Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Africa gets bad press, even in fiction

This is not a book review, just some observations I am making on a novel I read a few months ago.

First, I rarely read fiction because I feel I cannot keep up with the volume of non-fiction I have to read already. Besides, there is enough of make-believe even in writings classified as non-fiction.

I was recently given a novel written by Uwem Akpan, Say you're one of them. It contains five short stories told from an African child's perspective. Throughout the book I noticed a representation of some of the same cliche's that have pervaded non-fiction writing on Africa from a western perspective: AIDS, prostitution, child trafficking, religious and ethnic strife.

It is little use denying that these cliche's represent some of the challenges encountered in many parts of the African continent. But (this could also be another cliche'), the truth remains that not much coverage is given to the African success stories. Consequently, the reader in the West interested in a more balanced view has to go out of his/her way to dig behind the mainstream depiction of fictionalized and factual Africa.

A section from Reporting Elections in Southern Africa: A Media Handbook reads:
Western media attention is like that, usually limited to "parachute journalism" covering a major famine or conflict - a quick in-and-out during crisis situations.
The same approach to choice of subject appears to influence the writing in Akpan's novel. No doubt, Akpan is writing for a western audience and what I yearn for - a positive image of African society - does not sell.

I look forward to reading another book given to me recently by Prof. Sospeter Muhongo: Science, Technology, and Innovation for Socio-economic Development: Success Stories from Africa. It seems like Prof. Muhongo had read my mind.

Given that I talk of being given two books in this post, you may wonder if I ever buy books; I do.

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