I’ve lived and worked in different countries of Africa (e.g. Senegal, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Sudan) in a number of jobs for different organizations. I’ve had the opportunity to experience, reflect and write about this diverse and complex continent at leisure. What I realize is that no single story or photo can capture the richness of this continent. So, that’s why I cringe when I see media portrayals (whether in photography, video or text) reduced to binary narratives of Afro-romanticism or Afro-pessimism – all good or all bad. What’s the corrective? How do you unpick a dense knot of myth and misinformation formed over decades of famine, war and disease reporting? The first step is to realize the problem.
A good start is Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk on the danger of a single story.
Watch it and then take a look at David Campbell’s excellent blog piece on this phenomena.
“The visual story that needs to be told about ‘Africa’ is not a single story. It is a series of stories assembled to end the idea of a singular ‘Africa’. We need accounts of complexity, contrasts, and diversity that are drawn from the everyday as much as the exceptional. We need reports that are aware of their own construction and understand how they either affirm or challenge stereotypes.”
As a counterpoint to the simplistic portrayals of the drive-by media, check out some sites, such as Africalens to see which way the visual tide is flowing.