We were in America and a famous Jewish-American human rights activist/writer/professor invited us for lunch. We talked and talked about the middle east/Islam/immigration/human rights issues and when my professor suggested they ask me something about Africa because I'm from there and I know alot about my beloved continent. This is what she told me " Does anything good ever happen there?". I can't describe how I felt at the time because its too complicated. I'm not sure if I felt angry or sad. I think I felt both. I also felt her Afro-pessimism rub on me. I felt it clinging to my skin and as I tried reminding myself of the good things in my continent .I still couldn't recover to my old-self.
Then, I remembered something my mother told me 2 days before I travelled "always be proud of being African and always be proud of Africa".
Today in my cultures of Africa class, the professor asked us what is Africa?
As an African, I can't answer this question. I can give you an abstract definition but it's never good enough. What is Africa and what does it represent to us?
Is the brutal Africa where people are killed, women are raped, children are abducted and enslaved and societies are torn apart the same Africa I'm in love with?
If you ask yourself this question then you have to think about different African countries. Is it possible to do so? The Sudanese speak atleast 500 languages and they are divided into atleast 600 ethnic groups, can you tell me now what is Sudan? I can't tell you what is Sudan.
What is Sudan to you? Is it Darfur? Is it a brutal Islamic government on a mission to oppress and prosecute christians?
What is Zimbabwe to you? Is it a country so badly mismanaged , it went from being the breadbasket of Southern Africa to one of Africa's most needy countries?
Africa could mean poverty and war to you, some students said that in class. It's true but it's not the whole story. If you think of Africa this way...you must be looking at 40% of the picture my friend!
Africa is not darfur,rwanda, dictatorships,underdevelopment or even AIDS. If I was asked what Africa is, I will not be able to give a clear concrete answer. I will select some of the above,all of the above and other. Please don't ask me what this "other" is.
I always wondered what "expert on Africa" means. Many western newspapers will label a certian journalist or writer as "this man is an expert on Africa".
Can he answer this question" what is africa"? Can he give us all a concrete precise definition of the continent?
How does colonial/post-colonial/pre-colonial africa differ?
I used the encounter I had with the American lady because it meant so much to me. It really showed me how Africa is misunderstood by most people, even the educated ones who have the chance to travel and see the real Africa. I don't know what she meant by "good". The opening of a new hospital in Central Africa might be a good thing for Africans or for people in that region but will it count as a good thing ?
There are alot of overlooked small "good" things in Africa.
When it comes to female representation in parliament, Rwanda ranks number 1. I wonder if this achievement in Rwanda is "good".
Ghana remained one of the most peaceful countries in the world and the most peaceful in Africa although its neighbours are at war. Isn't Ghana a good example of a stable African country?
I don't know what's considered good in the western media or in America or in the world but if you stopped tinking about war/HIV/poverty/underdevelopment in Africa for exaxctly 10 minutes, you might actually give yourself a rare chance to see
something else. something great,something special...