Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New News

The concept of "New News out of Africa" has been playing around in my mind for quite a while now. I'm not sure if it's born out of pure frustration at reading "world news" everyday, or at reading the Times of Swaziland every morning (if we're lucky enough for it to have been updated that day). Or maybe because I read this book by Charlayne Hunter-Gault for a class last semester and had high expectations only to be dismally dissapointed. It was a good attempt, and I commend the author for bringing to light such heavy issues that the world needs to be addressing. Hmm, maybe I just had different expectations.

Ever seen a picture like the one in my previous blog post and have the words "hunger, genocide, famine, war, poverty, Africa" come to mind? Ever wondered why you just didn't presume it was a kid who lost a toy on an ordinary beautiful day in Kigali? What comes to mind when you read, see or think of the word "Africa"? Perhaps images of child soldiers, starving children and helpless parents spring to vision. Or maybe you remember the heartwrenching stories told to you at a Boston Cinema by the incredible Don Cheadle, Djimon Hounsou, Leonardo DiCaprio or Forest Whitaker? Ahh...maybe you think of endless savannas, with fauna so captivating your Nikon D2X just clicks away mercilessly, pure horizons, the rich smell of Amarula. The group of kids you taught English for a summer, or how blazing the heat is!

If I tell you what I think of when I think of my motherland, the sun will rise shine set and rise again...when I tell you about the pap and chakalaka, top that with borewors and marinated chicken. I go on to tell you about the street bashes that occur every night all night, no cops involved, neighbors invited by default! I will tell you about real juice, real fruit, real onions I pick everyday at 4 pm from my garden to prepare the homecooked meal...that I prepare everyday, twice a day. I may even tell you about the jokes we tell, the languages so beautiful and engineered to perfection. I'll sip on a cup of Milo and pause, smile, pause, before I go on to tell you about the best clothes in the world, about my mother who wears nothing but Sishweshwe to business meetings and is still the most successful woman I know! I could even go on toflirt with you, sliding my hands down the crafted kente that rides my hips, the goat skin sticking to my ripe breasts in a fashion u may not understand. I'll run your fingers through the thick curls of my hair, and show you how beautiful it feels to be an African Queen! I wouldn't want to leave out the high prevalence AIDS rate in Swaziland, even when I tell you about the happiest people I've ever met! I'll laugh so hard when I tell you about my high school days, taking 11 subjects at O'Level and still not complaining! Infact, exceling! I might even sneak you into my backyard and show you the mango trees that come to life each summer, the bananas and grapes that are low-calorie without the engineering! And still so sweet....I'll tell you about the beaches of Mozambique, the shopping sprees I have in Johannesburg, I'll tell you about the Zimbabwean party scene, the beautiful women, the way our men are carved by the sweet hand of Mother Africa. Chomi, I'll spend forever telling you about the music, the weather, the heros and heroines. Not the ones you read about on CNN. I'll tell you about the brothers and sisters in our neighborhoods, working hard for their families, the ones who never got their share of fame. The children so fearless and creative. I may even decide to let you know how we made our own toys when we were young! It might be why I'm not afraid to open up my laptop...or tv, when something's wrong. I'll tell you about the funny things we see on TV. Yes, TV! The sun will definitely rise, set, and rise again when I tell you about what Africa means to me.

The truth of the matter is we have been psychologically conditioned to tie Africa to such things as poverty, genocide, war, disease etc. I am not one to point fingers. I simply want to acknowledge a problem and brainstorm towards positive action. We spend plenty of time talking about colonialization, history, the status quo and the Western privilege. I think it's time we got some new news! I want to browse some international news source one day and find positive stories about my continent. Instead of "FIFA may launch Plan B for 2010 World Cup", I want to find " Developments underway in Johannesburg and Cape Town". I am not arguing that Africa doesn;t have problems, oh there are many! I would just like to start seeing some solutions instead of the criticism. Sometimes, phrasing a headline more positively may go a long way. I wish we had more African journalists (who are passionate about the continent) in these news sources. I wish we could report more on young African educationalists doing great things all around the world. I wish we could emphasize the richness of African culture and show it off to the world. I wish some Swazi journalist could be able to report the beauty, festivities and excitement surrounding the Reed Dance every August, and not a Polish journalist reporting on the innumerable naked girls he witnessed as King Mswati smiled on.

I also wish we could develop more positive attitudes towards new achievements and new challenges. Maybe we should all be excited and encouraging when we discuss Ghana's oil, Lesotho's new flag, South Africa's hosting of the World Cup, ARVs finally being made available in public hospitals in Swaziland, Liberia's (and Africa's) first woman president. Obviously, something so psychologically crippling will not take overnight to revamp. We, as young Africans and global citizens need to take it upon ourselves to implement these changes within our respective careers, communities, countries and social spheres. It is not just up to journalists to work harder, the very source of primary information is you! Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, musician, part of an economic research team, student, entrepreneur, sexy celebrity, local farmer, orphan, or diplomat. The change is in you. The change is you!

Some good news: