I argued that this woman named Shaniqua was a woman of modest means who could not speak Swahili or easily enter in a discussion on Binin Bronzes, Ashanti jewelry, The relationship between Byzantine architecture and Coptic symbolism in Ancient Ethiopian churches but she knew that she was of African descent and felt the desire to express her reverence for her ancestors in the naming of her child and her expression of external beauty.
That she knew of and recognized their importance at all is significant and shows that there was some cosmoligic link between just surviving the odds and setting a foundation from which to concquer them. While I was developing the persona for Shaniqua I bounced my theory off a female confidant at Hampton. From her bourgeois perspective Shaniqua was too completely unimaginable to be memorialized in the form of a practical object d'art... While I do concede that the black bourgeoise plays an important role in the maintainence of the African American community as a whole there are some aspects of it's narrowness of sight which will continue to limit it's ability to capture the spirit and attention of our age and lest it become utterly insulated within it's own bias efforts must be made to transform itself into a phenomenon worthy of popular opinion and credibility. For the present it is too aloof...
There appear to be two distinct ways inwhich African Americans have expressed the desire to preserve the legacy of Mother Africa. one is through scholarly pursuit of African culture with the intent to absolutely re-assimilate the full range of cultural offerings into their daily lives or to replicate selected aspects verbatim. The other approach is a synthesis of what we know of African Culture with elements of the African American experience. It is my belief that the latter is the only true form of what we call African American Culture because it fuses elements taken from both sides of the diaspora into a hybrid of unique and site-specific form. In order to support this argument I will need to digress with a commentary of the nature of what we call popular culture.
Ask any person... the first person... that you encounter to please tell you the name of at least one popular song from the early 1700's and you will undoubtedly see they have pulled a blank. Popular culture is a volatile phenomenon. For instance, although the passing of a well known neighbor will gather local and even regional headlines today, after about 100 to 150 years anyone who ever knew or heard of them would have been dead unless they are descendants. Popular culture preserves only a small fraction over time of what was once commonly known. It is dusturbing but likely that almost everything we know to be popular will be utterly forgotten in 100 years, replaced with newer data relevant to primary sources for its importance.
Over the roughly 400 centuries that Africans have existed in America most of the culture which was once common to them has been forgotten. The popular culture of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is compelling and captivating indeed. While an attempt at a verbatim infusion of African culture would probably not be succesful at this time because it would not have the ability to compete with already established elements of popular culture identity a hybrid would have a much better chance to rise to the upper clouds of popular culture. Two examples are the popularity of dreadlocks and braiding as alternative hairstyles for African American men and women. Although many men and women who wear these styles may not even be aware of their true origins or of the cosmological symbolism they denote... they are considered to be acceptable elements of popular African American, Afrocentiric culture. Afro Sheen mounted a popular campapign during the late 1960's and 1970's to popularize the "Afro" or the "Natural" in direct opposition to the conckoline or permanant pressed hair styles popular with black men and women. Although it has has marginal popularity over the past 30 years the afro has again become a popular mens and womens style, it's clear reference is to African and aboriginal human ethnic origins. So the incorporation of African or Africanesque elements into already popular cultural trends creates a hybrid esteemed as an essential element of popular culture and maintained only as long as it is deemed relevant. Hopefully these elements of African origin will continue to be considered relevant by African American peoples and as they become more aware they will incorporate even more elements in an effort to replace these elements which they feel are essential to their current state of being.