Typecast with bloated stomachs of malnutrition against a backdrop of intrastate warfare, most Westerners know the archetypal image of the unfortunate African other. And while it is true that forms of extreme poverty do exist in Africa, as they do on every other continent, the trouble is that we have been shown a single image of Africa— or as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, we have been told a single story.
Poverty-Porn is the tactic of media and charities that uses sympathy as a catalyst for monetary gain, exploiting the poor and uneducated, to showcase desperate conditions for an emotional response. And while the tactic may be effective at heightening profits—by misrepresenting an entire continent as slum—the fate of an entire continent is stamped with pity. What this means is that outside of Africa, Africans are expected to look up.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist who came from a middle-class family. Her father was a professor and her mother an administrator. Adichie attended an American university at 19-years-old and in her TED Talk, Adichie talks about her experience with a roommate who was shocked to find that she could speak English, knew how to use a stove and listened to Mariah Carey instead of “tribal music.”
“She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa, a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.”
In response to the oversimplification of African identity, and connectedly an oversimplification of the roots of poverty in some nations, Africans have taken to social media to show the diversity of the continent. Twenty-two-year-old Somali-American student, Diana Salah (@lunarnomad) helped spur the social media campaign#TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou. Since it began a week ago, the hashtag has been used over 54,000 times.
Human tragedy certainly does exist in Africa, but it is only a half-truth. The story that often remains untold is a story of happiness, of talent and of hard-earned success. Here are some tweets of Africans reclaiming African identity. Hold the flies and sadness:
|Written By:||Tyler Fyfe|
|Written Source:||Plaid Zebra|
|Photo Source:||Getty Images/Yasuyoshi Chiba|