Episode 27 - Misconceptions About Africa

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

Another Wednesday, another blog post! This week we're delving into the various misconceptions about Africa - some hilarious and others concerning...

Want to have a quick listen? Check out this episode here.

It's an interesting topic because we as first generation Africans have all probably heard a few of the 'unusual' questions coming from colleagues, friends and classmates. We see first-hand the variety in assumptions about our countries and continent - from "did you have a pet giraffe?" to "did you live in a mud hut?" For the most part we really get that there is no intent to offend, but it can be so eye opening for us to know that these are just common knowledge among some people.

On the other hand, it can shock some people to find out that Africa is a place you can find sky scrapers in business districts, mansions in wealthy neighbourhoods and enormous shopping malls in city thriving metropolitan city centres. Sometimes, even people who've been to Africa don't think like this! We've lost count of the number of people who have holidayed in Egypt and Morocco several times and still don't associate those countries with the rest of the continent - often mistaking them for being in West Asia. There's often a feeling that booking a week in Marrakesh is similar to Greece or the Canary Islands.

These little bits of misunderstanding show up as quick sentences in a conversation with a friend or in a drunk conversation with a colleague who could never ask you something about your origin while sober, but how do we handle it? Typically, it's laughed off - because for the most part it's just a little 'haha' that we then share with our other African counterparts, but that doesn't help bring a clear understanding to the person asking. We easily forget that these are opportunities to educate and clarify in a way that the education system typically doesn't. That one colleague will most likely listen to your response with an open mind and a willingness to be surprised and corrected, and they'll take this new knowledge to other people they know. On some occasion in the future they may also get the chance to educate someone else. Although it's not our responsibility to implement knowledge that mainstream media and the education system doesn't, we should still seize the opportunity to 'clear some things up' - in the nicest way possible :P

It's such a beautiful plethora of culture, music, foods and ancestry - it's surprising that Africa has been inspiration to Tv shows, movies, art and music all over the world. This year we saw Beyonce's newest visual album, which she declared "a love letter to Africa". The top tier level of creative and art direction is undoubtable, it's obvious a lot of artistic genius and $$ went into creating it for our listening and viewing pleasure. However... it's clear that there is a sense of dilution that's gone into the music. It's like going to India and having authentic Indian curry and realising that your local takeaway has really toned it down to suit the palette you're used to. Then again, that can be simply perceived as 'business', it shows an understanding that the raw music and food of a culture needs to be adapted to other palettes if the intention is to sell it to them.

Overall, it's a good chance to hear a couple of new perspectives to something we first gen's have pretty much all experienced. It's interesting to see all the nuances of something so common and so casual in our lives. It'd be a great idea to share this with your none African friends and see what their reaction is, maybe start a candid and honest conversation about the misconceptions they didn't even know they had.

Some books we love:

Pre-Colonial Black Africa

How Europe underdeveloped Africa

Africa in History

As always, let us know your stories and opinions. Anything you thought we missed - let us know either in the comments or privately in DM's or the TL emails. We look forward to possibly answering your questions and comments in an upcoming Q and A episode!


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