Monday, March 20, 2006

Writing about Africa...

I very rarely bow down to the pressures of fads and trends, but for once I will do like many other bloggers on Africa, I will call your attention this very pointed and widely cynical Granta article by Binyavanga Wainaina, an African who is obviously concerned about certain characterizations of Africa, in books and articles by Westerners.
Granta: 'How to write about Africa' by Binyavanga Wainaina

"some tips: sunsets and starvation are good

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." (More on the fine goodies)
Now I must admit that part f the reason I did not promote this before, is because it is so wide-reaching that every single one of us, who are not White, nor Westerners - some may say that this point is debatable, can sometimes fall in some of these stereotypes about Africa, because like every stereotype, some of them are true. Some latent guilt is there, however, when we read that article, because none of us wants to give a stereotypical view of the continent. And I would say that most of the time, I try not to, and tell it like I see it. Some Westerners also do the same thing, especially those that do not do it for lucrative purposes. And I would like to believe that not all White people who claim to genuinely "love" Africa are being hypocritical or politically correct... The article remains a very valid criticism of the real and unfortunate attitude in many books on Arica, that tend to constrain Africa and Africans into a typecast that a White audience can perceive as "truly African", and for that only it is already very valuable. Please read it all.

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