Africa Beyond the Mirror
Boubacar Boris Diop
Published by Ayebia Clarke Publishing (2014)
IN the book Africa Beyond the Mirror, Boubacar Boris Diop aptly states the problem facing Africa as “…the image of Africa, portrayed in specialised media and other works, is not pretty. It does not depict reality in any way, despite what some of us may say in desperation, out of intellectual dishonesty or out of spinelessness.”
It’s been decades now since African states attained independence from their former colonisers, but these colonialists continue to hold sway in the former colonies, retarding development of the nations.
When they opted for active resistance against the colonisers, Africans were fighting for freedom and the right to self-determination.
Sadly, decades after independence, many African countries are still living in chains whose locks are kept by the same people who initiated slavery and colonialism.
Centuries after the abolition of the slave trade and, later on, colonialism, Africa is still at war with forces seeking to continue dominating and exploiting Africans and their resources.
Even the so-called globalisation has not benefitted Africans economically, socially or politically.
The African continues to be at the periphery of development.
Africa Beyond the Mirror reveals how the story of Africa has been distorted by the media.
Diop questions Africa’s existence in the world and how different issues about her are perceived.
He explains the distortions perpetuated by the media and how they have kept Africa bogged down in the mud of underdevelopment.
The writer challenges other African writers, who have not grabbed the opportunity to write the story of their kith and kin and instead allowed outsiders to do it, to shape up.
Through Western media, Africa has been painted by a wrong brush that has left marks of stereotypes.
He urges the African novelist to write than leave the entire burden to academics and journalists.
“Academic dissertations, with all their precision, hold less attraction for the public at large since they are less accessible,” says Diop.
“Similarly, to the journalist, who is beholden to deadlines and forced, so to speak, to jump from one massacre to the next, the historian has no choice but to let the dead bury the dead.
“The novelist, on the other hand, tries to bring back to life and this desire to play God can become an obsession.”
Diop is against the idea of Africa getting information about its problems from former slave masters and colonisers.
He shows how the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 was distorted and distributed around the world in a form that did not represent the actual events on the ground.
The Rwandan genocide has over the years being told from the perspective of the perpetrators who, by all means, hide their involvement in the genocide.
“The Belgians may not have been directly involved in what happened in 1994, but historically, these events were the long-term effect of their political control of Rwanda and especially their utterly unreasonable decision to introduce ethnicity into the process of independence,” writes Diop.
Though he acknowledges the presence of the African writer, Diop argues that many Africans, even in telling their story, have an inferiority complex.
Africans, he argues, must not be at the periphery but forefront, not just telling their story but celebrating who they are.
“From the perspective of far-away Paris, the victims of this genocide are quite simply not from the right background. How can we expect negrophobic foreigners to show reverence for the dead whom we ourselves are too cowardly to mourn?” writes Diop.
Africa Beyond the Mirror brings to the fore painful truths that continue to haunt Africans.
For instance, as a result of the inferiority complex instilled in Africans during colonialism, the African writer believes he has no audience if he or she writes in indigenous languages.
“The African author is more susceptible to feelings of doubt and discouragement than practically anybody else. Writing in a foreign language for an audience far too preoccupied with survival to be interested in his books tends to make him feel utterly alone — howling his rebellion into the desert,” Diop writes.
“Whether we like it or not, half a century after what was, in theory, the end of colonial era, the African elites are still fascinated by their former masters.”
Diop notes that if the African writer does not stand up to share his story, the story of the hunt will forever be told by the hunter.
According to Diop, the solution is for Africa to consider cultural exchange programmes which provide an opportunity for dialogue and appreciation of various African perspectives.