Our view of Africa is all wrong. While a two week visit to Rwanda is far too short to claim any significant insights into such a complex and different culture to our own, it is sufficient to realise one key shortcoming of our own culture: its failure to understand Africa as anything other than a continent beset by intractable problems, such as famine, civil war, dictatorship, AIDS and genocide. As such, it is a continent worthy only of our charity.
Africa is indeed faced with acute challenges and problems, but it possesses such strengths as well, in terms of the will of the people to confront them, their talents and determination, and the dreams they have for their future. You don’t have a huge amount of coverage of this in the Daily Mail, or indeed in any of our other media. Africa does not need our charity – it needs our respect, and on the basis of this we can work in partnership, solving problems north and south together.
So challenging and changing the west’s prejudices of Africa is a priority. We have tried to do this with our blog, to show something of the courage and vision of those we have met there. From government ministers to women running their own co-operatives, academics to entrepreneurs, we have met some truly remarkable people. But while we hope that we have represented them fairly, we are not storytellers: our representation of Rwanda can at best inform and raise interest. It takes the real artists of storytelling to replace the west’s flawed views of Africa with something more accurate and respectful.
On the day I returned, I tried to share with my wife and son my feelings and thoughts of my incredible two weeks away. Perhaps the problem was that I should have edited my 500 photos down to 100 or so, or perhaps I was just tired – but I really wasn’t convinced that I’d got the message over that I had intended.
So, this Sunday morning (24 hours after returning) we all went off to Dundee’s Odeon to watch Africa United. Filmed in Rwanda, and describing the story of a group of children who make the journey from there to the World Cup in South Africa, it has gained some good reviews. Indeed, in some of our presentations in Rwanda we had referred to the film as evidence of a shift in Rwanda’s profile in the west. Without having seen it, the film seemed to us like “a good idea”. Now I have seen it.
Africa United is a remarkable film: just see it. My son, who is as obsessed with football as much as the similarly aged characters in the film (but who was at best curious at his father’s passion for Africa) loved it. While the film presents Africa respectfully, it does not shy away from its problems – indeed its strength is that it shows how its children deal with those problems and rise above them. Debs Gardner-Paterson has directed a hugely entertaining film that presents a very different and positive view of Africa.
Our view of Africa must be challenged and shifted. Africa United does this. If you have any interest in what this blog has been discussing, please watch this film.