When I first published Are Africa’s Heroes truly African? One of the questions I remember been faced with was “should African comics encourage Juju?” but I think the more important question is are African comics encouraging Juju and does returning to our African roots necessarily require the involvement of Juju and similar sorts of mysticism?
First of all I would like us to learn a little bit about Juju! What is it? What is it’s relation to the African culture? Why did it come up in the first place?
Juju according to wikipedia refers to a spiritual belief system incorporating objects, such as amulets, and spells used in religious practice, as part of witchcraft in West Africa. The keyword here is witchcraft which we all know is plainly Bad but what does it have to do with African culture and what does it have to do with African comics.
The controversy surrounding cultural isolation with respect to the African creative industry is one that has unsurprisingly spawned other notoriously controversial issues, this been one of them.
After all if our heroes cannot put on capes and spandex and get their powers from Greek gods Wonder woman style then that certainly must mean the only option we have in order to make the stories more fantastical and phenomenal is Juju…..right?
Unfortunately this is a misconception a lot of African creators and fans have and I believe it is to some extent a result of the ignorance some of them have when it comes to the African culture and the African people.
A lot of people seem to confuse the African traditional religions with the likes of Fetishism and Juju. The fact is the African traditional religions much like Christianity or Islam also believe in a supreme God and creator and much like Catholic canonization they venerate the dead, this is in no way Idol worship or reliance on evil spirits.
Juju on the other hand is plainly witchcraft, it does not matter where it comes from , witchcraft is witchcraft and if West African Witchcraft is called Juju then Juju should not be branded as anything good in any Comic book, African or not!
That said what does this mean for African comics? what this means is that African stories do not need to be occult in order to be African, in fact I find it insulting that some think that is the case! Getting rid of Spandex doesn’t mean putting on loin clothes and using weird charms it just means be natural and be African!
The situation is clearly illustrated in the first issue of Anikulapo, where the anti hero openly admits he uses Juju and finds nothing wrong with it! Now I love Anikulapo as a character and I personally think he is dope but nonetheless he does not present a very beneficial influence to his readers! In fact in his effort to highlight Africa I personally feel he has rather degraded the culture in the eyes of many.
The likes of Scion Immortal and Visionary do well in this regard! They have beautifully eliminated the superhero elements and spawned remarkable stories that highlight on technology and African lore and mythology. They are definitely the pace setters for me, of course the likes of June XII and Ireti are not far behind but Visionary and Scion Immortal do it so beautifully!
When issues like this pop up it’s easy to remember guys like Constantine, Lucifer and then there is also Willow from Buffy the Vampire slayer, then Hellboy and don’t get me started on Manga in this regard! But this just proves my point, America and Japan have no problems making stories highlighting the dark arts and the devil…..sheesh I know I know I sound like some pastor or something but…..and as long as it is a hit and it makes bucks who cares…. sell the damn book but no I believe the African industry can and should stand for something better.
After all is said and done we have so much more to fight for, the stories we are telling and the characters we are creating are suppose to inspire a new generation of African people to step up and fight for their home, the stories we are telling are suppose to change Africa! How will that happen if they are just as messed up as the stories from outside?
Yes Africans are obsessed with the Bible so WHAT?…..true we didn’t write it but Jesus did say he was coming for all , at the end of it we should not be scared to let these strong moral bindings guide us! We should create stories , telling our story, Heroes living our lives, tales highlighting our history and our struggles but most of all we should not look to others with a sense of inferiority and copy blindly simply assuming that our culture is everything archaic and heathen!
I’m just waiting for when African comic creators attempt to start using swear words in their books, hell they’ll really get it from me!
So in the end just because we shouldn’t do African superheroes doesn’t necessarily imply we should fall to heathen and archaic stuff either! Africa is more than that and that is the point we are trying to make. Juju should not be encouraged for any reason and it most certainly should not be the center of our creativity!