Topic: Single story danger
“A single story robs people of dignity.” So cautioned Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie when she spoke of the danger of the single story. And those robbed aren't just the people being stereotyped: The storytellers and the listeners lose out as well.
Even as Africa still struggles in Western reportage, cinema, and literature to establish its own identity, Adichie's own country of Nigeria has taken its place among the top five film production companies in the world. Nollywood, as the Nigerian auteurs have dubbed their industry, has already bypassed Hollywood as the most prolific film producer in the world.
Vera H-C Chan tracks emerging world cinema trends in popular culture, from the Hong Kong martial arts influence on Hollywood choreography, the Japanese schoolgirl on portable communications technology, and all things Korean hallyu. Now that it's time for Africa to shine, this blog tracks the development of Nigerian voice in Western culture.
In her July 2009 TED talk, Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie spoke of the danger of the single story. That inspired an assault on unsuspecting pedestrians in the streets of Berkeley, near the university campus, but what would be the question that would touch issue as volatile as cultural stereotyping — especially in as liberally touch a place as Berkeley?
You don’t have to go too far to see what portrait emerges about Africans when scouring the Web. But luckily there has been quite a bit of push back and fleshing out from Nigeria, which has surpassed the United States in film production and is taking its scrappy place in world cinema. Check out these links.
African Characters, As Seen in Western Media
A Nigerian prince trying to sweet-talk you into a deal through an email pitch. Glass-eyed gangsters in a cinematic sci-fi landscape standing in for South African apartheid. And perhaps most disconcerting of all, the penis thief who can steal the genitalia literally from under a man’s nose.
Despite the acts of dishonest legerdemain, Nigeria is better off — image-wise — than its African brethren. Then again, that country (actually a republic of 36 states) gets pulled into Western storylines about genocidal Rwandans, Somali pirates, and starving children, with the au courant fret-of-the-decade twist. Animal rights in Africa? Congolese war is threatening the bonobos! Climate change? Africa’s going to get it the worst!
What is more disconcerting — to be stuffed into a preconceived notion, or to be caught out in having one?