Afrocentric Aesthetics in Selected
Harlem Renaissance Poetry
Abu Shardow Abarry
Due to the persistent inability of Eurocentric literary paradigms to fully understand and explicate the artistic and literary creations of peoples of African descent, scholars have once again responded with a variety of innovative and interesting alternatives. Probably the best known and most interesting of such new ideas is Afrocentricity, especially as defined by its Temple University proponents like Asante, Keto, Azibo, and Welsh; and other intellectuals like Maulana Karenga, Jacob Carruthers, Dona Richards, Carol Aisha Blackshire, Wade Nobles, and Naim Akbar. According to Asante, for example, Afrocentricity is the placement of African peoples, both continental and diasporan, at the center of any literary or artistic creations and analysis ( 1987:6). In other words, literature by African or African American writers must reflect and treat African peoples as subject, not object; and African ideals, values, culture, history, traditions and worldview must inform any such creation, analysis, or presentation. ( Asante, 1989:5).
By deductive reasoning the Afrocentric aesthetics then becomes a reference to the values, criteria and perspectives of beauty and goodness derived from the African and African American's cultural ideals, social and historical realities, and traditions. As such, it is an aesthetics distinguished by what Keto calls its Africa-centeredness ( 1989:5). It is complex, existing in the cultures of peoples of African descent all over the world. But it may also be specific, derived from a particular locale, region, or group, or a set of locales or groups, either on the continent or in the African diaspora. It may be composite, or Pan-African, drawing on features common to all African cultures and peoples. But irrespective of its locale, region, or group of derivation, when critically digested, the aesthetics yields the following characteristics, patterns, and values: spiritu