Thursday, May 22, 2008

How to Write about Africa


Shreya Bhattacharji recommends a wonderful essay, published in Granta, by Binyavanga Wainaina.

Always use the word 'Africa' or 'Darkness' or 'Safari' in your title. Subtitles may include the words 'Zanzibar', 'Masai', 'Zulu', 'Zambezi', 'Congo', 'Nile', 'Big', 'Sky', 'Shadow', 'Drum', 'Sun' or 'Bygone'. Also useful are words such as 'Guerrillas', 'Timeless', 'Primordial' and 'Tribal'. Note that 'People' means Africans who are not black, while 'The People' means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were . . . .

Read the essay

1 comment:

rks said...

Shreya, this is a tongue-through-cheek recipe for exotic-Africa writing. I will use it in my postcolonialism and feminism classes to demonstrate what stereotypes are.