Tag Archives: African story

When 96% of Africa Became Insignificant…or the Means to being Awarded

It has been months. Yes- Months since there was a blog written. But to be fair, a lot was going on.  I have made some transitions in both my personal and professional lives. I am seating on my new desk, in my new home office, and thinking of all the things that could be packed in this one blog.

But first things first…. I am so excited for what can only be termed as ingenuity-yes the word is OVERUSED.  I am currently listening to a song by Zambian Artist JK- his new single is out, and I can’t get over it. In one song, his producer, a young Ghanaian Genius, has been able to produce beats that are what I can only term as “afropolitan”- yes, that word that is slowly being used by every Tom Dick and Harry who thinks they have become experts on Africa.  Anyways, I love these collaborations! Ghana and Zambia, Congo and Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Somalia…. yes, it’s finally happening.  We just might find that as Africans, we don’t have to tell the one story that is trending.

As I see budding stories of collaborations among Africans across the continent,  I can finally put away my anger about Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s words at this past Harvard Africa Business Conference where she had the audacity to say that “If you are not in Nigeria, you are not in Africa”.  Off course, the rest of us non-Nigerians who were in the room sank in our seats a bit more trying to figure out just how offended we were-but let that be a story for another time.

This past Sunday, I sat in a cafe and I did the one thing that was overdue- go to brunch with a book in hand and completely ignore the rest of the world while I inhaled pancakes and eggs, with loads of tea.  At that moment, I felt I was back- and to that was the accompanied sadness in what I was reading- AMERICANAH.  What a disappointment! I had thought that maybe for the first time, we had a female literary figure who could really capture people’s imagination without falling to simplicity- but alas there goes the “danger of a single story”.

This single story is being told, the only catch is that – now its about Africa’s glass being half full instead of being half-empty. Meanwhile, while some mighty people are playing with Africa’s coffers, the Diasporan Africans are happy to seat and accumulate awards, speaking engagements, world travels, and having what can only be simply termed as meaningless conversations. – Don’t worry, I am guilty of this also.  It seems, that those of us who do not end up returning home to become a problem, or a solution , have become masters of how to claim Africa, without really trying. We have become do-gooders, we have mastered the art of celebrating ourselves, patting ourselves in the back on all the good work we do. We have even developed some sort of recipe on how to appropriately talk about Africa as the new “it” thing without realizing that this New Africa is shiny glossy representation of a minority. I am all for being hopefully, but COME ON! We are now perpetuating that “single” story, where Africa is hopeful, and instead of the glass being half empty, we think that saying that Africa’s glass is half full justifies our false presentation of Africa, and the people who are living with the everyday realities of the continent.

We have forgotten that maybe Africa is a continent- not a country. We have forgotten the basics- Collaboration, process over outcome, and in its simplicity, liking ourselves as Africans. Because really, at the end of the day, we really don’t like each other.  At the end of the day, those of us who are in the Diaspora have decided to ignore the fact that the there is a very large percent of those who reside in Africa that still live in pure, terrifying poverty.  So we forgot about them, but we are happy to seat and think of all the wonderful things we are doing for Africa, happy to collect the awards, and feel really good that we are the “new Africa”- the Saviors of Africa.

As I said, I am guilty too. For the last couple of days, I have wondered though-, how can we change the conversation.  OR even, better, does the conversation on Africa, and African countries specifically, need to change? It might be that we are comfortable with where we are in which case, I’m just a frustrated African woman who just needs a good reason to vent.

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Filed under Africa, African Diaspora, AID, History, Politics, Society

When Africa Did Not Exist

Having spent a whole month trying to be so angry at the whole Kony 2012, I ha convinced myself of my objectivity. I even saw the whole poster on the back of the Applause Africa’s spring issue, and for some reason, I just let it slip by. (although that could be a whole different story).

However, this morning, after my usual online perusal into the Kony 2012 movement, I found myself having the guts to feel that small angry bile at the back of your throat, that makes you generally want to shake someone into comprehension. It took me a while before I really could define where this anger, and frustration was coming from. Let us be clear…Africans and Non-Africans are culpable in this whole fiasco of Kony. But that was not the source of frustration. My mind started going back into history, and looking closely at how policies on Africa have been formatted.  All of a sudden, I nailed it. The anger or let us maturely call it frustration is not on the whole Kony 2012, I is much deeper. It is the whole idea that the rest of the world, and some Africans _especially in the Diaspora_ act like Africa is not relevant, until someone from outside makes it relevant. So for someone whose heart beats in an African rhythm, I took a serious offense to history, and its perpetrators.  Yes, I understand that my frustration does nothing unless something is physically to change the status quo of the above situation, however, there I was ready with violence in mind. ( No worries, I did not do anything). Even though, the words that were forming in my mind were not very generous, nor nice.  I mean, how can a story be so distorted- thats easy. However, in this day and age with easy access to the computer…NO ONE in the west, African or not should be swallowing crap for facts.

But anger was all good, until I read the post by Denaw Mengestu, and went through all the comments by some female that will go by the name of Anna. Apparently, if it was not for the US, then Libya and Egypt would not have happened. ( Although I should probably mention to her that were it nor for the US, Libya and Egypt would not have gotten into the messes).  Oh she actually credits this whole idea of Her idea of military intervention was that since Africans were seating around doing nothing to stop the atrocities in their backyards, then off course AMERICA comes to the rescue, and leaves a mess that they cannot clean up. But again…this is just speculation..no? But she goes on to say that she is tired of AFRICANISM…WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Africanism, well I guess we are tired of Americanism too. Infact the whole world is tired of this type of -ism!  but don’t worry, for Anna is not done yet- Other than the fact that she cannot spell, she also informs the Africans to tackle the rapes in the Congo. Oh and stop being “Phony” African Intellectuals. As a student, scholar and analyst very much vested in Africa- that hurt. It was like shoving a knife on a wound that was already healing.  But after re-reading the comment by her again, I decided that hers was a joke. Ha! okay, so After laughing a bit, I became pissed. Because here is this human being who thinks that Africa’s hope lies in her power to buy bracelets, wear t-shirts and camp out for a night. Seriously, if I saw her in person, I would probably  laugh because I would find a joke in all this.  If the UN can’t solve it, then the US should move in make sure they secure the resources first, and then shell out a couple of grenades to make sure that people are safe. – Very sweet of her to be so concerned.

So I imagine in her mind, all of the African continent is full of people lounging around. Thats the life you know. Waking up in the morning, taking a walk- wait no- seating down, drinking, eating and having a good old time.  Wait, kids dying in Uganda- ah no problem the US will send in their soldiers, so why worry?  Mugabe is a tyrant? -Ah…leave that to the US..they will take care of that.  There are women in the Congo being raped? Ah… lets us seat here and intellectualize the raping, and then the US will come in and take care of it.  Africa has problems? and to this, I think in Anna’s mind- we seat down and wait for our problems to be taken away like the magic wand that the US is.

Except, Africans on the ground are working hard to change their circumstances. And people with ignorance written all over them- aka- anna prototypes, cheapen the work that is going on.  It seems like the assumption is that Africa came into being when the Europeans came into town. And ever-since, if Europe is not involved in issues that affect Africans, then these problems do not exist.

What is worse is that Africans, we help distort our own stories, and perpetuate the myths that surround us. We let people like Anna define us, and how our stories are told. And maybe if one takes the time to really listen and read the comments that are being made, they would also be just a bit pissed. Maybe then they will start owning their own history. As Africans, we are culpable, but that does not mean that we cannot change the course of the story being told.

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