FYI: there are FIFTY THREE countries in Africa. Count them. It is the world’s second largest continent, and also the second most populated after Asia. Did you spot the mystery word? Yes! Prizes for those who identified the word CONTINENT in that sentence. Not to be confused with country.
I blame CNN. Who wouldn’t? Seriously though. Have you ever watched a CNN weather forecast? The neatly dressed fully-certified broadcast meteorologist (weather girl is so un-PC) smiles gaily and gesticulates in the general direction of the Sudan and says, ‘Africa will be hot today.’ AAAARG! No wonder people think Africans are all black, speak the same language and dance around in furs (when they aren’t hitching a ride on an elephant to get to the battlefield/drum circle). A great story my mom tells is when she was young she had a pen pal from Australia and the girl asked her some very silly questions about life in South Africa. So my mom went and got a postcard of some bare breasted Zulu maidens in front of a hut and wrote on the back, ‘this is me and my family in front of our home’. Needless to say, she never heard from her pen pal again.
Now most Canadians don’t wear plaid, say ‘oot and aboot’ or live in igloos (sorry to shatter the illusion), and most Americans aren’t dumb and loud. Most Italians aren’t lewd and members of the Mafia. You see my point. I not only blame CNN, but the media in general. I mean, I know that borders and countries change in Africa a lot, but how come when you read an article about somewhere in Europe, they always mention the country and the city? People talk about going to Africa (and it’s pronounced ‘AAAhfricka’ here), forgetting it covers about 6% of the Earth’s surface, and that you might want to be a little more specific than that.
Sadly, what one tends to see here a lot on TV are those bleeding heart, ‘sponsor an African child’ ads, where some B-Grade celebrity manhandles starving African children with flies on their noses and kwashiorkor bellies. Now I am fully aware that there are wars, genocides, starvation, disease and all the other cheerful things in the world stalking many parts of my great continent, but there are also industrious, prosperous cities, world-class tourist resorts, intelligent, self-serving citizens and an extreme variety of flora, fauna and … modern amenities!
I was watching The Lion King this morning (Disclaimer: I am sick, and therefore am perfectly entitled to stay in my PJs all day watching Disney films) and seeing as I have years of critical analysis study behind me, I couldn’t help but look a little deeper behind the perky animation and the catchy beat of Hakuna Matata. Why do they all have American accents, EXCEPT for the baboon? How is it that they live in a place that looks like Tanzania (Kilimanjaro seems to make an appearance at the beginning), but they also have rolling sand dunes (Sahara?), jungle (the Amazon?), plus the more correct savannah? Amazing! I know, I know, it’s a kid’s movie, but there is no JUNGLE in Africa. Sub tropical and tropical rainforest, yes, but you don’t get lions there. And there are no tigers in Africa. And no bears, either.
I could go on and on. I won’t even go into the Zimbabwe crisis and how the world (and I won’t excuse South Africa from this) has been ignoring it until now. I won’t mention the Always Ultra ad that talks about a girl from a village in Southern Africa (which of the 5 or so countries could she be from??)… You read lists of places where people will talk about friends they have made in France, China, Delaware, Africa… How do we leap from states to countries to continents? And my personal favourite is when people ask me where I am from and then I see the cogs churning in their brains and I can almost hear them say ‘But she is white, how can she be from Africa?’ and then I ask them, ‘Have you heard of apartheid?’. ‘Yes, yes, we studied it in school.’ So what was that all about? Yes. There had to be some white people around to, you know, oppress the masses.
So spread the word, people. Africa is in fact a continent, made up of a diverse range of radically different places, from Egypt to Ethiopia, Libya to Lesotho, Namibia to Nigeria. And remember, Africa will also be hot today. Hakuna Matata.