I’m becoming addicted to watching CNN. Nowadays, American politics, the war in Syria (as if that’s not depressing enough) and small bits of pieces of News from Europe dominate the channel. A couple of nights back, I was watching the African Voices segment on it and it was refreshing to see Africa painted in a positive light.
There was this Rwandese guy who is a designer and designs really cool, African print bowties among other items of clothing. We saw him drive to the market to buy vitenges(African print material/African batik fabric), visit the barber shop to trim his Patrice Lumumba inspired look and go for a morning walk. And I was happy that the world was seeing a different side of Africa. Not the usual depressing news of war, starvation, terrorist attacks, political coups, poverty, retrogressive cultures, illetracy and what nots.
That’s not all Africa is made up of. The negatives and unprogressive life. I know by now that the Middle East is starting to get pretty tired of all that negative reporting of the continent. The African continent equally got so tired of it a long time ago, that an African would not hesitate telling off a foreigner, who still views the continent through the misguided lense of the Western media. And I think CNN is starting to move away from the stereotypes and depressing stories of Africa. Kudos to them!
There is alot about Africa that the world needs to know. It really irritates me when I encounter individuals on Facebook groups, who still think that Africa is lagging behind in the 20th century, when the rest of the world is so 21st century. You need to open up your eyes to what this continent has to offer, other than what you have over time believed is the real thing.
A lot of foreign news reporters will mostly visit the marginalized areas of Africa or the slum areas or conflict areas and do stories about those. Their intentions may indeed be pure as they would like to bring these issues to the world’s attention. However, most of the time, these kinds of stories only serve to mislead the recipients, who may lack the zeal to dig deeper about the African way of life.
Africa is a progressive continent. There are developed urban areas, improved infrastructure, up to date technologies, learned individuals, talented individuals, exposed individuals. It’s not all about animals and living on trees wearing nothing but a flap of skin to preserve our modesty. As a matter of fact, I believe some of the well dressed individuals come from Africa.
What many people from the West may not know is that aside from the Maasai culture in Kenya, there are more than 10 other different cultures from the 43 different Kenyan tribes.
For the longest time possible, Western media really concentrated on the Maasai community. And with good reason, don’t get me wrong! This is one of the communities in Kenya and Tanzania that has upheld most of its original cultural practices pre-colonial times. It is a rich culture that tends to fascinate the West and people not from the two countries.
However, it would surprise many that other communities in Kenya despite the Western influence in their way of life, still carry out their respective cultural practices to date. Take this personal encounter, for example. I’m sometimes a storyteller, so bear with me on this.
A friend of a friend was getting married sometime in 2013. So as is synonymous with my country, we do a traditional wedding first before the White church wedding that is Western influenced.
I happened to tag along. Now in her community, the girls have to be covered from head to toe in two pieces of a lesso (wrapper) for the hubby-to-be to identify who his wife-to-be is. In our midst, there were two girls who had the same skin tone and similar looking feet.
One was of course the lady getting married. And we had this hilarious moment, advising her to tie a colored band on one of her toes and alert her fiance about it via text, before we came out so that he doesn’t get confused and fined, for picking the wrong girl.
So the older women covered us up, all girls about the same height in the lessos and we were guided outside where the ceremony was taking place. Believe it or not, the hubby-to-be seemed a little confused and nearly chose the girl with feet that resembled his wife-to-be, despite the colored band he had been alerted to earlier missing on the girl’s toes.
I mean, these are some of the cultural practices from other communities in Africa, that the Western media can do stories on other than the usual. Just to show how over time the African culture has blended in with the Western culture.
If you thought illetracy ruled the African continent, you should take a look at the highly talented graduates, from many of our universities. People who come out of campus not with a job mentality but a vision to be self employed and despite whatever financial constraints they may face, strive to achieve their goals. And many times, if they are committed enough to their dream, their efforts pay off.
We do appreciate the genuine curiosity of foreigners who would love to truly know about our continent. But just don’t lump me in the athletics team in campus overseas, just because you assume being a Kenyan, I can automatically run. Not all of us Kenyans have the ability to do long distance running and that’s because we are equipped and talented differently. We possess a diversity.
Being from the African continent and proudly so, I would advice anyone seeking to do an African story to intergrate himself or herself with the African society. Visit the developed areas, watch how the African carries his/her day to day activities and trust me, despite what we may face as a 3rd world continent, you are going to get beautiful, positive stories to tell the world about us.