Ways in which Africa and Africans are represented by Africans
Description of Africa in an African perspective can be as problematic in the same manner western representations are about Africa. The continent has been marred by political issues ranging from democracy, national elections, economic status and cultural practices from different corners of the continent. In Africa, political issues affect beyond political environment, economic and social aspects are also affected.
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There has been an increased case of corruption, which signifies a lack of accountability and ethical leadership within most African countries. Rising cases of political instability have led to problems such as widespread violence, change of leadership and embezzlement of aid funds. The problems of sub-Saharan Africa are further deepened by genocidal conflicts, diseases, poverty and economic stagnation (Mengara, 2001).
The film Motherland, which is African-owned cinema, represents the glory and majesty of Africa and at the same time calls for unity, self-determination and the rebirth of Africa.
According to the film, Africans became black within the period they were being enslaved. Slavery was designed to disconnect the African from having any positive notion of their Motherland. Languages used in describing parts of Africa like ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ are used with the intention of dividing and conquering the continent.
According to the film, such terms have been used to confine Africans to corridors of make-believe locations without any political affiliations (African Union), ethnicity (Tuareg), and economic status (COMESA) and with historical and physical boundaries, by use of names such as Sudan and Mali. The same aspect is revealed through post-colonialism perspective in the Yeelen film (Mengara, 2001).
African development presents an important factor in the many discussions about Africa and Africans. The rate of development within the continent has contributed to its positioning within the global politics. Such developments focus on technology, economic status, infrastructure, disease prevalence and socio-economic inequalities.
Analysis of the conflicts in Africa or the reality behind political processes has become difficult since numerous factors are considered in the process of investigating causes of such conflicts. Based on African Renaissance movement, comprised of intellectual agencies, the real definition of Africa should be based on African creativity and knowledge on cultures.
This makes African identity a contested concept since there are multiple identities from various perspectives. There has been rising difficulty in conceptualizing the real identity since the discussions are based on factors such as; defining African identity in relation to the rest of the world, definition in relation to each other with many considerations on migration and xenophobia.
How do these representations differ from those in the first section of the course?
There is a raw synergy of films and history on the description of Africa as a continent and Africans. The first representation focused so much on the negative aspects of Africans, portraying them as the most violent race in the world. This is purely from a Racists perspective. The elaborate representation of black freedom and power struggles across political spectrum left everything on self-focused consumerism.
The black-focused films from the white-man perspective are marred with violence while African focus on black films presents the rich history of the continent from cultural to economic aspects. The perspective from the second argument disputed the fact that post-colonialism is all about the relationship between Africa and their former colonialists. Hence, the focus is on developing links based on unity and authentic African identity.
Most of the representations by Africans within African films are based on post-colonialism which basically explores the connections between African cultures and their history of colonial exploitation. The oppressions from the colonial masters resulted into rebellion as portrayed by African-produced films.
The overall analysis within these films seeks to explore the root of cultural and political forces affecting the continent amidst domination by western culture. Yeelen focuses on the rich African aspect based on modernity which provides great challenge on the former western perspective about Africa.
All post-colonial descriptions on Africa reveal the unequal and uneven representations of the cultural forces within the political and social sectors. Hence the overall facts given in the description of Africa and Africans based on post-colonial perspective can be considered strategic and true representation of contemporary African culture. In the previous review, Africa is considered passive participant in overall world development.
The continent is portrayed as the object of Western actions through colonialism while in the second perspective, in Yeelen, Xala and Touki-Bouki films, Africa is considered an active participant in contributing towards their own history (Murphy, 2000).
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However, the whole concept on wars in films can be traced back to the fact that western citizens, especially American citizens, had full obligation of arming themselves for the purposes of protecting families and their nation from foreign encroachments as well as domestic tyrants.
This is contrary to forms of military organization where professionally trained soldiers and officers are established and isolated from the society for the purposes of protecting entire nation. The whole perspective was injected into the African culture during colonialism.
However, the idea of allowing citizen-soldier establishment enabled direct involvement of the people’s will power in the preservation of liberties and rights within the society like in the case of Mau Mau.
Impact of these representations on personal view of Africa and Africans
From the perspective of the films, descriptions on Africa differ based on the region from which the description is made. Western perspective portrays Africa as a continent marred with inadequacies and violence. Africans represent race confronted with daunting ironies which can be traced back from unsettled paradigm shifts. Even after decolonization, the now independent Africa still wallow in poor economic performance.
However, there is profound dignity and richness within the African continent. This can be realized from the continent’s rich natural resource base. Statistics reveal that Africa alone produces 46% of world’s chromium, 48% diamonds and 29% gold.
The continent is portrayed as one with elaborate problems ranging from poor infrastructure, instability within governments, diseases and corruption. Africans are also portrayed as those over-relying on resources, since they focus on simple sale of natural resources instead of providing value-added services. This has made most of the countries within the continent to largely depend on aid from foreign countries.
They are portrayed as those with inability to create and restructure conditions for the benefit of the natives. Most of the films associate Africans with ghetto streets depicting where they focus their real lives (Murphy, 2000).
Africans have their rich practices such as circumcision which existed even before colonialism. However, the rich ethnic diversities the continent enjoys presents lots of threat since each ethnic background and country seems to hostile towards each other based on focus towards leadership and resource ownership.
There is lack of brotherhood amongst Africans owing to conflicts based on selfish ambitions towards wealth. This has made it difficult the forging of a United States of Africa (Murphy, 2000).
Mengara, D. (2001). Introduction: White Eyes, Dark Reflections in Images of Africa: Stereotypes and Realities. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, Inc.
Murphy, D. (2000). African Filming Africa: questioning Theories of an Authentic African Cinema. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 13 (2), 239-249.