1. What would you say are the most common themes and representations of Africa in the news? Do these representations influence your perception of Africa?
The most common themes that are presented on the News in this current day is always corruption, drought, war, or the threat of terror. As I am of African decent myself, these representations do not in any way tarnish my perception of Africa. I see that Africa has a lot of potential and so much to offer the world. My only fear is that the general consensus would not feel the same.
2. “Stereotypes play an important role in helping us make sense of the world, and are not necessarily lies”… Do you agree with this statement?
Stereotyping usually creates perceptions of people that are usually inaccurate and negative. Using stereotypes does not allow someone to reconsider the stereotyped individual’s behaviour, thoughts and ideas and It is usually hard for them to see past it. Therefore, I do not agree with this statement because everyone is different and should not be grouped on false perceptions.
3. Is there a pressing need to alter western portrayal of Africa?
I strongly believe that the media need to concentrate on changing the ways they portray Africa and the African people. Especially in Hollywood. There are many successful Hollywood films that star exceptional actors and have been based in Africa; for example, ‘Blood Diamond’ based in Sierra Leone, The Last King of Scotland (based in Uganda) and Hotel Rwanda. These movies concentrate on the troubles that has occurred in these countries. They portray men with the typical stereotypes that are attached to African men in western culture. The common stereotypes attached to African men are; very violent, unreasonable, poor, dictators, murderers and usually show the white protagonist to be the person that upholds the moral values.
The movies often seem to concentrate on poverty, destruction, unrest. I am not denying the presence of this around Africa, it certainly is, but there are positive things movie producers and the media can concentrate on. Africa is the 2nd largest continent in the world, with over 50 countries and with over 3000 languages spoken, it has such a rich history dating as far back to the origins of the homo sapiens. It is safe to say that movie writers do not have a lack of options when it comes to choosing material to base their production on.
From my experience, purposely or not, what I watch in a movie helps me build up a profile on a place. For example, I have never been to New York, but from what I have seen from the media, Hollywood movies and the News is that it seems like a lovely city full of prospects and a melting pot of culture. So when people that have not been to places in Africa and are viewing movies and documentaries on poverty and unrest, they will not feel compelled to go there.
The media has a significant role in the way the general public think about Africans, or any other group of people. For example, I am currently based in Colchester, Essex and it is safe to say it is not as diverse as other places in England such as London, Manchester and so on. I was speaking to my colleague who is in her mid-twenties about the origins of my surname and she stopped me to ask ‘No offence, but in Nigeria do they live in huts?’
My first thought was to feel offended by her question, but a part of me wanted to just educate her and to be honest, I felt sorry for her. In this day and age when we have such easy access to television, newspapers and we are constantly on the internet with information spreading around so quickly, how could she possibly ask such a question? Is it the media’s fault? How does she not know that Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa? How does she not know that in Nigeria, and like many other countries in Africa they live in nice built houses too, with communities that include shopping malls, markets, leisure parks and so on.
I do not blame the woman. I went to Nigeria in 2009 to visit my Grandma for the second time and It was shocking to see people were living so much better than I was back in London. People had the big cars, the big houses, the maids, I was beyond confused, this is not what the BBC showed me a few months prior when they premiered the Documentary ‘Welcome to Lagos’- which is a mini series that concentrated on the lives of people that live in the slums of Lagos. If I had not traveled to Africa or knew people that did, I would not have any idea of their way of how rich the culture is.
I am convinced that if the media and Hollywood start changing how they portray African and the African people then it will help erode the misconceptions people have of them. I am not arguing that it will be the solution to convince everyone in society that Africa is a wonderful place, but it is definitely a start.