In fulfillment of my fellowship program, I am required to make a monthly blog entry inquiring into a different topics, and as I am passionate about the cultural relationship and juxtaposition between two continents; African and American. I choose to dedicate my blogs to that.
In fact, this is my first blogging experience and a difficult one. Difficult in the sense that am trying to x-ray uneven comparison and bring to light the problems of a continent often portrayed as one in ‘peril’ by the other continent.
In this first blog entry I have chosen to examine the problems of a single story that has been the discussion by African intellectuals, experts and other growing interests in examining ‘Africa’ as a political laboratory. In so doing, I am guilty of the same crime, and should be held accountable for the contents of this blog. Yes, accountable. Examining a topic as such requires care and caution.
A friend on mine met an American girl few years back and they started discussing about Africa and Africans; he was amazed by the question she asked him and her shallow image of Africa, she asked ‘So if I go to Africa I will see Monkeys and lion running all over the place?’ I wondered if people still have this idea about Africa ‘Safari and Child Soldier, one big country with many capitals’. Yes, that idea remains the still the core perception of Africa by many Americans who haven’t visited the continent and whose opinion is shaped daily by the mainstream media. The mainstream media focusing on images of Africa as Safari and war torn continent has often left the continent without a soul, portraying it as one to be pitied and cared for rather than where normal people exist and normal activities go on.
True I am making a vague argument and it is deliberate. When 32-year-old aid worker Jessica Buchanan was released from captivity by Somalia rebels and her friends interviewed by the CNN, these were their opinions, “she did a semester of student teaching in Africa and that experience just planted in her a love and passion for Africa”. It brings a question to mind: how big is this country of ‘Africa’ is really? Well Jessica visiting Nairobi does not make her an African lover, Africa is continent too big to be loved by a visitor in a two years program.
Another friend of hers said “she could hardly talk about Africa without tears in her eyes”. This brings up a cruel image of Africa and shows how a continent could be pitied. The statement makes me wonder if this is really the image of Africa that I know. Stretching from the east to the west to the north of the continent is only peril that is visible. Africans don’t live in a normal environment. They love war, they are poor and starving. The only good image is safaris. Sincerely I sympathize with Jessica Buchanan for serving in war zone and being a victim of kidnapping, but that doesn’t leave an avenue for yet another single story of Africa.
Intellectuals from the continent have sought of way to speak out of the dangers associated with a single story. Chimamanda Adichie the Nigerian writer spoke extensively on the dangers of it in her ted video titled: The Dangers of a Single Story (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg). Also the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina in his captivating essay, how to write about Africa, expressed how the single story dilemma has been well used by western intellectuals (http://www.granta.com/Archive/92/How-to-Write-about-Africa/Page-1 ).
The aim of this first blog has been achieved, alerting the readers on the possible dangers of a single story. In subsequent entries, this shall be re-examined. Welcome to my blog.