Sunday, September 9, 2007

Does anything good ever happen there?

This was her answer when my professor told her to ask me anything about Africa.

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.

Mr.Know-it-all
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...


9 comments:

Dalu said...

I do wonder if female representation in government equals a better position for women in society (or at least an improvement). And I'm not trying to be a pessemist (god, I can never spell this word right). I should go read up on Rwanda a bit.

But from my general knowledge, if you live in a society where oppression is systematic (deeply engraved in cultural/social attitudes), simply putting women in power will not necessarily equal sudden positive changes in livelihoods, because said women will continue to operate within (and even sometimes uphold) systems of oppression. And in this sense it's kind of funny, because to be in power sets you in a class of your own (socially speaking), and said class will offer privileges that will leave you blind to the woes of those below you. So there will be a given disconnection between privileged women in power and poor/powerless/unprivileged women.

Sorry, I just came out of my feminist class and I'm a bit irritated. hehe.

But I have encountered people who say things like "does anything good ever happen in Africa?" (While starrin' at me with "sympathetic" eyes or this little twist at the corner of their mouths that I just want to punch off) Also because you know, since I'm African I'm suddenly a good spokesperson for all things African. Because, get it? I'm African. Therefore I am ALL AFRICANS.

(i.e. OMG DALU, TELL US ABOUT AFRICAN CULTURE LIKE YOU KNOW AFRICAN FOODS AND AFRICAN MUSIC AND AFRICAN DANCE!! YOU'RE AFRICAN? IS THAT WAY YOU ARE SO THIN?!! LOL GET IT STARVIN' AFRICANSSS...AND OH THE WAY THESE WOMEN SHAKE THEIR ASSES, WOW! CAN YOU SHAKE YOUR ASS LIKE THAT??!! AFRICANS ARE SOOOOO FUN...this is a rant for another day. I mean where do I even start, I fuckin' hate that people decide that Africans are just this one group of people who share this "one" voice and culture, amongst other things, and I just wrote too much inside this parenthesis :( )

And, off course I should try to be diplomatic like you Kizzie and try to set the record straight by writing up such a lovely post, but eh....

My sarcasm (and on/off misanthrope) gets the best of me and I go on an inappropriate rampage that once left a grown man in tears.

Buahaha But in the end, they learn not to ask such broadly generalized, arrogant and ignorant questions again without thinking twice. At least as far as where I am concerned.

I was out to dinner two days ago and I had to "school" a few of those kinds of folks. :')

Always a pleasure. :'D You should have called me to have a talk with her. :'P

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

I think the roots of the problems need to be addressed.

African Unity, African control of the Infrastructure.

Till then, the myth that africa's problems are her own fault will live on...

NOMAD said...

African women are for most of them beautiful and courageous women

Africans are often full of humor and enjoy life

African are clever people ; they can transform any left rubbish from the werstern culture into toys or repear old impossible cars

they are good musicians, sportmen...

Nomad in France

Aaron Stewart said...

I like how people talk about Africa as if it's a country.

Aaron Stewart said...

"Isn't Ghana a good example of a stable African country?"

Like you said what is the definition of an African country? Is it purely geographical?

Don Cox said...

The media like to report bad news about everywhere. If you just read the news about Britain, you would think it is a land of murders and cruelty to children._____I think "good things" are schools, water treatment and sewage plants, irrigation, music and arts festivals, peaceful properly run elections. When things like this happen in Africa (or the Middle East) they are not likely to be reported in the world media. Only trouble is reported.

Kizzie said...

Dalu,
"I do wonder if female representation in government equals a better position for women in society (or at least an improvement)."
I like to think that if women became more involved in politics , they will have more authority and power to make some major changes to benefit other women. They can be the voice of women in the community n in this case, a well-heard voice.

