Shedding light on a dark continent
Commentary: The African Image
African Students' Association President
It is commonly assumed that Africa is the home of static cultures and people however this is not true. Africa as the birthplace of humankind and the cradle of all civilization is dynamic. Subsequently it continues to provide the world with invaluable resources such as intellectuals and diverse cultures.
Unfortunately, people continue to perceive Africa as a detached and ancient world with many primitive peoples. This view simply enables people to think of Africa as an unchanging continent, thus treating it as a museum piece. Therefore, a whole continent and its people are objectified and subject to ridiculous assumptions. It is quite common to hear people ask questions that reinforce stereotypes of the continent and its people.
In what many Africans call the "Gods must be Crazy effect" stereotypes link Africa with ancient lifestyles, human suffering and chronic underdevelopment. Although, like other continents, Africa has its share of problems, it is unfair to focus on all of the negative aspects as representatives.
To those eager to keep their unfounded views of Africa, I challenge you to speak to any African on campus and ask about their homeland's struggles and tribulations. Clearly, a different view will be given, one that is different from the perpetuated images and tales depicted in the media.
In short, if Western students make a conscious effort to question stereotypes and get an African perspective, they will receive a fair picture of Africa. I do not doubt that they will grow to appreciate the diversity, struggles and progress being made by the African continent. This way, African cultures and people can gain the dignity, respect and honour they deserve. Although there is no monolithic African voice, the diverse student body on campus is important and a credible resource of information about the vast continent.
I encourage all Western students to get in touch with their African roots because whether it be one million or 100 years ago, we are all descendants of Africa.