Africa is Africa

There was starkly no bias in one’s appreciation and acceptance of Africa irrespective of the source of information. To this extent, one’s appreciation and acceptance was primarily at par whether the dispenser of African knowledge was Ali Mazrui, Chinua Achebe or an outright non-African in the mould of a westerner. In the case of a…

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There was starkly no bias in one’s appreciation and acceptance of Africa irrespective of the source of information. To this extent, one’s appreciation and acceptance was primarily at par whether the dispenser of African knowledge was Ali Mazrui, Chinua Achebe or an outright non-African in the mould of a westerner. In the case of a non-African dispensing knowledge on Africa, this was easily palatable once the African-based antecedent of such an individual was laid bare. Indeed, once upon a time, institutions like the University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ahmadu Bello University and countless others across the continent were hubs of attraction for the non-African who sought the feel of an African-based formal education about Africa. But that was then, no more so restricted to the confines of history than in the case of the Nigerian institutions listed hitherto. The point, however, is that it was difficult to fault the caliber of authority an African-educated non-African wielded in the subject of Africa due to the verifiable extent/quality of rigor.

Amidst the foregoing, there was a seeming spiral of silence on the notion of the increased ease with which the non-African could grasp Africa precisely because of the well-documented excitement of the African in presenting Africa to the non-African. Note that this excitement quickly becomes a chore/drag when the audience of the African in search of African truths is African. But one digresses. This accentuated ease with which the non-African could understand Africa seemed to begin to assume a state of abuse when capitalist expediency of present-day educational structures took its root. All of a sudden, the non-African could conduct a 3-month long fieldwork in one specific spot in Africa and be awarded a terminal degree on account of such; thus become equivalent to the voices who spoke authoritatively about Africa! One slowly grew conscious of this in the company of African audiences who couldn’t make sense of how a non-African, with no more than a 90-day stint in one spot of the world’s largest island and perhaps a plethora of secondary source interrogation, could lecture them on this famed island.

Alas, it began to dawn on one. After all, one may decide a 3-month stay in Shanghai but that certainly is no sufficient a prerequisite for authoritative standing in Chinese culture let alone Chinese studies. As such, the extent of Chinese exploration became one’s unofficial yardstick in appropriating authority to a non-Chinese voice on matters Chinese. If Shanghai alone wouldn’t cut it, perhaps some of Guangzhou, Beijing and even Hong Kong would suffice so long as this broadening cultural capital of China spanned a year, three years or more, rather than a mere three months. However, this unwritten rule in one’s acceptance and appreciation of Africa met its waterloo recently, no thanks to increasing exploration of Africa south of the Sahara. The discovery so far is that Africa holds a patent of things African in such a way that nowhere else does; or can it become replicated anywhere else, not even in China.

While one must refrain from citing examples so as not to instigate an entry into a bulkier subject of discourse with possibly endless implications, one would close with an invitation to every one-spot visitor in Africa: speak up on the African spot you experienced, take a step further by generalizing, you wouldn’t be mistaken at all. In the end, Africa is Africa, east, west, south or central.

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