Tuesday, April 29, 2008


In "Is black SA turning old friends into foes?" Nigerian Pius Adesarmi wrote of the perceptions Americans have of Africa, and the perceptions black South Africans have of non-SA blacks.

I needed the return to Africa badly. I had been away from the continent for an uncomfortable stretch, carrying out my scholarly labour in the minefield of North American academe, writing Africa "from a rift", as Achille Mbembe would put it. I also needed a reprieve from the oppression of the North American media image of Africa.

The African living here is in constant danger of accepting whatever image of Africa he or she is presented by the media as gospel truth.

In North America, I have been consistently assailed, assaulted, and oppressed with images of Africa traceable to the colonial library: Africa-as-Aids, Africa-as-hunger, Africa-as-civil war, Africa-as-corruption, Africa-as-the-antithesis-of-democracy, Africa-as-everything-we-are-glad-not-to-be.

You get tired of the ritual of explaining to charmingly ignorant interlocutors that there is a fundamental distinction between the Africa they see on CNN and the real Africa.
I am not "African", but I have a great interest in the continent since visiting last year and marrying a white South African eight months afterwards. I too grate against the images presented as Africa-as-everything-bad, and Africa-as-the-place-you-would-never-want-to-be.

We have to be realistic about the challenges South Africa and other countries in the continent face. Yet the caricatures are not realistic, and that is one of the problems.

The author goes on to describe his experiences in South Africa, and the racism he encountered there: of an unexpected sort.

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