1. Is Mass-media doing enough to provide us with a real insight into African life while also reporting on events in Africa as they occur?
I think I would differentiate between digital media and broadcast media (television in particular) because I believe they have a varying degree of success in how they portray Africa’s stories. When it comes to digital media, which is relatively new, I do see it as promising in the ways it portrays a better picture of Africa, a multidimensional one. I follow a lot of African, and African-based Twitter users and bloggers, and through them I am seeing a different Africa, a more familiar one to the one I know. Having our own platforms to share our stories is huge because there is less bias when it comes to people who are more aware of the nuances in their cultures doing the reporting, curating, and sharing. We now have more Africans reporting African realities in different ways such as through stories, video, and photographs.
From my experiences with broadcast media, most stories were covered by people who often didn’t know the culture and the people, who believed they were too intelligent and educated to ask the locals for cultural meanings and interpretations. They often came from a paternalistic approach and perhaps believed the average African person didn’t have a lot to teach them. Additionally, the stories they focused on were very one-dimensional and predictable; the focus was often on poverty, crime, disease, war, which although is a part of Africa’s story, as it is in most places around the world, is not the whole story by any means. With digital media, I see more Africans being their own image-makers, storytellers and news reporters, and I think that’s incredibly powerful. I see the powerful range in expression, the understanding of their own cultures, and the willingness to explore more and share more. And I think the potential will continue to grow the more experience we have with these platforms, and the more demand there is for these new stories and images. Without digital media, there would be so many stories I would never have heard.
2. “Stereotypes play an important role in helping us make sense of the world, and are not necessarily lies”….What are some of the most common representations of Africa in the media ?
I don’t think I agree with the stereotype statement. Thinking of my personal experiences with being stereotyped and how people assumed I was something I wasn’t based on my skin colour and my place of origin, I’d say that stereotypes make us lazy thinkers. With stereotypes it is so easy to just fall back on preconceived statements without using our reasoning skills to come up with our own conclusions. There is so much complexity out there and although stereotypes often do hold a grain of truth, they are too shallow to be accepted. There is so much complexity and diversity in the world and I think that’s often clouded over by paying attention to stereotypes.
For example, the stereotypes about Africa being poor and a dangerous continent; there is plenty of noticeable poverty in my current city Vancouver (Canada), there is crime too, but it is often voted one of the best cities in the world
3. Is there a pressing need to alter western portrayal of Africa?
Yes I do think we’ve gotten to a point where more and more people are seeking the truth and are realizing that what we were fed for so long was not the truth. We know enough about other cultures to avoid judging them or portraying them ethnocentrically. Africa is such a diverse continent with a myriad of cultures and also a very rich history. It’s high time for the world to see that Africans have contributed so much to civilization, and are still doing so.