Who is an African writer? This discussion has been going on for the last few years. Especially with renowned writers from Africa being based abroad and their books published there by international publishing houses. Or the other case being that we only celebrate African writers on the continent once they have been awarded by outsiders.
So is an African writer, someone of an African origin living anywhere? Or an African citizen( a citizen of one of the African countries) who writes while based in Africa? Or anyone who writes about Africa? Or what?
This has been a closely tied debate with other hotly contested topics like POVERTY PORN. Africa is known for many things, among the leading being poverty and suffering. But that’s not all there is. Which is why artists in Africa have been trying to tell our stories through their various mediums. Stories of our lives, beauty and pain. It might have poverty in it, but that is not all there is to it.
What brought this discussion to mind is Teju Cole’s book- Every day is for a thief.
The English and flow of language used in the book is okay with me. The writer knows how to write, for lack of better words.
But my bone of contention comes with what is inside that book. As I started reading it, I felt as if I was reading a book written by a white person who has never been to Africa and the only stories they heard about Africa were of poverty and corruption. So they just came to confirm if those stories they heard were true, just to find it worse than they expected.
Not that Nigeria, where the book isn’t corrupt or isn’t struggling with poverty, but if that is what Lagos is majorly about- corruption, violence and normalized chaos, then the book does a very good Job of painting that picture.
I just thought that there is more to Africa. That if you aren’t biased, then you’ll observe both the bad and the good, not the bad only.
Now, I wouldn’t want to restrict someone on what they are to write about, but I think painting such a grim picture of a place isn’t realistic or fair to that place and its people. I think this is what people call poverty porn.
That book left a bad taste in my mouth.