The term Africa: a response to a friends' concern

An African friend of mine recently posted something on the Weave about the term Africa. I chose to respond to it as it is a very important topic. Here is what she said,”

There’s no such thing as AFRICA

Written by Ruvimbo Mangoma
Monday, 14 March 2011
So, I have an idea for a book.

I will brainstorm and rehash some ideas and see where this could lead. It is my own personal theory, that I have developed that I believe strongly that there is no such thing as AFRICA. This is merely a constructed concept that holds no true meaning or value. Africa is just a landmass that happens to occupy roughly a third of the earth’s surface and does not refer to a people or a culture. What is being African? What do you mean when you say African attire? An African proverb… out of a 1000 languages, what could you possibly mean by it? What universality can be drawn from Africa?

My theory leaves room for me to speculate that we are trying to create something that cannot be put together. The United States of Africa? Or the song, I’m so proud to be African” What does that mean? Being African? It is vague and the only relation I can conjure up is that of geography.

Think about it, when people say AFRICA, which people do they refer to? Most of the time, you think of the Black Africans. So already you have erased the many Indians, white Africans and of course our brothers and sisters in North Africa, because they’re not “African”…even CNN and the BBC, clearly map them out as “The Middle East” (not sure why since North Africa is umm.. well part of Africa.)

So what do you get, when you have 53 countries, each with different climates,  some located in what can be referred to as “the jungle”, some which are islands (unknown to many- ever heard of the Seychelles, Cape Verde or the Comores.. yep they are African too), some which have been at war and some which have so many languages that the only  language capable of bringing the nation into adherence with itself is derived from Latin. “Parlez- vous francais?” The Cameroonians, Togolese and Senegalese would say.. “Of course not, the real language to speak is English the Southern Africans would say in response.”

So what binds this AFRICA that everybody talks of? Who are Africans?

There are so many exogenous factors at play here that are struggling to put this distorted concept. A concept, which is increasingly failing to convince me of its validity.

Here is my response to that:

But there is such a things as Africa.

I truly appreciate your endeavor to cause an awareness in regards to stereotypes about the continent of Africa, I absolutely share your sentiments in this. However, I disagree with the way you chose to tackle this. Of course there is and should be such a thing as Africa. All of those states share the same land mass from Cape-Town to Cairo. If the concept, or in my opinion, reality of the term Africa is not valid, then the concept of Europe and Asia is also not valid. The fact is, we need a term to identify continents and that is why the term Africa is so useful.

You ask about what it means to be African, and question the manner in which this term is used as a blanket word that covers diverse people with diverse cultures and languages. I would like to challenge you to see how this term is and can be used to bring together 53+ nations in a very positive way. (By this I do not mean the United States of Africa coined by Gaddafi.)

Africans are all resilient people, all of our ancestors endured massive crimes against humanity yet we are still standing in this global arena. Africans have deep roots in community. In almost every African nation, a neighbor is extended family. Africa is home to amazing art and art movements that influenced Europeans like Picasso. We were bronze casting life like figures way before the European Renaissance- 9th Century to be exact.

As a Zimbabwean, I am more at home with anyone from ANY part of Africa than with an American, European, Latino, Asian or Australian.  (this is not to say that I don’t have non African friends who are special to me) When you remove this concept- Africa, you strip me of my dignity which comes from celebrating  with my fellow man in Nigeria, Egypt, Namibia Kenya or Morocco. Why is it that when South Africa hosted the world cup, ALL of Africa celebrated?

The term Africa is vital if we are to see positive change in various states on the continent. If I am an African from country X, I must respond to things like genocide in country Y which is also an African nation. If you take away the term Africa, why should I assist other countries on the continent when there is really nothing, no concept to unify us? African leaders are responsible for Africa, and this terms challenges them to pursue justice, and maybe eventually be independent of Western (and now Eastern- China) economic molestation.

Just saying..


2 thoughts on “The term Africa: a response to a friends' concern

  1. Wow good for you.
    Reading the original post and your response actually caused a new image/version of your sculptural figures to pop up in my mind… disintegrating figures…

    This idea that we can deconstruct meaning to the point of total meaninglessness. Total nihilism. You know, I guess if that is how some people find comfort in their lives, then that is one person’s choice, but it seems like a complete denial of the reality.

    Or as my current email signature quote says:
    “If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion.” – NOAM CHOMSKY

    Oy. have you had any responses?

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