The Ends of the Ladder Leading to the Future Rest on the Past
Kalpana Sahni (Guest Editor of this issue)
CULTURAL influences are like the tidal waves of an ocean. The great high tide of one culture and its dissemination is followed by that of another. This has been going on for centuries and applies to cultures as diverse as those of the ancient Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Harappan and the ancient Greeks and Romans. The most recent of them has been that of Europe. Riding on a surge of expansionism from the sixteenth century onwards it engulfed the colonized nations with its Occidental Rationalism and Cartesian logic, the impact lasting well into the twentieth century. Now this tide is ebbing. Many years ago in a conversation with Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Jean Paul Sartre made the observation that the West is getting bankrupt in ideas and that intellectuals were splitting hairs over irrelevant issues far removed from what really mattered. He added that the rejuvenating force would come from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Sartre's words seem prophetic today. Although much of the occidental malaise has spread to the new world there is simultaneously evidence of another tendency which is fast gaining momentum.
Many intellectuals in the three continents of Africa, Asia and Latin America are discarding the European mantle which isolated them from their own reality. The prism of European consciousness through which they viewed their own culture and history is now being cast aside. A process of selective assimilation and transformation of external elements and a new awareness and reassessment of the relevance of one's own heritage is in evidence. This synthesis and amalgamation in a bid to harmonize contemporary elements with one's own culture are resulting in some of the most exciting discoveries in the field of creativity. It is to be discerned in the literature of Latin America, the writings of Ngugi Wa' Thiong (Kenya), Yasher Kemaal (Turkey) and Salman Rushdie, the architecture ofHa^san Fathy (Egypt) and the dance .of Chandralekha (India), to name but a few.
A similar reawakening and reassessment of one's own culture is also a c?harac-Journal of Arts & Ideas 1