Is this African Enough?

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Yep, this is Africa, too.

When I was in Egypt, we often joked that we were in Fake Africa.  When asked if I had ever been to Africa before Benin, I would say yes and explain Egypt, which elicited much doubt.  I was told, in one way or another, that Egypt didn’t count, or wasn’t really Africa because it was:

  • too rich
  • too Arab
  • not black enough
  • too developed
  • too wealthy
  • filled with too many people who were fully clothed
  • not hungry enough
  • not in civil strife
  • not “native” enough
  • too educated
A beautiful new university building
A beautiful new university building

If that’s not offensive to all parties, I’m not sure what would be.  Often our stereotypes, both positive and negative, get in the way of our ability to just appreciate a place for what it is.  When in the markets of Benin, many of the girls looked for “something really African,” such as wooden, hand-carved jewelry.  Wooden, hand-carved statues.  Or wooden, hand-carved anything.  Many were frustrated that we only saw cheap plastic and metal jewelry from China in plastic wrap.  But that’s what the women around us wore.  Not hand-carved elephants or oblong faces on a string of wooden beads.

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The beautiful game.

Instead of trapping Africa in the CNN version of it (hungry, desolate, war-torn and filled with safari animals and naked people) why don’t we just let Africa reveal itself to us?  Sometimes Africa is t-shirts, while other times it’s vivid-patterned cloth from China, and still others it’s an abaya.  We are the observers–not the creators–of Africa, and like any destination, we should try not to let our own imagination hold us back from the amazing world unfolding right in front of us.

3 thoughts on “Is this African Enough?”

  1. I find Malaysians seem to view Singapore in such a way too, that it isn’t proper and there is too much money. When really it’s such local competition and jealousy.

    Our differences is what makes it all interesting though. You don’t expect all of America, Asia, Europe or Australasia to be the same, so Africa shouldn’t all be the same either.

    Like

  2. unfortunately, we have a tendency in the west to think of Africa as pretty homogenous, more like a country than a continent, so i think it gets generalized even more than a lot of other places. but you’re right, i hear people say “same difference!” about Aussies and Kiwis all the time, or simply not know where in Asia various people come from.

    Interesting to here about Malaysians and Singapore. it’s strange how no matter where you are people will always find ways to alienate and tear down one group or another.

    Thanks for reading!
    Delia

    Like

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