I was strolling down the streets of a certain unnamed city the other day, when amongst a row of restaurants, bars and entertainment spots, I stumbled upon a bookstore. This bookstore stood out when compared to the many bookstores I have seen in this unnamed country. And the same way I walk into every space that holds lots of books, I walked into this bookstore, wide-eyed with curiousity. My only companions were my curious mind and my friend, a twenty-something male of non-African descent.
We, both lovers of books, walked the different aisles of the bookstore. We flipped through pages, laughed at strange titles and, eventually, each found a book that we could spend some time on. He, an atlas of sorts, and I, a book about race and the lack of biological proof for some academic assertion I now fail to remember.
This atlas of sorts contained vast amounts of information, treasure troves of data represented in tables, maps and graphs. The information varied from the GDP of nations to the differences in breast cup sizes between women of different geographical entities.
It also bore a section which discussed “what each country is best known for”. On seeing this, I made to prepare my friend for what we were about to read in the sub-section covering Africa. “This won’t be good”, I told him. No prices for guessing here; I was right. Boko Haram, HIV, famine, war, prostitution, Al Qaeda. And oh, there was a mention of the Safari, which happened to be one of two or three seemingly good things you could find about the continent‒ Thank you, East Africa!
While flipping through the atlas, I recalled sitting through Microbiology class. From the first day of the session to the last, we heard of at least one disease weekly that was domiciled primarily in Africa. My African friends and I even had the Yes-I-know-it-is-in-Africa look. You know, the look we cast at each other when the Microbiology teacher starts to say the endemic region of the disease. And when, sometimes, she surprises us and says “…in South America”, at those rare moments, you could surely hear the relief from around the lecture room — one less disease to add to the list.
Sometimes, it hurt to sit through those classes. I remember when my Pathology teacher was talking (perhaps it was about tuberculosis; I do not remember) and he said, “Of course, who cares about Africa?” My goodness! At that moment, I had the overwhelming urge to chuck a book at his mouth. How dare he? I was not alone in feeling this way;I later found out that my sentiments were shared by some other Africans in the room.
Recently, I was on my way to my country’s embassy in this same unnamed city, with the same companion. While I was not sure what the embassy would look like, I already had an expectation.“I have a feeling my embassy’s building would not look nice,”I told him. Lo! It was okay and secure, with the environment nice and welcoming. Weirdly enough, this didn’t cause me to adjust or lay aside my expectations. Rather, they were reinforced it, and I shot an“I told you so” glance to my companion although, within, I was relieved to see that the embassy beat my expectation.
So, what do you usually expect from all things African? Do you expect our governance to be poor? Do you expect our performance to be mediocre?Do you think nothing good can come out of Africa?
Check yourself. Perhaps, it is not what you say, but the imagery of a poor, desperate, wounded and irrecoverable Africa that has been ingrained into your subconscious thoughts. You might just have been fed all that garbage and in the complex algorithm that is involved in your decision making, this is one of the elements that influence your perspectives.
Oh, by the way, if you are one of those who consistently hinder everyone else’s effort towards progress, the one who brings negative energy to such a positive process as redefinition, you just might be the garbage that needs to be thrown out.
image via: wakan.org