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Africa: Beyond The Stereotypes

In an individual day 95 photography enthusiasts document a wildly diverse continent bursting with energy and guarantee. Send 95 photojournalists around photography equipment on a single day, and what do you get? Pictures and columns that belie the clichéd targets, a prosperous Southern African family relishes breakfast time in a sparkling kitchen near Johannesburg, denim-clad young ladies giggle as they walk to style in Cape Verde. Africa, which is bigger than america, China, Argentina, European countries, India combined; is made up of 53 nations, 720 million people and more than 800 cultural categories who speak greater than a 1, 000 languages. The 250 photos from each photographer barely even scuff the surface of the continents diversity. (publication, 2002)

Studying Africa

If educators got enough time to study their students before engaging students in the analysis of the continent, they might undoubtedly be stunned by (i) having less knowledge about Africa, which is the next major continent in terms of both land area and society, and (ii) by the images of Africa kept by the majority of their students. Africa is just about the least known and the most misrepresented of the continents. That is because of the simplistic explanatory constructs by which the media, federal government, and educational text messages have brought understanding to events (social, economic, political) and techniques (social, cultural, religious) in Africa. (Discovering Africa)http://graphjam. files. wordpress. com/2008/07/arbitraryuser. png

Common stereotypes

· Africa is the "Dark Continent"

· Africa is culturally monolithic

· Africa without background

· Africa is pagan

· Africa is uncivilized

· Endemic assault

· Endemic hunger/starvation

Behavioral Characteristics- African patterns is determined by primordial drives, Savagery, Tribal loyalty, Superstition determines behaviour and behavior, Weird cultural practices. Many popular images of Africa are based on stereotypes that present fragmented, inaccurate, and at times fallacious, images or representations of Africa. These images and misrepresentations become the basis of knowledge.

Given the lack of in-depth knowledge of Africa and the prevalence of generalized stereotypes to interpret Africa, People in the usa have a tendency to use explanatory constructs to bring meaning and understanding to images and media from Africa. Common for example the following:

· Tribalism- apparently endemic conflicts in Africa are described by primordial tribal impulses.

· Patrimonial buildings and practices-African patrimonial set ups encourage nepotism, problem, and monetary and politics inefficiency. Therefore, they preclude democracy.

· Communitarian orientation- Anti-individualism precludes personal effort, development, and modernity.

(Checking out Africa)

Sources of Stereotypes


European explorers, colonial representatives, and missionaries created representations of Africa and Africans through narratives which were consonant using their values and supportive of the plan (e. g. Africans as uncivilized not capable of governing themselves).


News Advertising cover Africa superficially (problems motivated coverage). Reporters often have no record in Africa. Liberal use of inadequate explanatory constructs.

Entertainment Media perpetuates negative images of helpless primitives and evil pagans. The multimedia glorify colonialism and Western intervention. Currently, Africa is symbolized as a location of endemic violence and brutal but ignorant dictators.

Animalization of Africa through the many of dynamics shows on Africa that displays Africa to be without humans.

Safari Industry promotes an orientation to animals and exploitation of non-representative African civilizations (e. g. Maasai, Pekot, San, etc. ).

Theme parks in united states that feature African styles.

Advertising-industry has generated and exploited (and thus perpetuated) simplistic stereotypes of Africa.

U. S Books covering Africa often provide inadequate coverage, and use popular explanatory constructs. Feature pictorial images (predominance of family pets and exotica). Highlight sociable and ethnical representations of non-representative teams such as the Maasai and San.

