Story Telling

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I listened to her TED talk before I ever read anything she wrote and was immediately drawn in. She possessed all of the traits that had been lauded by people I respected in my youth. Articulate, opinionated, strong, self aware. She also had qualities much like my own; dark brown skin, love of African fashion, an African sounding name, an African accent and a middle-class upbringing. I had to read her books. I just had to.

Then I did.

Half of a Yellow Sun was my first Chimamanda experience. If the prose comes close to her own (an is not the product of editors) then she has an amazing command of prose. I have nothing negative to say about that. The lady can really weave a tale.

However, I am politically opposed to Africans selling African Poverty Porn. The stories about a child coming from the village to the big dirty city, who either learns to swim in an ocean of urban decrepitude or otherwise sink into the yawing abyss of the loneliness (and sometimes depravity) of a wealthy family… yeah. I beg your pardon kind sir, but No. N-O.

The other day, I borrowed The Purple Hibiscus from a friend. I read the first two pages of the first chapter and discovered that it was more of the same. This time WAR! I understand the realities of war having experienced, first hand, the liberation war that began Museveni’s stint in my own country. No, her stories do not take me back to that terrifying week in 1986 (was I born then? 🙂 ) but having a foreigner drool over the lowest points of our history and savor them like fine wine, sipping each drop of African blood wasted needlessly, feels a little like prostitution. I feel dirty. Like I betrayed someone I love.

The I remember what Chimamanda’s message was in her TED talk. The danger of the single story, the one that defines a group of people and firmly elevates them, or otherwise demeans them, is very real. So while she tells those kinds of stories, it falls on the shoulders of others to tell a different story. To show a different Africa. To allow others to see different Africans.

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