Africa and the myth of the uncivilized continent
Hey hey! What’s gucci?
So, what shall we talk about today? The continent?
When I over-optimistically think people are changing their perceptions of my continent, I’m stopped in my tracks and thankfully remember that learning is never-ending and there is always more to be said, more to be done to contribute to the elevation of a People’s knowledge.
Okay, here is the background:
One evening, around drinks, I was asked how much I missed Johannesburg (I’m here now, so that should scratch the itch a little ^^). When I expressed, just how much I missed home, I was met with the “yeah, I get it, despite being far from your family, I mean, CIVILIZATION RIGHT?!”
PAUSE FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT
Like, what in the hell did I just hear? It was a little bit of a blur in my head shortly after that, but in that moment, I also realized that many of us, sometimes deliberately, but often out of lack of knowledge, reduce the African continent, to one uncivilized blob – that of course it is not!
Without getting into the debate of what “being civilized” actually means, I thought that I would highlight the progressiveness of our continent, thereby de-busting some myths about it. In that way, we may build on our strengths and talk about where we come from, from a place of pride, love and respect. There will always be down sides. Always. Here are some good sides that reflected to me our progressive image, denied to us by the media (undeniably linked to the awesomeness of the Acrican woman):
Women are trailblazers on the continent
Let me say that again. Women are trailblazers on the continent! Contrary to popular belief, women on the continent get things moving! Aside from the fact that many African cultures operate in matriarchal societies (Like my mother’s Vili heritage, stretching out from Gabon to Angola encompassing the Republic of Congo), women hold positions of power, are encouraged to do so, and uplift one another. I remember meeting with great awe the Secretary General of the Ministry of Agriculture in Togo and watching her call to order, a predominantly male filled room! Yasss sister girl!
A year later, in Benin, the neighboring country, I had the pleasure of meeting the individual holding that same position, a vibrant, educated and stylish woman who applauded our work, claiming “You were excellent! Young African women uplifting our continent! That’s what we want!”. Indeed, that is what we want!
Roodepoort, Johannesburg, South Africa
On the other end, if you’re looking for female entrepreneurship at its best, look no further than Africa! We are leaders in the number of women starting businesses, with almost equal levels of male and female entrepreneurs (Ask CNN!)
The trend of trailblazing women did not start now. African women were killing the game (sometimes literally ^^) way back in the day! From Queen Yaa Asantewaa of Ghana who defended her Kingdom by fighting the British invaders in the famously named “Golden stool fight” in 1900 to Angolan Queen Nzinga who was known for her incredible military tactics, African women were nothing short of legendary, even then. The House of Nzinga blog (yesss named after Queen Nzinga) elaborates our black girl magic heritage in a post about African Queens here! Wink to you Patricia ^!
It’s in our women’s daily acts
One of those daily and natural acts is getting on a motorcycle, kid on their backs, fully made up and ready for the day! I mean? I have seldom seen cities like Bamako in Mali and Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, where this is so common! Just in case you don’t catch my drift, damnnn! It takes skill to jump on a motorcycle, heels on feet, baby on the back and weave on fleek! That’s a lady with a goal for her life right there!!
African men supporting African women!
In my opinion and from what I have experienced, African men are not as closed off as they are made out to be. Many a time in my line of work have I witnessed Ministers, Directors, technicians take my work seriously rather then look down on it because I am a woman or “too young”.
Being looked down on because of age or gender is a reality that we still encounter today unfortunately. The myth to debunk however, is the fact that it predominantly happens on my continent.
Witnessing the continent through new eyes, I realized I had adopted the habit of viewing it from outside in, despite living ON the continent. I was always looking from the perspective of non- Africans or those that simply do not know my continent. I am learning to lean into Africa. That can start very slowly. What kind of books are we reading? What kind of news are we watching? Is it hurting our perception of our continent?