Europe’s solution for Africa
"Man’s freedom is lacking if somebody else controls what he needs, for need may result in man’s enslavement of man." - Muammar al-Gaddafi
The premises behind much of the solutions for Africa are in the ideal that a hurting Africa needs a humanist hand from Europe. This is like appealing to the fox to save you from the wolf. An agreement in the United Nations’ Security Council or other diabolical agencies such as the World Bank is like an agreement among a choir, and such agreements are not agreements at all nor are they meant to provide any succor to the problems of Africa. NEPAD insist that a richer Africa is in the interest of the entire world, true or false will not appeal to the morality of a world system that never in its legacy has and does not act along a moral compass.
There is nothing but capitalism and illusions of democracy, which are alien to the aspirations of African people. “Feed Africa” to “Make Poverty History” are mere sloganeering programs with no genuine effect to the population of the continent. These campaigns are industries unto themselves that create billions of dollars and generate millions of jobs. They subsidize ailing industries in developed countries. We are naïve and childish to believe a richer Africa is in the interest of Europe.
Poor people do not have the luxury of liberalism and freedom of speech. Poor people have no point of view other than “feed me.” Poor people are absent from the luxury of agency. A poor Africa will always be a slave to a richer Europe. Today, at every major anti-slavery or save Africa project, it is Europe deciding and inviting personalities from the African world to sit at “THEIR” table, to discuss Africa’s problems. The frontline for Make Poverty History is a “museum of rock star” beyond their performance years, probably seeking redemption and revival; Geldolf is the expert on famine, Bono the authority on AIDS. Bob Geldof, the Jesus and Tarzan character all rolled into one. The first name to come to mind when abolition is whispered is William Wilberforce and Granville Sharpe. Walking in the legacy of “Dr. Livingstone, I presume”: A man who single-handedly ended the ENTIRE Arab Slave trade. Again, the agent in Africa's liberation is Europe. Not even dealing with the aspect of how Africa found itself in the continuing hole. What kind of world do we live in when the views of the oppressed are expressed at the convenience of the rich?
Media : Black Story, White Voice
Name a "Black film” and look behind the lens; who wrote it, who produced it, who directed it? Amistad. The music by John Williams. The director? Mr. Spielberg. A Jamaican film called One Love, again the same pattern. Tsosti a story of violence in the African communities- violence is a natural reality of South African people in European perception; it sells and feeds their image of us of being gang bangers, and semi-noble savages. It is almost impossible to consider a film that does not include a European central figure. The recent Last King of Scotland reflects this. It is in the legacy of CRY FREEDOM. The title shows the mindset behind it. It would not be sufficient to tell the story of Idi Amin; so infamous enough and surely notorious enough character in his own right. No, they say, this would reduce the value of the project. In comes the European into the storyline. It is actually amazing to see Mel Gibson attempt to make a film of a non-White people without a central European character.
Returning to the likes of Richard Attenborough, we cannot blame him for his bias in Cry Freedom, he is by nature a European and is simply acting out his European weighted worldview, avoiding Eurocentric as a term, as every healthy race is sensitive to his or her cultural perceptions. It makes no sense to ask Spielberg to give more “Africanness” in his Amistad or The Color Purple (which was an amazing piece of cinema). Even stories of African struggle are without exception made by Europeans: Amandla (Lee Hirsch), Roots (Collection of Whites), War Dance (Sean Fine), Life and Debt (Stephanie Black), Rize (David LaChapelle).
This pattern speaks directly to the social disinheritance. Who is paid from our experience? Who is cashing in again and again on our tears? Why can't Africans be the central authors of their stories? The issue is not for Europeans to become more sensitive in “pretending” to be African: the issue is amazingly simpler; it is for Africans to be agents in their stories and hence removing the problem all together.
The concept that Europe is qualified in bringing out indigenous people's stories is just as arrogant as assuming Africans are and others are a worthless child-race. All nice intentions are welcomed by these are all rooted in the same racist presumption of racial incapability on the part of Africans and other non-European races.
A journey to the local media outlet see Michael Palin in Africa, or a PBS special on Africa produced by an all European cast called Tigress productions. This is the interface, which we need to challenge; many of us are caught-up in incidentals of our struggle. Being seen on a screen is not self-determination, especially when the gatekeepers, decision makers who determining the validity of our work are all European. African stories are attempts to explain Africans to Europeans as opposed to Africans explaining themselves to each other. These mere fact renders the whole concept of “Black cinema” and “Black perspective” redundant.
Products, not producers
Once there was a web site called Africana which explored African history and generally empowering topics, where is that site today? It has been taken over by the commercial giants AOL and is now blackvoices, a collection of trite and pointless garbage that celebrates the emptiest aspects of African-American culture; the singers and the dancers, the entertainers and the clowns.
All the adverts centered on the “Black” people are relating to sex. The commoditification of the African body is an industry to itself. Inter-racial dating, meet black singles, black gays, find black love- this is what African people have come to represent in the global world. These are problems created and nurtured by Europeans. They fail to understand it is also adversely affecting the very socio-cultural existence of Europe itself.
Europe has relegated the position of women to the doldrums; they see their women as object of amusement, just mere flesh for quenching their thirst. Who needs any “meet single” if women are respected and given the right position? And certainly it is not a problem in Africa. So why, is it that it is sent down our throats and now our people entering the bandwagon? Hip-hop to pop embraces nothing deep but the most base aspects of the human animal. Returning us to Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” El-Hajj Malik Shabazz said: “we stand for nothing, fall for everything.” Agency is the natural actions of a self-determined people; lack thereof is testimony to the shallow position Diasporian-Africans occupy.
To be continued.
By Owen 'Alik Shahadah
Owen 'Alik Shahadah, is an African Cultural writer and a multi-award winning Filmmaker who documents African history and culture. Published with kind permission from African Holocaust