Criticism through creativity

Criticism through creativity

It’s the early days of November and the last rains of the season are drizzling over Bangui. The sky is thick with moody clouds, like a towel that is being wrung out of its last drips. The dry winds that announce the arrival of the dry season have just started to blow. News from Eastern parts of the country say that the grass is drying up and the mornings are getting cooler. As months of humidity are coming to an end we are slowly starting to repaint walls that were stained by humidity and sanding down wooden furniture that have been affected by moisture, wiping the last tracks of mud from our boutique floor. Seasons are shifting.


Senegalese born entrepreneur Magatte Wade  is known to have coined the phrase “criticism through creativity”. According to her the best way to criticise something is to debunk it with your creativity. While we had not phrased it like that, Magatte gave us words for something that runs deep in our core.

We were so frustrated with the negative picture the international media was painting of our country that we decided to create beauty as a counter attack. We were so tired of the story of limitations we were telling ourselves, that we decided to create with our hands to prove to ourselves that even with little means we could, literally, create beauty.

In her book “Island of Trees” Elif Shafak writes:

There are moments in life when everyone has to become a warrior of some kind. If you are a poet, you fight with words. If you are an artist, you fight with your paints. But you can never say “I am sorry, I am a poet, I’ll pass…”

What are we fighting for?

We are fighting for another story, we are fighting for a story of resilience, joy and hope to be heard within and from the Central African Republic. We are fighting against a mindset where financially poor nations are only, in the global west’s views, linked to scarcity and hopelessness. We are also fighting for all the other stories. We are fighting for a perspective where the other side of the coin, the other story, is seen and heard. There is always more than one perspective. There is always lessons to learn in the other story. There is always beauty to be found in the connection between perspectives. 

You might not be a poet or an artist, but you are a warrior of some kind. In this particular season, if you are buying gifts for the holidays, you can be a warrior with your choice of where and how you buy gifts. Support local producers, support artisan companies. Be creative with your choices. Spend your money and time in a way that makes a difference and that speaks of your values.

The wisdom of an African proverb teaches us:

Alone I smile, together we laugh.
Alone I say, together we talk.
Alone I enjoy, together we celebrate.

We believe that the concept of the other story is tightly intertwined with the concept of togetherness. When we chose to see the other story, we chose to connect with other people. In that connection, we start laying the building blocks of sharing in each others stories. In the sharing of other's stories we learn and get inspiration and strength for our own journey. 

How are you choosing to share in someone else's story today?
How are you choosing to create dialogue with someone else this week?
How are you choosing to celebrate with someone else this month? 

A dear friend of ours has a motto on her WhatsApp profile that says "nothing changes if nothing changes".  Sometimes the need to shift our perspective, fight for what's right and slowly change the world around us feels overwhelming. And when that happens, we try to break it down. Just one little change at a time. One little shift. Because if nothing changes, nothing changes.