Africa is a word that conjures up many negative adjectives that make being called African seem like an insult. African has become an insult. It has come to denote everything there is in human suffering. Pictures of human plight never cease to contain a sad African environment or face. Even more amazing is how these images have become prevalent, engrained in the minds of the common man like household advertising disclaimers. Hunger in Africa; ‘Weeknights at 2am’. Child Soldiers; Made in Africa’. AIDS, Ebola, Malaria, and that twitching thing your eye does: ‘Brought to you by Africa’. Political instability; Yes We (Afri)can. Corruption; ‘There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else there’s…’
Present in these mildly comical taglines is an exaggeration, so too is some level of truth. The truth, however, is what’s exaggerated. This exaggeration has created a running theme that falsely overstates Africa as the place where only human strife exists. This lie has cemented itself in the minds of so many Westerners that most Africans develop an inferiority complex. An assumption that a dark person with a heavy accent is dim usually comes quicker than the reality of one’s own ignorance. With reality comes an apology, “no offense, but….”
No offense?! Really?! Well, I’ve come to find a great deal of offense in this apologetic answer that carries more insults than apologies. It’s as if to say, “I hope you are not from Africa, but if you are, sorry.” I take offense from this statement’s blatant position that being African is an insult. That being African is offensive. Well I am African, Kenyan to be specific, and I will never apologize if that’s an offense. Nor will I allow Africa to be insulted or African to be insulting. I can no longer stomach the 2am television view of Africa, because my memory serves me different. Kenya served me different. To neglect the degradation of Africa’s or Kenya’s image is sad because at the very least, pride, if not factual memory, should move one to defend it. I shall defend it with pride-filled memory. Join me.
I come from the Highlands of Kenya where nothing insulted my lungs when I took a deep breath. Nothing offended my sight for miles. As a matter of fact, my most recent memory of the landscape is one of beauty – a conclusion cosigned by my ‘first world’ friends. My four-month-old memory of Kenya consists of heavy eating (aahh Galitos!), heavy Nairobi traffic (no, we weren’t riding elephants. Would been cool though. Maybe traffic would flow smoother, but I digress), heavy road construction (again, for cars), beautiful women (none heavy), and the sight of the Great Rift and the beautiful landscapes that constantly killed my camera’s batteries – just to name a few. I recall making a joke about bottling the fresh air that greeted me when I got to Kisii. The taste of food fresh from the garden almost shocked my tongue. I was stunned, however, at the creativity of some of the architecture in the city and its buildings. Buzzing businesses revealed advances that were invisible to the strife-craving Western media.
All these memories, coupled with my pride as an Afrikan, provide the zeal to defend the image that I know to be different – a mosaic of not just bad, as others would have you believe, but also plenty of good. Afrika is my roots; my place of origin that I value simply because I know it to be better than how they seem to be showing it to me. It is a place where majority of the world’s resources came and continue to come from – be it human or natural. My roots have endured lifelong abuse from insiders and outsiders alike, but still remain healthy enough to sustain life – my life. I grew from them, so I live for them – My Roots.
I grew from them, I live for them.
(Originally published March 5th 2010 @ http://www.myroots.blog.com/, i.e. mitishamba.com prequel)
"Green and Sexy."