Challenging the Notions of Africa October 22, 2020 by Eshe Lovely
Growing up, people would always ask me about what life in Africa is like. “Are there cellphones there?” or, “Do you sleep in huts?” were common ones. My mother was born in Ghana and immigrated to the U.S. when she was 14 years old. I grew up taking trips there every summer. I had also attended a school in Accra, the capital, for a short while, and transferred to two different schools in the U.S. after that. I always felt a strong connection to the music, the clothing, the food, and Ghanaian culture as a whole. When I got my first string of waist beads (traditional beads women wear as a symbol of femininity) I cherished them more than anything. Now I understand that these feelings brewed from the privilege I had. I realized that most African-Americans have no knowledge of where they are originally from. Being immersed in Ghanaian culture made me feel a sense of belonging and understanding of my roots. This is why I was absolutely baffled that my classmates were asking me such belittling questions about this place that I adored. I came to realize that it wasn’t their fault for having a preconceived idea of what the entire continent was like- those stereotypes had been ingrained in their subconsciouses for years. What comes to mind when you hear the word “Africa”? Do you imagine a Saharan desert full of wild animals? Or starving children that you see in commercials and ads? Africa is much more than what most Westerners expect it to be. Although this might be obvious to many, some people are still not aware. They do not realize that Africa is not just one country, but a continent, with 54 countries, over 2,000 distinct languages, and 4 major geographic regions. It is disappointing that this is still not completely understood, but it is not surprising at all due to the notions of Africa. The Notions of Africa are common misconceptions that people have of the continent: 1. Primitive Africa: Africa has failed to develop along with the rest of the world. 2. Wild and Dangerous Africa: Africa is one big jungle full of disease, and wild animals roaming around. There is ongoing war. 3. Exotic Africa: There are outlandish clothing and customs, and it is completely different from other societies. 4. Unspoiled Africa: Africa is pure and untainted by the modern world because it has avoided progress. 5. Utopian Africa: It is a place free of racism and oppression- everyone lives in harmony. 6. Broken Africa: Africa is full of sickness and decay, and suffering. All attempts of development fail.
These notions stem from Africans being represented in history and the media by non-Africans. Certain locations are advertised as perfect getaways for vacations, while other parts are portrayed as places riddled with disease and suffering. The problem with this is that it reduces the entire continent to a few specific stereotypes. I felt the effects of these misconceptions during my childhood, and I still experience them now. Being Ghanaian was something I was always so proud of. Hearing other people’s views on Africa as a whole made me question that pride when I was younger. I knew that the notions were not the reality that I experienced, but everyone around me seemed to think the same way. Africa is a beautiful place with a rich history that deserves to be uplifted and celebrated. It is time for us to challenge the stereotypes we uphold and take steps to undo our bias.
Join the CommUnity
La Convivencia P. O. Box 331 Princeton Junction, NJ 08550