, I’ll say soon then! ;) 
(Note from Away From Africa: with pleasure! It's a long road.)

*The Musée Dapper in Paris is now closed. It may have been the only nonprofit private museum in Paris.

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