You might have seen these before. Those are book covers of novels that have something to do with “Africa”. And they all get the “acacia tree sunset treatment” from their publisher abroad. Apparently, Africa is orange, wild and exotic.
Elsewhere it is described as “virgin land”, raw and “untouched by civilisation”. People are said to be “the best lovers”, wearing traditional and colourful clothes and being energetic and emotional.
We use those terms from colonial vocabulary up to today. They justify differentiation in favour of colonial powers. And they support even today’s power relations between the global North and South.
If we focus on the colourful dresses and the adventurous nature, we forget that there are academics, too. There is literature in Africa, even when it seems that European and American publishers try to cover that fact with their stereotyped book covers.
With the global South said to be full of emotional, child-like people, we in the global North appear as rational adults who are sacrificing some comfort to help those emotional beings.
The Maasai are doing mobile banking longer than you!
African men are not warlords and victims!
What YOU can do
When you send photos, emails and blog posts from abroad back home, and when you come back, people will admire you for your bravery and courage. You went out there, into the wild, very brave and adventurous and you had these amazing experiences. You are like those early explorers who dared to come to the wild and exotic continent.
Let me tell you: You are not a hero
– at least not for that. I am not either. You see, it doesn’t take much to go to an African country, when you are from the global North. I can buy my visa for Kenya at the airport in Nairobi and my health insurance will cover for everything and even fly me out of the country when things get really rough. Everybody can do that.
It is nevertheless a great decision, and you will learn a lot. So how to deal with it?
It was never easier than today to travel anywhere. Our parents, and even more our grandparents, didn’t have those possibilities. If you tell them how easy it is today, they won’t dishonour you. But there is a chance that they might adjust their judgement about you being a brave adventurer.