I have always been fascinated by Africa and Africans and have found it so amazing that the land of origin of homo-sapiens and the Egyptian and Ethiopian civilizations could also be subject to the worst in history - slavery, colonization, race pogroms, brutal dictators, malnutrition, child warriors, apartheid etc. But then I have still not been in Africa. The closest I have been to Africa or Africans has been through talking with Eritrean and Nigerian taxi drivers in Ohio, listening to a bad Toto song or reading books by Rider Haggard (she, King Solomon's mines) and Saul Bellow (Henderson the rain king). These books inevitably projected the fairy-tale extrapolated view of Africa- one where white men were mistaken for Gods and men ate men. TV channels found African animals more worth than men and the Live8 concert and the G8 summit didn't educate me any more. I tried internet searches on Africa(ns) and came across this startling fact that according to some biblical interpretation Noah cursed Cannan and his descendants to be slaves. Many people interpreted that Cannan was black from whom Ethiopians originated and used it as a justification for slavery. Of course, modern politically correct interpretations deny it, but isn't it amazing how purposefully ambiguous scriptures can cause so much problem.
All the same, internet searches led me to books by the late Ahmadou Kouruma and I gobbled up his "Waiting for the vote of the wild animals". It's fantasy but is so refreshing from all previous accounts of Africa that I have had. The book tells the life of an African dictator in a ceremonial rendering. I will just mention a small sample of the most astonishing ideas (please read the book for more):
1. The French colonizers instituted a "degree of civilization" for natives
2. After the colonizers gave freedom to Africans, they created several countries-appointed their puppet as the father-of the-nation, wrote for him a national song and a speech at the UN
3. One of the most astonishing achievements of the colonizers was that 5 natives got educated in 50 years, compared to their initial target of 5 educated natives in 150 years
4. Dictators rationalized their oppression through tales of magic and forecast- phalluses of assassinated men were stuffed into their mouth to prevent their souls from taking revenge.
5. How the dictators played the West against in the East during the cold war to maximize their benefits
6. How journalists from western media were treated lavishly to keep their mouth shut
Of course all this is fiction, but Africa to me has always been like that. Who knows if Mugabe is really bad man or is it an impression created by few white farmers in Zimbabwe who has been asked to flee? How could Liberia, the nation of freed slaves who planned to create an ideal society, fall into so much chaos? Till I go there, I shall read on….
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