To hear global news tell it, “Africa” is a rebellious teenager, angry and full of hate, violent and one jump, skip, and hop away from Juvenile Detention. Everyday we hear about what’s wrong with “Africa,” and there is seldom an attempt to distinguish the country from the continent; the nouns are used interchangeably most times. As a result, one country’s ills are attributed to the whole continent, unless your people look Arabic, then you may get a pass. The gang of “Africa” with its repeat offenders Nigeria, DR Congo, Libya, Uganda, and others, often appear in the headlines next to words like, bombing, killing, crashed, corruption, AIDS, and aide. Very rarely do “we” do anything right.

Even when “we” try to grow up by developing our journalists, pop culture magazines, movies, demonstrations and civil protest, they are invariable compared to the Western model and deemed inferior. “We” always have a lot to learn.

Whatever good we produce is not ours to claim, and if we do, the world waits with batted breath for us to screw things up. So, imagine my surprise when among all the articles on squalor and strife, BBC publishes a picture series asking whether “Africa’s” image is unfair.

The pictures highlight “Africa’s” diverse populations, its sprawling cities, non-traditional forms of trade and its emerging influence in international fashion scene. I think it says what citizens of African nations have been saying for years, that the images of our countries are far outdated and are skewed towards a darker, sadder perspective that still exists in parts of the continent, but not unlike other nations like American and Europe that have their own poor and downtrodden populations.

However, the true irony of the piece is that the series was created by an organization called African Digital Art (ADA), but some would argue the series only received decent recognition because of it’s feature on BBC’s website. Although BBC grants ADA some recognition on their website, there is little mention of ADA in the glorification of BBC’s “daring” photo series. ADA is run by citizens of African countries, and showcases digital media from African nations while changing the global perception of “Africa” as the Dark Continent. This BBC photo series is a great example of a rare occasion that differs from the media’s usual attempts to diminish individual identity imposed by African countries. And the feedback from many admirers of the BBC photo series is a great example of even when the citizens of African nations do in fact expose to the world a different perspective of their homelands, their efforts are often minimized, ignored, or attributed to an outside source.

BBC’s series: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17855168
ADA’s post: http://www.africandigitalart.com/2012/04/is-africas-image-unfair

Check them both out.

I wonder then:

What value does the international media community bring to the developing, and some would say developed African countries?

When we try to rebrand ourselves, are we given enough credit so that others may recognize the growth that African countries are making? Should we even be asking for credit, and if not, how else do we let the world know something is our work?

What would happen if African countries emulated China and closed their borders to outsiders for a period of time and focused on building internally? Could we emerge a strong continent?

Can we ever hope to be recognized as the nations we claim to be and not rebellious teenagers patronized by the grown ups at the table? If so, how will we get there?

Suggestions, opinions, ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

-Chinwe Ohanele

Image Source: here