The power of imagination.

Author:Choruma, Allen
Position:SPEAKER'S CORNER - Changing Africans' perceptions of themselves and of their continent through fiction - Column

Fiction is a powerful tool that frees up the imagination and leads to the some of the greatest achievements of mankind. Comics, for example, provide unique role models for young minds but until recently, most of the heroes were white. Not any more--a new breed of young comic creators in Africa are changing perceptions.

In a letter to the Editor of New African following the magazine's inspiring and intriguing cover story on the global hit film, Black Panther, reader Hassanali Mansur from Boston, US made the following very interesting remarks: "All progress has not come because of advanced technologies or discoveries --these have followed huge leaps of imagination which in turn brought forth the technologies and mind-sets that made the impossible possible. All action is preceded by thought. Minus the fresh thought, action can only be repetitive."

Hassanali went on to say: "But for imagination and creativity to flower, the muscles that create it must be constantly exercised. The only way to do this is by reading and reading and reading, including fiction of all kinds."

Truer words have never been spoken. We must not underestimate the power of fiction in re-imagining Africa, through opening up new possibilities--of what has not been but can be--and changing stereotypes and perceptions engrained in the minds of people for centuries.

In trying to resolve challenges facing humanity, inventors such as Leonardo da Vinci had to stretch their imagination beyond imagination to come up with groundbreaking inventions. Da Vinci, it should be remembered, was also an artist par excellence--witness the Mona Lisa, still regarded as a masterpiece for all ages and times.

In fact, the great scientists of old were also philosophers, writers, poets and artists. They nurtured the power of the imagination and were able to make the future tangible and thus achievable. Science fiction writers like Arthur C. Clarke were amazingly prescient in predicting the conquest of space.

Many of the astronauts and engineers involved say that it was science fiction that first sparked their interest in exploring space.

Fiction also creates mind-sets and perceptions in people and society which can become more real than the reality. The film, Black Panther is perceived by many as helping Africans in the struggle to change perceptions of themselves and of Africa.

But there is the other side of the coin. Fiction can and is often used for negative outcomes--to create gender, racial and...

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