Fanon on The Creation of (Anti-Colonial & Post-Colonial) Identity , in ‘On National Culture’
Fanon notes how new patterns of cultural expression can emerge from the imaginations of the colonised community, demonstrated by a transformation of both the form and content of post-colonial native literature, arts, music, crafts, dance and oral traditions.
The purpose of these emerging, exploratory art forms is to give representative forms to the voices and struggles of and within the community. Experimental language, literature and art forms tackle difficult new themes and unusual methods of expression, discarding previous characteristics (in Fanon’s view) of ‘despair and revolt’ in favour of a more hopeful unification of the people. In sculpture and craft work, the coloniser’s formalist image of the native is discarded.
This defiance of expectation helps, in turn, to construct a new national identity, one which reflects a new cultural awakening and self-realisation. These creative outlets allow natives to transform their perception of both themselves and the rest of the world.
Thus, cultural expression becomes an arena for anti-colonial rebellion. Fanon explains that the ‘rigid codes of artistic style and… cultural life’ that substantiate the colonisers’ understanding of the natives are threatened by the emergence of a new national identity. They ‘become the defenders of the [old] native style’ in the face of a new rebellion.