Thursday, May 6, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Clean, Healthy looking Children??

The media (and many NGO's) potray African children with desperate unkempt looks, naked bodies, flies buzzing all around, snot dripping from their noses... These photographs were (deliberately) taken in one of the remotest villages in Samburu, Kenya. Life is a struggle yes but these children are clean and healthy and obviously well looked after!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is Africa a country or a continent?

“One falsehood spoils a thousand truths”- Proverb of the Ashanti, Ghana

Is Africa a country or a continent?
It appears as if the jury’s still out on that one…
I say this because all too often I have endured conversations, been asked questions, read publications and watched documentaries that seem to have difficulty in making a clear distinction.
My most recent incident took the form of an endured conversation: It went something like this:

Him: ‘After 2 glorious weeks in Africa, I am really not looking forward to going back to Wisconsin’.

Apparently everyone should know where Wisconsin is…
Me: ‘Were you here on holiday?’
Him: ‘Oh no, I was actually working- shooting a documentary’
Me: sounds like fun, where?
Him: The Maasai Mara
Apparently the Maasai Mara represents an entire continent…

Now you may roll your eyes and say- well we all know what he meant and you would be right, we all know what he meant; but why is it that he felt no need to burden himself with specifics on Africa but when it came to his own, he couldn’t have been more detailed. Is this not the kind of attitude that propagates the misunderstanding of the world’s second largest and most diverse continent?

It appears as if the unwritten rule for foreign interaction with Africa can be summed up in one phrase:
“Don’t get bogged down with specifics”.

If there was commotion in a small region in Cape Verde for instance, it wouldn’t be strange to read this headline: ‘War in Africa’ … I wonder though, during the Kosovo conflict in 1998, did the word “Europe” ever make it to the headlines in connection to this?

Africa (the continent) is sometimes listed alongside France, Japan or Spain (Countries)…
The continent is portrayed as if all its countries and people face the same challenges, speak the same languages, and watch the same TV channels! It is further defined by stereotypical notions of bad governance, strife and primitivism.

Kenya actually has more in common with England than it does with Tunisia, Ethiopians look nothing like Nigerians and the attack on the Togolese football team in Angola should never have raised security concerns when the world cup comes to South Africa.
Believe it or not, someone once phoned me, a Kenyan resident, asking that I send her information on places to visit in Rwanda, the request was made as if all I needed to do was hop on a bus and I would be to the tourist information center in Kigali and back within the hour.

One can innocently say things like ‘I am visiting Africa (when your trip will be limited to a Serengeti Safari in Tanzania) or I work in Africa (when you actually carry out relief operations in Darfur, Sudan) but what these statements do is, in fact, reduce the vast and unique topography, countries, cultures, languages, beliefs, architecture, cuisine, fashion, politics, conflicts, joys and sorrows of the people and continent of Africa to one simple story- as narrated by you.
…So when it comes to Africa, always try to remember the nuances.