Kwame Amet Tsikata is a manifestation of absolute pride in Ghanaian heritage and culture. Known to the world as M.Anifest, an internationally acclaimed and award-winning rapper, he is a paragon of African excellence. Blaque sat down with this prolific artist to find out about his artistry and gain insight into what inspires his music, style of dress and way of thinking. Naming and Embracing The name M.Anifest is more than just a stage name or a cool moniker that easily slips off the tongue of a roaring audience at a packed concert – it is a statement of conviction and a declaration of things to come. M.Anifest steadfastly believes that the journey of becoming aware of and fully embracing our identity as Africans starts with the names that we are given at birth. “In the African context, names have always meant something. Your name is something that goes before you. We believe in the power of speaking things into existence and it all starts with a name. When I have a child, he’s going to have African names because I think that it will give him a sense of identity. Before even coming into full consciousness as a human being, it will be intrinsic that he is African.” You are the best version of yourself when you are the person you’re supposed to be In this modern-day space that we live in, culture and identity are constantly evolving and it can become easy for us, as Africans, to lose a sense of who we are. In such a space, Manifest believes that it is important for us to stay close to the roots of who we are and even suggests ways of doing so, “We have to know where we come from. A sense of history doesn’t have to be other people’s projection of our history. A lot of the time a sense of history is through somebody else’s eyes. We need to know more about who we are and where we came from for us to evolve our identity and our ideas of Africanness.” He believes that if we stay close to our roots and know our story, we will be able to represent ourselves more confidently. What is striking and impressive about M.Anifest is how he displays a strong sense of self in everything he creates and how he is able to remain true to himself. He doesn’t perform his Africanness, he is African and that way of being comes naturally to him. “In my time spent living outside of Africa, I was confronted with two choices: Assimilate and be American or find comfort in myself as an African; I chose the latter because you are the best version of yourself when you are the person you’re supposed to be. Imitation will always be second best and I don’t like moving around feeling second best.” With M.Anifest, what you see is what you get. What he projects himself to be is who he is happy to be. What keeps him grounded in who he is, is the following question, which he asks himself constantly, “Am I here to be liked, or am I here to be great?” This question guides him and helps him remain true to who he is, what he believes and what he does. It is crucial for African creatives to go back to the source if they are to create something that is authentic and meaningful Learning Under the Feet of the Elders M.Anifest gets his unshakable sense of identity from “learning under the feet of the elders”. “I have had the honour of learning from my grandfather and other relatives who tell me all sorts of stories of the times gone by, and those stories help to put things into perspective.” He believes in the importance of telling honest stories about who we are; stories about the difficulties, the successes, the good times and the bad. These stories that M.Anifest grew up on, and continues to hear to this day, have a powerful impact on his artistry and the way that he lives his life – it is these stories, he notes, that help to safeguard our identity. In addition to being moved by stories, he is inspired by places that hold cultural significance. One of his videos, Hand dey go, hand dey come, was shot at his grandmother’s village. In the video, he tells the story of Ghanaian fishermen who he spotted one day when he was relaxing at the beach after attending a funeral, “One early morning I woke up and went to lie on the beach and I saw fishermen reeling the net and they were singing these songs in unison. They had systems in place way before any idea of modernity and I thought that was powerful.” For M.Anifest, it is crucial for African creatives to go back to the source if they are to create something that is authentic and meaningful. “When you reach out to the source, there is so much power in it. There is more originality in reaching to the source. I try to do that when I get the opportunity.” Taking control of the narrative There has been a celebration of African music, especially in hip hop music with the likes of Drake incorporating African beats into his sound. As great as this may be for the continent as the world is exposed to our sound, M.Anifest warns against getting lost in someone else’s agenda, “We need to make sure that we take control of the narrative instead of being happy with the crumbs that we get from exposure. If you settle for crumbs, you’ll never make it to the dinner table.” If we stay close to our roots and know our story, we will be able to represent ourselves more confidently Naturally African The way that he dresses, the music he makes and the way he lives his life – none of it is a performance. The way he carries himself and the things that he does are natural to the African in him. “What I try to do is reflect how I speak and how I live in the music. It’s all an extension of who I already am. The gap between me the artist and me the human does not exist.” Some may consider him an anomaly for being authentically and unashamedly African in a world that embraces a western and Eurocentric aesthetic. “It’s quite tragic that it is considered as going against the grain when it should actually be natural.” M.Anifest’s music and artistry are centered around his heritage and culture. He is aware that his work plays a vital role in influencing how we see ourselves. “Music is powerful and it reflects how we see ourselves. People can celebrate and love themselves through music.” He wants to create music that represents an identity that is progressive not contrived. He believes that he has a responsibility to create music that helps Africans embrace their identity. 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