Tags: africa

Escher Snakes

How to Write About Africa

(x-posted to 50books_poc and my own journal)

How To Write About Africa, by Binyavanga Wainaina, published in Granta 92, 2005.

It begins:
Always use the word 'Africa' or 'Darkness' or 'Safari' in your title. Subtitles may include the words 'Zanzibar', 'Masai', 'Zulu', 'Zambezi', 'Congo', 'Nile', 'Big', 'Sky', 'Shadow', 'Drum', 'Sun' or 'Bygone'. Also useful are words such as 'Guerrillas', 'Timeless', 'Primordial' and 'Tribal'. Note that 'People' means Africans who are not black, while 'The People' means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don't get bogged down with precise descriptions...
If you can't tell from the excerpt, it's a scything and brutal enumeration of the racist and colonialist tropes that appear in writing about Africa. 'Tis very hard not to quote the whole thing. Go read it.
fat lady sings
  • kmd

A wonderful quote

"'My dear young man,' said the visiting professor, 'to give
you the decent answer your anxiety demands, I would have to
tell you a detailed history of the African continent. And to
do that, I shall have to speak every day, twenty-four hours
a day, for at least three thousand years. And I don't mean to
be rude to you or anything, but who has that kind of time?'"
Ama Ata Aidoo, from :Our Sister Killjoy:
georgewashington

Celebrity Colonialism

nagged from my friend's list.

Brendan O’Neill
Brad, Angelina and the rise of 'celebrity colonialism'

What gives two Hollywood actors the right to shut down an African nation so that they can have a special experience?

Over the past six weeks a Western security force has effectively taken over the small African nation of Namibia. A beach resort in Langstrand in Western Namibia has been sealed off with security cordons, and armed security personnel have been keeping both local residents and visiting foreigners at bay. A no-fly zone has been enforced over part of the country. The Westerners have also demanded that the Namibian government severely restrict the movement of journalists into and out of Namibia. The government agreed and, in a move described by one human rights organisation as ‘heavy-handed and brutal’, banned certain reporters from crossing its borders.

However, this Western security force is not a US or European army plundering Namibia’s natural resources or threatening to topple its government. It is the security entourage of one Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the celebrity couple better known for living it up in LA than slumming it in Namibia. They reportedly wanted their first child to be born in Namibia because the country is ‘the cradle of human kind’ and it would be a ‘special’ experience (1). And it seems that no security measure is too stringent in the name of making Ms Jolie feel special. Welcome to the new celebrity colonialism.
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georgewashington

(no subject)

i don't know if this is relevant, and please feel free to tell me to delete.

but i'm watching a show on CBS ("the unit?!" never heard of it before this),
and the scene just shifted, and i see a jeep driving through, what the caption reads, "serengeti plain, africa."

for the MILLIONTH TIME PEOPLE, africa is NOT A COUNTRY. it's actually a very, very large CONTINENT.

this happens often, and it always makes me go ballistic.