I read a satirical essay today titled ‘How To Write About Africa‘.
I stumbled upon the article by Binyavanga Wainaina, which is published by Granta, having typed the word ‘Africa’ into Google.
The article begins by saying that the title should always include either ‘Africa’, ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’. This is so very true.
Now I don’t have a huge library, but since planning my bike journey through Africa, I have begun to accumulate a few books about the continent:
- The State of Africa, The Scramble for Africa and The Trouble with Africa
- Travels in West Africa, Travels in the Interior of Africa, African Discovery
- Heart of Darkness, Dark Star Safari, Blood River – A Journey to Africa’s Broken heart
In fact, of the eleven books on Africa I have (not including guidebooks), only two do not include any of these words:
- Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, and
- A Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela
Achebe and Mandela are the only two black Africans, as opposed to white westerners. Should this be a surprise that it is the Nigerian and South African authors who don’t use the words so commonly associated with the continent?
It is hardly surprising that the stereotypes of Africa, as described in the essay, exist when the majority of literature widely available outside of Africa only helps to reinforce these out-dated generalities and misconceptions.
I am hoping that, through my photography, I can go beyond the stereotypes portrayed by western literature and the media – To discover the truth about the continent and show you the people, places and events which don’t make the headlines, travel brochures or charity appeals.
Who’s to say their story is any less worthy of mention?