Donald Molosi’s manifesto Dear Upright African was launched last week in Berlin, Germany at the African Book Festival to great critical acclaim. At a sold-out ceremony held at the Babylon Theatre of Berlin, the packed auditorium including 50 of the most prominent African writers, Molosi delivered a fiery speech in which he called for African history to be taught in schools.
Says Molosi of the launch, “Dear Upright African is not just a book. It is the manifesto of a youth revolution. Africa’s youth are tired of being taken for granted. I will keep speaking truth because every time I speak truth about the need for decolonization an African somewhere walks a little taller.”
Dressed in a taqqiyah, a pan-African dress, Molosi also took to the microphone to read from his new book, a manifesto called Dear Upright African. The following applause and standing ovation was the longest of the entire festival with some writers present calling this Molosi’s moment of establishing himself as one of the most powerful literary voices of his generation. In attendance were many of Africa’s top writers including Ben Okri, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Sefi Atta, Zakes Mda and Fred Khumalo.
Speaking at the ceremony, Molosi stated in his speech that, “We must ask ourselves: why are Western languages unable to share our African cultural space with our own equally valid and more geo-socio-politically relevant African languages? Many African parents have effectively banned vernacular in the household to show high social status. Why are we Africans deliberately creating an artificial language barrier between children and their grandparents, thus trapping the interactions between the two generations exclusively in a colonial language, a foreign tongue that fails to capture our African historical, linguistic, and spiritual complexities? In doing so, little room is left for intergenerational transmission of local culture and indigenous knowledge.”
The manifesto, Dear Upright African scooped its first international accolade within a month of its release. The manifesto has been nominated for the African Author Award 2019 under the Best Book category.
The event was broadcast live on DeutscheWelle TV, Germany’s most prominent television station. In an interview with the television station Molosi said, “One of the curious subjects in Botswana schools is Moral Education, whose objective, according to the Botswana Junior Secondary syllabus, is to facilitate the “all round development of the students. Since 1998, Moral Education has been taught as a self-contained subject. The course is compulsory for all seven years of primary school and the two years of junior secondary school—a total of nine years of studying Moral Education! In the national educational reforms of the 1994, the Government of Botswana decided that Moral Education should be secularized, but since the teachers were originally trained to teach morality only in line with Christianity and never re-trained, Moral Education, like Religious Education, remain in Botswana classrooms as unnecessary Bible studies in a place where, instead of spreading Western religion, civics could be taught to develop citizens with a practice of critical thinking.” This is the first launch of Dear Upright African. The last launch will be the biggest one and it will be in Botswana.
The book was released earlier in the year on February 28 and it is Molosi’s manifesto in which he advocates for the teaching for African history and languages in African schools. The book is based on Molosi’s talk of the same title. Earlier in the year Molosi explained that he symbolically wanted to launch the manifesto first in Berlin because he wanted to bring attention to 135 years since Africa was “cut up like a cake in Berlin. Once we understand that we can better evolve our currently colonial curricula in Africa.”
Molosi stayed true to his promise and following his book launch he marched to Wilhelmstrasse, a building that is Otto van Bismarck’s official residence. This is the building where European powers divided Africa amongst themselves. Molosi’s protest was through a ritual in front of that building. He was later joined by fellow African writers Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (author of House of Stone) and Ijangolet S. Ogwang (author of An Image In A Mirror) who also performed rituals to protest the silence around Germany’s lasting colonial legacy in Africa. The video of Molosi’s protest ritual will be released alongside commentary later in the year.
Following his successful launch of the book, Dear Upright African sold out in Germany and a German literary agent called Interkontinental has since opeed for orders to cater for the demand for the book. Due to popular demand for the book and its narrative, Molosi has begun his tour of German universities. The first one is Humboldt University where he went to speak to students about the need for Africa to decolonize curriculum.
When it was first presented as a 2017 TED talk, Dear Upright African was presented in 2017 the talk created a lot of conversation. In it, Molosi proposed that African schools should teach African history to which a certain teacher at Maru a Pula School proceeded to attack and insult Molosi online. Although Molosi himself never responded to the attack, many Batswana labelled the attack against Molosi as a racist one as there was nothing wrong with his suggestion.
In her remarks about Molosi’s work, award-winning writer Tsitsi Dangarembga says that, “Palpably outraged, Molosi reminds us - sharing vivid examples - of how the metaphysical and physical engagement of empire with the African continent formed a carefully orchestrated strategy whose end result was to inflict large numbers of Africans, including African elites, with a chronic, debilitating self-hatred. Drawing form his extensive reading on the subject, Molosi offers practical remedies for the devastating crisis he chronicles.”