(Checking out Africa)

African stereotypes- A Response from the Public

After generally refraining from criticizing mass media coverage of African media, it has becoming more and more hard for many people to avoid commentary. Perhaps one can only read watching so many stereotyped and misinformed information reports before it becomes a great deal to bear. Tx in Africa (an African blog area), the girls at Wronging Privileges, among others will always be quick to stress the problem with bad reporting. For instance: A story written by Jeffrey Gettleman on the drought currently plaguing Kenya. Gettleman writes: A devastating drought is sweeping across Kenya, killing livestock, plants and children. It really is stirring up tensions in the ramshackle slums where the normal water taps have run dried, and spawning cultural discord in the hinterland as pastoralist areas' fight over the last remaining bits of fertile grazing land. The twin hearts of Kenya's current economic climate, agriculture and travel and leisure, are specially imperiled. The fabled game pets or animals that safari-goers fly thousands of kilometers to see are keeling over from craving for food and the picturesque savannah is now full of an unusually large numbers of sun-bleached bones. (Gettleman, 2009)

There is obviously a severe drought in Kenya and it is indubitably a cause of great concern for Kenyans dependent on agriculture because of their livelihood. As Gettleman records, the drought is also increasing issue in some parts of the country, with farmers attempting for usage of arable land. Such discord, however, is not "ethnic, " but rather an instance of basic survival. Aside from this aspect, what I find most difficult about Gettleman's part is his advice that the Kenyan economy will somehow crumble as a consequence of the drought. The unknowing reader comes away from Gettleman's piece with an image of a totally impoverished, desert-like country on the brink of devastation - a stereotype of an "typical" African country. While Kenya surely does have its problems Gettleman's imagery is highly misguiding. Technology in Kenya is broadening at an instant pace, heralding much chance for development. Emphasis is also being located on the country's private sector as an engine for growth, as well as small-scale manufacturing. One doesn't get some of this from Gettleman's piece.

African stereotypes and Public Psychology

Research by public psychologists strongly suggests that people as individuals find it hard to hold conflicting or contradictory beliefs/understandings. Public psychologists call this aversion cognitive dissonance, the discomfort in possessing contradictory values or representations. Yet whenever we face evidence that contradicts a recognized image, we may well not discover or be bothered by the contradiction (e. g. Africans are primitive however, not be flustered when presented to Africans who are obviously very modern), unless prior representation is challenged. To give a simple example, many People in the usa assume that Africa is made up of jungle, sparsely filled savannah, or desert. When shown pictures of modern African places, individuals may agree to that the metropolitan areas are in Africa; however, if the dominant representation is not directly challenged in attempt to maintain cognitive consonance, students will maintain their previous perception. So in spite of pictorial research, many people will revert to their previous knowledge and understanding of Africa.

Debunking African stereotypes

It is important that teachers advocate a sense of understanding and appreciating other ethnicities and societies. More and more people tend to judge other people's actions and means of life by their own ethnic values. Educators need to steer away from this ethnocentric view. In instructing about Africa, stereotypes and biases naturally creep in. teachers should be on safeguard never to perpetuate the beliefs that seem to come quickly to head. Words in explaining Africa can be changed for example consider the table below.

Stop word

Substitute word




Ethnic group/ people





Witch doctor



National attire



Also teachers should analyze materials in advance for stereotypes and biases. Don't show a collection of pictures that only show Africans dressed in little clothing or putting on masks. Urban and rural areas should be displayed too. Educator should talk about the people and not only the jungle and its inhabitants. Often, seemingly subtle views and failure to represent the true Africa can do injury to the students who turn to educators as specialists on something they will probably never in my opinion experience. (Turner, 1995)

Works Cited

(n. d. ). Retrieved 3 23, 2010, from Exploring Africa: http://exploringafrica. matrix. msu. edu

Gadzala, a. (2009). China In Africa. Trafficking in African Stereotypes.

Gettleman, J. (2009, 9 8). Africa. Lush Land Dries up, Withering Kenya's desires, p. A1.

magazine, s. (2002, 12). Africa. Retrieved 3 2010, from http://www. smithsonianmag. coms/africa. html

Merryfield, M. M. (1995). '.

Turner, D. (1995). "teaching about africa". Utah: early elemetary.

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