Friday, November 03, 2006

Thanks, but no thanks

The Chinese appear to have pulled out all stops to welcome the African leadership. Beijing is draped with images from pre-colonial Europe - a dark continental backwater, best left for fishing, hunting, and anything else to do with wildlife. The people are too savage and black to warrant wasting any kodak film, simply a backdrop to the wild idyll painted by the likes John Henry Patterson in Man-eaters of Tsavo (on which the 1996 film, the Ghost and Darkness, was based). I insist that most Africans aren't that familiar with wild animals, unless you count lizards in urban Nigeria, cows in the middle of traffic, or chickens at the market. But of course the Chinese use the Safari stereotypes to promote their relationship with Africa, they don't know any better.


Talatu-Carmen said...

The animal thing drives me crazy. When I first start teaching a class on African literature (to provincial American college kids), I always do a little "de-tox" exercise with my students, where I have them anonymously write down on little slips of paper the first thing that comes into their heads when they think of Africa. I then write all of these associations on the board (wild animals, safari, dark continent, national geographic, etc. etc. ad nauseum) and then bring out the Idris Abdulkareem, 2-Face, and Nigerian Video films, and works of literature they will be studying that semester, and tell them that the rest of the semester is going to be about exploding those stereotypes. But then, what do you expect when the most visible people in society are saying idiotic things like this statement from Kevin Federline, the fellow famous because he is married to Brittany Spears: "I want to go to Africa – I think it's a place where you can go and really, really help people and make a difference. And it's also a place I want to see – I'm into the safari animals and all that stuff. I grew up watching the Discovery Channel.",26334,1552629,00.html

Wouldn't I like to knock some sense into his brain--and half the other celebrities that go around lavishly spreading their "help" around.

Anonymous said...

It's a bit of a stretch to say that "...MOST Africans are not familiar with wildlife...". Do you mena most urban Africans? Because I'd say most countries in Africa are still primarily rural, and this often means agrarian. Zambia is one of the most urbanized, with 50% of the country urban, but you'll find that as of last count, Nigeria was 70% rural! The fact that one grows up in a city does not mean the whole country or indeed MOST of it is that way! I'd say a huge % of Africans grew up with wildlife around them...!

Nkem said...

Granted, but rural doesn't mean giraffes, hippos, lions etc. It's more like bushmeat - nothing particularly exotic. This not some urbanite rant, believe me.