" And I'm not trying to be a pessemist (god, I can never spell this word right). I should go read up on Rwanda a bit. But from my general knowledge, if you live in a society where oppression is systematic (deeply engraved in cultural/social attitudes), simply putting women in power will not necessarily equal sudden positive changes in livelihoods, because said women will continue to operate within (and even sometimes uphold) systems of oppression."
mmm, do you think women will uphold the values of systems of oppression? Mabye its me but Iike to think that women who are in power are in power because they see something really wrong and they wanna change it. I'm not saying that women should only be in power to make things better for other women , they should make thing sbetter for the whole society but there is still sexism in almost every society. If we wanna change things around, we should have more female represenation in politics/literature/sciene etc...are we really too "emotional" to be lawyers of doctors?

" Sorry, I just came out of my feminist class and I'm a bit irritated. hehe." lol I'm taking gender and power in development so yes, Im going to be in your shoes alot!:) what is ur class about?

"But I have encountered people who say things like "does anything good ever happen in Africa?" (While starrin' at me with "sympathetic" eyes or this little twist at the corner of their mouths that I just want to punch off) Also because you know, since I'm African I'm suddenly a good spokesperson for all things African. Because, get it? I'm African. Therefore I am ALL AFRICANS.(i.e. OMG DALU, TELL US ABOUT AFRICAN CULTURE LIKE YOU KNOW AFRICAN FOODS AND AFRICAN MUSIC AND AFRICAN DANCE!! YOU'RE AFRICAN? IS THAT WAY YOU ARE SO THIN?!! LOL GET IT STARVIN' AFRICANSSS...AND OH THE WAY THESE WOMEN SHAKE THEIR ASSES, WOW! CAN YOU SHAKE YOUR ASS LIKE THAT??!! AFRICANS ARE SOOOOO FUN"
I sooo know what you are talking about:) Most people feel "sorry" for me because Im from Sudan, I dont even bother to talk about it because they wont listen except to the save darfur coalition:)
Yes, I'm African and I can't dance. Believe it or not!
" I mean where do I even start, I fuckin' hate that people decide that Africans are just this one group of people who share this "one" voice and culture" ofcourse we are, we are all africans (from africa this big country) and we speak african, we can dance and we can run!

"And, off course I should try to be diplomatic like you Kizzie and try to set the record straight by writing up such a lovely post, but eh.... My sarcasm (and on/off misanthrope) gets the best of me and I go on an inappropriate rampage that once left a grown man in tears. "
lol sarcasm is ur style but I love it ! Your posts are always amazing because I can feeeeel your passion!

"I was out to dinner two days ago and I had to "school" a few of those kinds of folks. :')Always a pleasure. :'D You should have called me to have a talk with her. :'P"
I think I will start crying a map around with me! Really, I'm not joking! Mabye I should get one of them pocket encyclopedias as well!..mmm..good idea!

Kizzie said...

"I think the roots of the problems need to be addressed."
Yes very true. After independance, our leaders were so focused on creating cities like london,paris nd brussels, they forgot to solve the main problems we had first.

"frican Unity"
The unity of the whole continent is very difficult right now but I'm pro the unity of different parts of Africa (e.g:- west africans state can create a west-african alliance and the east african bloc is a great idea( they will have their own passport very soon/one visa for all the countries/free trade etc..)

"ill then, the myth that africa's problems are her own fault will live on..."
Just like the myth of the dark continent

Kizzie said...

Aaron,
"I like how people talk about Africa as if it's a country."
Yes, happens alot!

Don cox,
"The media like to report bad news about everywhere."
They sell better:)
"If you just read the news about Britain, you would think it is a land of murders and cruelty to children." lol, the media is not very harsh on Britain . I believe its extremely harsh on my country.
" think "good things" are schools, water treatment and sewage plants, irrigation, music and arts festivals, peaceful properly run elections."
Thank you. Yes, alot of such things happen in Africa (They recently opened adult education schools in southern sudan for the people who didn't go to school because of thr war)
Marituinia is trying to be more democratic by the day.

"When things like this happen in Africa (or the Middle East) they are not likely to be reported in the world media. Only trouble is reported."
Well the problem is that most people think that good things arent reported in the world media because they dont happen in africa however, they happen but they are neglected by the media