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July 23, 2010

How to Write About Africa

wainaina.jpg
A classic. A brilliant classic by BINYAVANGA WAINAINA in Granta Magazine Excerpt:
In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don't get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn't care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.
Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African's cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it—because you care.

Posted by Vanderleun at July 23, 2010 11:59 AM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

Appropos of nothing, a random thought:

He uses the word "reportage." Am I alone in thinking this word calls to mind particular intimate acts that require wiping up when concluded?

Posted by: Cameron at July 23, 2010 1:17 PM

He must have gotten paid by the word. He could have just written "make shit up" and be done with it.

Posted by: Blastineau at July 23, 2010 1:30 PM

If he were white he would be immediately called out and condemned by the bleeding hearts but since he is black, the left tolerates this dressing down of their predictably condescending and racist attitudes.

Bravo.

Posted by: Anonymous at July 23, 2010 4:24 PM

Actually, I'm pretty sure he was going for full-bore sarcasm in that article. I assumed - and still read it that way - that he was making fun of those who make their living writing about Africa.

Posted by: Cameron at July 24, 2010 1:20 AM

Africa is a continent. Like Asia is a continent.

start there

Posted by: Mikey NTH at July 24, 2010 8:14 PM

With a few tweeks he could be talking about liberals writing about our urban ghettos.

Posted by: MOTUS at July 25, 2010 7:17 AM

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