Africa, their Africa and who can name themselves
I loved this piece by Tolu Ogunlesi [via Naijablog] titled “5 things you didnt know about Africa“. I somehow feel this might end up as the third in the triology of breaking down that grand narrative known to all of us as “Africa”. The person who started the ‘unDoing” of the Africa singularly represented, is Binyavanga Wainaina with “How to Write About Africa“. This was followed last year by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of the Single Story” both pieces very much stories of their time in that they wizzed around cyberland at super sonic speeds and still continue to pop up regularly.
Tolu’s first unknown is there is actually an Africa bigger than just the East and Southern Africa tourists spots. There are countries in central Africa, west Africa, mid-west, north – basically those places outside of world cups and safari’s. Take Nigeria for example? No one ever [or so we are told] visits there unless they absolutely have to ie they have family there or they have business………
Nigeria is one country where foreigners come to make money, not fritter it away on guided tours and lakeside resorts.
In the Congo they will be aid workers and diamond-seeking businessmen and gorilla savers; ditto the Sudan (minus the gorilla-savers and businessmen). In Liberia and Sierra Leone they will be IMF and World Bank officials. In Guinea Bissau they will mostly be cocaine merchants and US drug enforcement agents.
The second unknown, poses the question how would the world look if Africa did not exist – had not been invented? “Steve Jobs would have come to the rescue with i-Africa” thats what. OK for the 3rd [angry African], 4th [where is Africa on the path of past, present, future] and probably most important, the 5th [how to read about Africa] you had better go read for yourself…… here.
As slight aside from Tolu’s theme is a post by Kayode Ogundamisi on meeting his “white Yoruba aunty” on the London underground. The conversation started with the dreaded and tiresome “where are you originally from” sigh! The conversation goes like this…
“I am originally from Yoruba Land in Africa until the British merged my ancestors with our African neighbours and made me Nigerian.” to his surprise the white lady responded“Oh you are Yoruba?” My new ‘friend’, almost screaming, facing me, she stretched her hands forward, offering a hand shake. “I am Yoruba too, you are my brother. My name is Wendy, Wendy Omotayo. “That was when she switched from English to Yoruba – not my kind of Yoruba, but what we refer to as the “Ijinle” Yoruba.”
I found this really interesting because it is one of those stories which blows a huge hole in western and Nigerian perspectives on who can dare to call themselves “Nigerian”. I really need to write more on this since it has been a bug bear for most of my adult life when I am repeatedly informed by encounters with fellow nationals that it is either not possible for me to be Nigerian or I dont look like one [the tale of the single look Nigerian] more sighs!