Thursday, 21 February 2013

Africa: A continent or a country

The noun "Africa" has always been misused, misconstrued or used to serve convenient purposes. In this triumvirate of sharp-witted essays, Wainaina dissects the cliché of Africa and the preconceptions dear to western writers and readers with ruthless precision. In the same fashion, ‘My Clan KC’ undresses the layers of meaning shrouding the identity of the infamous Kenya Cowboy, while ‘Power of Love’ bemusedly recollects the advent of the celebrities-for-Africa phenomenon, heralded by the mid-eighties hit song ‘We Are The World’. It also scrutinizes the international NGO circuit and the transactions between ‘dollar-a-day people’ and $5000-a-month United Nations consultants whose started off as ‘$5-dollar-a-day’, 25-year-old backpackers full of ‘love and compassion’ for the continent.

"Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerillas’, ‘Timeless’,‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’." Excerpts from How to Write About Africa by Binyavanga Wainaina. Read More>>

The cultural foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany, "Kulturstiftung des Bundes", decided to initiate a new thematic focus in its sponsorship work. The programme is called ‘TURN‘ and – as explained in the introductory statement – it is supposed to deal with ''Africa". Although there are certainly good intentions behind this new initiative, the information published about this programme on the website of the  "Kulturstiftung" and the funding guidelines which were recently released raise more questions than answers. 

It seems that the theme "Africa" has been misused to cast a favourable light on the work of the German Federal Cultural Foundation in its 10th anniversary year 2012 which was celebrated in June 2012 with Chancellor Angela Merkel joining the festivities. The Kulturstiftung’s TURN project – different from what they made it sound in their initial press and media campaign – is not so much about strengthening the institutions for artistic and cultural projects in African countries, but it is rather about fostering the German art and culture scene. This truth has been revealed when a TURN jury member conceded in a comment on Facebook: “They’ve also said that the fund is about the ‘German institutional art-and-culture-scene’ and not about ‘supporting African contemporary art institutions’, but I’ll leave them to clarify that.” What does this statement mean in the end? It proves that the marketing campaign which was centred upon a “new focus on Africa” was actually misleading to the German public, the taxpayers whose money the Kulturstiftung is using and the political decision-makers who decide about the Kulturstiftung's budget. In an open letter addressed to the Federal Republic of Germany, Safia Dickersbasch shares her disappointment. Read More>>

What are your views? Is Africa a country or a continent?


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