Posts tagged ‘african writers’

Mother, dare I?

While contemplating the possibility of a future with a potential [White] love interest, Ethiopian-American author Metasebia Seifu [“If I could only draw and knew how to paint” and “The Ethiopian – a love letter”] writes:

I wondered how he lost his legs, if he has ever been to America, and how he feels about black girls [for, sooner or later, one must choose sides. And my side, it has been amply made obvious to me, is with the black in America: with the children of ex-slaves, Affirmative-Action-Jacksons, and welfare queens; with violent men who behaved like pimps, with overweight women whose anger is matched only by the un-attractiveness of the face that wore it, and with kids whose violent tendency is paralleled by how badly they did in school].

After reading that passage, a mind blind to sarcasm [or suffering from a rare form of dementia] may wonder if Metasebia Seifu does indeed believe that her lot is justifiably cast with “the black in America: the children of ex-slaves, affirmative-actions-Jackson’s and welfare queens”. If she believes every time a non-black person sees her, they should associate her with obese women, angry kids, and men who wear their pants close to their knees when they aren’t decking themselves out in a flashy luxurious attire that reminds one of a male-peacock; albeit a very unattractive male peacock with a golden tooth.

A mind not blind to sarcasm, on the other hand, or isn’t suffering from a rare form of dementia, would not only realize that she doesn’t but in fact it is the bitterness brought about by such associations that makes her go into detailing other [more personal] stereotypes against her “skin kins”, as she sometimes refers to them: How they are considered violent, lazy, fat, angry, ugly, and of interior intelligence. [The late Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court justice nonetheless, has gone so far as to observe [during a court hearing!, in the presence of the media!, and black prosecutors and white defendants!]: “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well.”] And how she feels her skin-color, through those stereotypes, is putting her at a disadvantage not just in life but in love as well.

Lessons learnt on race and sarcasm is the gist of this article by Siri Srinivas on The Guardian as it relates to Justine Socco’s infamous quote from 2013 and the fall out thereof. It argues how Justine’s comment was “so outrageous that it had to be a joke”. How, according to researchers in Israel who constructed an algorithm that can detect sarcasm, the very definition of the word is “The activity of saying or writing the opposite of what you mean, or of speaking in a way intended to make someone else feel stupid or show them that you are angry.” But since the “snowflake” “PC Police”, as Bill Maher disparagingly refers to anyone daring to take an offense against insensitivity, have made a habit of flying into [“fake”?] out/rage at any hint of whites trying to be funny or sarcastic at the expense of inferior races/minorities and/or groups of people, she was prosecuted unjustly.

Etcetera. Etcetera.

[Final conclusion provided by the blogger of this post who is fucking tired of Bill Maher’s attack on few well-meaning guys while the bad guys are tearing America and decency and goodness thread by thread]

[Speaking of stand up comedians, has any one of you came across Gary Gulman? His “It’s about time”, free on Netflix, has become my go to place when I need to laugh. Ricky Gervais should take a page from his book on how to entertain an audience without having to resort to utter vulgarism, See Ricky Gervais pedophile jokes]

Alas, Justine Socco and what became of her because of that stupid and/or misunderstood joke [but mainly stupid – because it didn’t come with a second tweet explaining how and who it was meant to mock] isn’t the reason for this post. The reason for this post is the pleasure – the absolute delight – of coming across the following article by an accomplished! gay! black! African! man [one doubts it can get more bitter/sarcastic than that] – attached to the aforementioned The Guardian article.

[Have I mentioned how I love, nay, worship Kenyan men? How I believe them to be the most elegant, intelligent, and well-spoken guys in Africa?! How I have had a crush on four of the four Kenyan men I have had the pleasure of working with – while still in love and in a relationship with men of my choice?! And how I would not hesitate to spend the rest of my life with a man from Kenya, granted he is also cute, if I were to break up with Troy?!]

The article is entitled “How to write about Africa”. See if you can spot the sarcasm.

Binyavanga Wainaina

Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African’s cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it—because you care.

Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved), references to African writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who are not suffering from yaws or Ebola fever or female genital mutilation.

Continue reading!

July 15, 2018 at 5:13 pm Leave a comment

“Why Ethiopia stayed behind”

While discussing the temperament of Seattleites (kind of cold, kind of distant, kind of keeping to themselves in a way that borders Xenophobia) with a friend last night, I said something that I never knew I’ve formally thought of before. I said “I think the exposure to different cultures has made Seattleites unable to recognize and appreciate cultural diversity in a heart-felt way. If they knew somebody like you, they assume [I guess] they know all they need to know about you, which makes them less curious to [intimidated, chatty, inquisitive] folks in, say, little old Escondido which [true to its name] is hidden to the outside world except for the Mexican immigrants that cross into its borders by hundreds a day and the little black prostitute girls that come from the other end of the country to cater to their “needs”. When I say I’m from Ethiopia, the first response I get is ‘Oh yeah, I love Ethiopian food!’. And I’m like I’m more than my food, asshole”.

Or something to that effect.

That last phrase lingered on my mind long after the subject changed to the pleasant atmosphere in the coffee shop we were sitting. [Where books lined the walls, coffee machines work tirelessly to produce the unique aroma of that bean life in Seattle would have been harder without, where men and women from different walks of life talk and work on their laptops, holding their hip-ness with an easy grace you can’t master if you were reincarnated as a manican.] The fact that I’m more than my food and how to get that message across to people I meet and deal with on a regular basis [people who can’t recognize the source of my pain or pleasure if it sits on their laps and says “selam” to them] bugged me for a second or two. I wondered how I can make this friend of mine see my country/my culture as an outsider should/would see it. I asked how we, abeshas and abesheets [Ethiopians] appear to the occasional bystander. And in trying to think of an outsider who has seen us, lived among us, and written about us in a way other outsiders can understand, the name Timothy Kalyegria popped into my head.

He is the columnist who wrote the article “Why Ethiopia Stayed Behind”, in a series of dossiers he labeled “The Abyssinian Chronicles”. When the amharic version of his essay on why we stayed behind the rest of Africa first showed up on Addis Admas, back when that newspaper mattered, it showed up under the title “Menaded kalelegachu yihinin tsihuf atanibu”. It’s been a while since this article held the mirror to our faces and made us lash out at the guy holding the mirror. Gone are the days in which the writer was called names starting from “lemma”.. to boundless others on every media an Ethiopian was allowed to write his ill-spelled English on. Which may also be the reason why finding it gave me quite the run around. When I finally located it, I decided I gotta re-post it on my e-shoe box. Because it’s still relevant and useful. And there are those of you who still don’t know it exists.

The Warning Before The Warning (more…)

January 25, 2012 at 2:07 am 46 comments


The blogger tries to think outside the box, or wonder why she sometimes can't.

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"I will speak for you, Father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint." - Antonio Salieri, from the movie "Amadeus"

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