Aug 14, 2011

Ubuntu through a new lens

Over the last 1 ½ years I have been quite privileged to converse with various African writers using different mediums. My motivation has been to find out more about their creative processes, access to readers (marketing) and the overall public response to their work. The common theme that ties all of them together is the struggle to get their books on shelves and into the hands of eager readers. This is not unique to African writers, of course. This is something all writers deal with but it does seem that for a book set in Africa, with African protagonists (and antagonists), by an African writer (who isn’t named Chinua Achebe) is quite often met with bewilderment – “why would I want to read an African story?”

That type of response annoys me but isn’t all together unsurprising. It is part of the reason why I am so driven to read more and share my reader experience through reviews on this site.  I want to stand up for the African writers who talent needs to be recognised and shared, especially by those of us who should know better!

I have learned so much recently through my expanded library. Countries and peoples that I only knew about through caricatured news headlines, I find a new and meaningful understanding. This to me is what Ubuntu stands for – knowing that beyond language and cultural barriers we are so alike at our core. We have love, we hate, we hurt, we heal, we are resilient, and we are one people.

There can be no talk of unifying us around one cause, be it economic, political or religious if we do not first see each other as a common man. This is where literature, art and music come in. They open the blinds and allow you to peer in. You may not like what you see because it challenges your previous preconceptions but do not devalue the meaning of the story/message by casting it aside for what you consider to be a more fitting narrative – hungry, dying Africans savaging each other and desperate to be saved by westerners. We are so much more than that! 


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