Caring about the ‘small people’: Time for a meta-narrative from Africa?

Last night, I turned my TV on to find Anderson Cooper giving an impassioned soliloquy on the not-so-small people of the Gulf Coast, people who he depicted as having integrity, dignity and who required and expected the support and intervention of BP in addressing the oil spill that is now on day 58. Perhaps what was most compelling for me was the end of his report where he stated that he was not from the Gulf, neither did he pretend to speak for those in the Gulf Coast. He noted that they were not only interested in speaking for themselves, but that they were quite capable of doing so. He noted that this was a “land of hardworking people who for generations have curved out a living against great obstacles, conflicts, natural disasters, man-made catastrophes. This is NOT a land of small people”.

And I thought to myself, where is this narrative for issues in Africa?

Western media have been so irresponsible and stereotypical in their reporting of the various contexts in the African continent – often depicting it as a country, dark, devoid of any potential or hope. Yet every time I travel to Kenya, or Uganda or South Africa, I am met with people who have so much integrity, hard work, dignity. People who are striving to make the most out of sometimes very difficult circumstances. People who have become so creative with the limited resources they have. Businessmen who are creating employment out of the abundance of resources they have in medium and large scale for their fellow countrymen and countrywomen.

It is certainly time for a meta-narrative of the lives represented in the African context – a move beyond the lumping together of one story on singular existence. When we begin to understand and appreciate the stories then we can truly begin to work together to support the efforts on the ground.

Perhaps it is time for AC to return to Africa and retell the stories he has previously told.

But rather than wait for the likes of AC to tell our story, it is time for our own African journalists to tell our story and lend the necessary agency where it is due.

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