In these days of “terror news”, crisis in South Sudan and in many countries around the Horn of Africa,
it’s once more time for us to see the handwork of the best western reporters and their parochial reports on African countries.
You will notice that these countries – Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia or Eritrea, really affected by drought are no longer mentioned in the reports. These countries cease immediately to exist after the first paragraph and only get tagged: “Africa” Who cares to report on what other African countries are doing to help?
Who cares about other African countries near Horn of Africa not affected by the crisis or who reports on the efforts made by other African countries to avoid drought and famine? Who reports on African workers helping fellow Africans? Who reports on the different positive community efforts and projects going on in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Ruanda or Cameroun?
You are thinking about writing a TV reportage or a newspaper report on African countries… if you are writing for a western media, here are our best tips on how to impress your chief editor. If you follow these hints, your report will definitely be published and Africans worldwide will love you for your one-sided, always negative, misrepresentative report. Make sure you replace the real names of the countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Cameroun, Togo, Algeria, Malawi etc in your report with the word “Africa” and always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles must include the words Bushmen, Hottentots, Zanzibar, Masai, Zulu, Zambezi, Nile, Big, Sky, Drum, or Sun.
Do not forget “The Special Lexicons” which Europeans have created to match their prejudiced political ideology, meant to differentiate Africa from the rest of humanity. Now, instead of soldiers use warriors, and for General, or field marshal use warlord, instead of nations use tribes, in place of doctor just write witch-doctor, and for statesmen just reduce them to chiefs and always emphasize black Africans to differentiate between North Africans and the rest Africans. Never have a picture of a well-educated or situated African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize or possesses an AK-47, has prominent ribs, naked breasts. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.
In your text, treat Africa: A continent reduced by the Europeans to an economic-propelled unification of 54 countries with over 400 nations with more than 3000 languages, just under the motto “Africa is a Country”. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions.
Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular. Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; Africans eat only goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it—because you care.
Taboo themes: Never write on the following: Ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved), African scientists, researchers, references to African writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who are not suffering from yaws or being ravaged by famine and drought, Ebola fever or female genital mutilation.
Throughout the book, adopt a sotto voice, in conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-expected-so-much tone. Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset.
Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed. In your videos show only remote villages living in nomadic huts with thatched roofs and if towns should appear show only slums and never well-developed urban cities with modern infrastructures like Abuja, Pretoria, Johannesburg or Lagos. Among your characters you must always include The Starving African, who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits for the benevolence of the West. Her children have flies on their eyelids and pot bellies, and her breasts are flat and empty. She must look utterly helpless.
Further, your African characters must include naked warriors, loyal servants, diviners and seers, ancient wise men living in hermitic splendour, Africans doing menial jobs etc. Or corrupt politicians, inept polygamous travel-guides, and prostitutes you have slept with. The Loyal Servant always behaves like a seven-year-old and needs a firm hand; he is good with children, and always involving you in his complex domestic dramas.
The Ancient Wise Man always comes from a noble tribe (not the money-grubbing tribes like the Kikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona). He has rheumy eyes and is close to the Earth. The Modern African is a fat man who steals and works in the visa office, refusing to give work permits to qualified Westerners who really care about Africa. He is an enemy of development, always using his government job to make it difficult for pragmatic and good-hearted experts to set up NGOs or Legal Conservation Areas. He is a cannibal who likes Cristal champagne, and his mother is a rich witch-doctor who really runs the country.
She can have no past, no history; such diversions ruin the dramatic moment. Moans are good. She must never say anything about herself in the dialogue except to speak of her (unspeakable) suffering. Also be sure to include a warm and motherly woman who has a rolling laugh and who is concerned for your well-being. Just call her Mama. Her children are all delinquent.
These characters should buzz around your main hero, making him look good. Your hero can teach them, bathe them, feed them; he carries lots of babies and has seen Death. Your hero is you (if reportage), or a beautiful, tragic international celebrity/aristocrat who now cares for animals (if fiction). Bad Western characters may include children of Tory cabinet ministers, Afrikaners, employees of the World Bank. When talking about exploitation by foreigners mention the Chinese and Indian traders. Blame the West for Africa’s situation. But do not be too specific.
Broad brushstrokes throughout are good. Avoid having the African characters laugh, or struggle to educate their kids, or just make do in mundane circumstances. Have them illuminate something about Europe or America in Africa. African characters should be colourful, exotic, larger than life—but empty inside, with no dialogue, no conflicts or resolutions in their stories, no depth or quirks to confuse the cause. Remember, any work you submit in which people look filthy and miserable will be referred to as the “real Africa”, and you want that on your dust jacket. Do not feel queasy about this: you are trying to help them to get aid from the West. The biggest taboo in writing about Africa is to describe or show dead or suffering white people.
Animals, on the other hand, must be treated as well rounded, complex characters. They speak (or grunt while tossing their manes proudly) and have names, ambitions and desires. They also have family values: see how lions teach their children? Elephants are caring, and are good feminists or dignified patriarchs. So are gorillas. Never, ever say anything negative about an elephant or a gorilla. Elephants may attack people’s property, destroy their crops, and even kill them. Always take the side of the elephant. Big cats have public-school accents. Hyenas are fair game and have vaguely Middle Eastern accents.
Any short Africans who live in the jungle or desert may be portrayed with good humour (unless they are in conflict with an elephant or chimpanzee or gorilla, in which case they are pure evil). After celebrity activists and aid workers, conservationists are Africa’s most important people. Do not offend them. You need them to invite you to their 30,000-acre game ranch or ‘conservation area’, and this is the only way you will get to interview the celebrity activist. Often a book cover with a heroic-looking conservationist on it works magic for sales.
Anybody white, tanned and wearing khaki who once had a pet antelope or a farm is a conservationist, one who is preserving Africa’s rich heritage. When interviewing him or her, do not ask how much funding they have; do not ask how much money they make off their game. Never ask how much they pay their employees.Readers will be put off if you don’t mention the light in Africa. And sunsets, the African sunset is a must. It is always big and red. There is always a big sky. Wide empty spaces and game are critical—Africa is the Land of Wide Empty Spaces. When writing about the plight of flora and fauna, make sure you use the word bush and rain forest as often as possible although we have more bush /forest in Europe/Russia compared to the remaining rainforests in the whole of Africa.
When your main character is in a desert or jungle living with indigenous peoples (anybody short) it is okay to mention that Africa has been severely depopulated by wars, diseases, and child soldiers. If you do all these – be sure your story will land a FrontPage headline in a western magazine or as top news on TV organization!
Every news professional must know that perpetual one-sided, negative reports on a particular geographical region is equally destructive and counterproductive just like wars and famine would do, because they destroy, demoralize, humiliate ostracize and hinder investment incentives. Itˊs a media fallacy if we only and always report that Africa is well behind the rest of the world and has these or that problem, but never report on the original ways Africans are using or on the efforts many are making with the little that is available to solve their deluge of problems” Shameful, isn´t it?