As a prelude to writing this essay, I would like to admit that I have never been to Africa. Further, my opinion about the “black continent” has been shaped by what I have seen or read in media. When I think about Africa, the images that first come to mind are; various wildlife programs on National Geographic channel; Michael Jackson’s music video “Black or White”; various campaigns by world leaders to eradicate poverty; and dictators and ethnic strife. And off course the campaign against apartheid in South Africa. I don’t know for what reason, but the image I get does not include the northern Arabic influenced part of Africa. As if that was a separate continent. Maybe it has got to do with how media perceives that region.
With this background, I will go through Curtis Keim’s book, the Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the African Mind. While reading this book, I plan to explore my own biases as against what has been written in this book about Africa. The key words that come to my mind while thinking about Africa aren’t very different from those quoted by Curtis’s students. I too think of the place as the native world thanks to Darwin’s theory of evolution and subsequent research work that makes to textbooks and television program. However, it does not resonate with me as much a native land should. I believe that could be because of different physical features Africans have as compared to ordinary Americans. More so, we don’t know about the historical link as Africans moved out to rest of the world. The historical link between America and modern day Europe is well documented and studied. But, very little is known about such historical links between Africa and Europe. I believe it is because of this there are emotional disconnects between us and Africans. Though we are aware of their conditions, we don’t feel that a part of us is suffering (Keim).
The news in general makes the places like Africa seem as if hell filled with belligerent people. In the news, it is portrayed as if war is always going on, and it is a dangerous and deadly place (Smithstone).
I would agree with Curtis students that there is a popular perception that people in Africa live in huts. I believe it has come out of the indirect portrayal of huts in various wildlife programs. It is obvious to expect huts along the fringes of various wildlife reserves. But, it would be pure naïve to presume that everybody in such a vast continent lives in huts. Each of these African nations would have their own set of infrastructure to run the affairs. And among the most prominent would be their airports, which are the entry points to these places. I guess this again proves the point that these impressions are borne more out of travel then actual experiences. Related to huts, is the image of its people like warrior. I believe we must have got this impression out of portrayal of a wildlife reserve, and people who traditionally live there. Their...