Many of you who use Facebook may have notice a community called Everyday Africa and it’s a rather interesting page. I find myself to like and appreciate it quite a lot. Through pictures, it tells those hidden stories about Africa, stories about the Everyday people: the young boy going to the barber shop, the family going to the shopping mall or the mother going to the market place to buy plantain and garden eggs to prepare dinner.
These are the stories I love to hear about, no one tells it because Africa has to be poor, Africa need to have children dying of starvation. Old aged portrayal of Africa seems not too dated for some aid organisations, who do not hesitate to picture a child surrounded by flies while a desperate, yet convincing, female voice narrates the heart-breaking story of how this baby lost the family and has to work six hours a day to get a bowl of cold cornmeal porridge.
Now, I understand that Africa is not all gold and silver and I know there are real problems (political, social, geographical, medical.. name it!), and of course what these organisations are portraying are related to true stories; but, as a friend of mine pointed out, it’s important to preserve the dignity of people, because although they have nothing, they have a dignity that is not starving!
They (and in this I include major humanitarian organisations) need Africa to be poor, so people can feel good about themselves and their donated dollar; but Africa is more than that. There is the bad and the ugly part of the story, there is the heart-breaking struggle of people with real life problem, people who work hard but get stuck by politics, and yes, there is the child that has to walk some miles to fetch water; but there’s also the other version of the story. There’s the African story of Ghana, where an important liberal arts university to train Africa’s future leaders it’s being developed; there’s a young and talented friend of mine who is an artist, and although sometimes the electricity goes off so it’s not always easy for him to be able to finish a cartoon, he’s still there trying to make things work; there’s the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Paix in Ivory Coast (Futurafrika) which shows how Western Renaissance architecture is being imitated and the ability of African people; there are some great writers whose talent to portray and capture life is near heavenly; there’s the artwork, which, from North to South and from East to West, is never ending in the way it can amaze.
Every place on this Earth is like a coin, there’s an obverse and a reverse and just because the former is ugly does not mean the latter is alike.
I grew up in Italy, the place where the great Roman civilisation and the later Renaissance culture came into being, but it does not save itself from being miserable in some of its parts. When money is being donated, when adoption is being done, everyone think of Africa or South America or Asia but never have a look at their backyard to see who is in need, as if poverty is to be found just in the Third World.
I am so glad that communities like Everyday Africa are changing the conversation.