One comment on “Images of Africa

  1. Reblogged this on arcticfoxfire and commented:
    This blogger looks at the narrow, incomplete story told by media and NGOs about Africa and Africans, and calls for more complex, nuanced, diverse and dignified tellings – for multiple narratives and perspectives, and for images of coping, strength, aspiration.
    I have caught myself telling similarly grim stories about the northern communities I have worked in. When I was doing shorter stints at health centres and returning home to my own curious community, it was hard to talk about where I had been without feeling like I was misrepresenting the people there. After all, I mostly encountered people in one little part of their stories, and my experience of our meeting was filtered through my own “helper” lens. I did not often meet community leaders in their own places of power and authority. The stories I heard were mediated through a clinical interview.
    I was hungry to talk my way towards helpful understandings, but I often felt uncomfortable with the image I portrayed – of the people, the cultures and the institutions where our worlds intersected.
    A friend who spends part of each year in Cambodia, working with local people to restore traditional skills in ways which work for rural families, understands this impulse not to speak. We have not shared many stories and impressions with each other, but we have bonded over a shared silence, a shared unsharing, a holding in. We keep this wordless space, in order to protect those communities from incomplete and biased representations coming out of our own mouths and reinforcing dominant stories which ultimately keep people in their place.
    And we keep listening for stories worth telling, which we could share as pieces which suggest a whole we don’t know.
    I imagined this blog as a place for people to come together and discuss what we find between each other. I’ve been disappointed at times that there has not been more discussion. But today it occurs to me to value the sharing which happens here, with or without direct discussion, and the quiet space between us, where meaning might grow without interference.

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