Entrepreneurs, Comics, and Cows

I can’t resist writing about the current run-down of stories on the BBC World News Africa page. In between articles about attacks on tourist lodges in Zimbabwe, world hunger, floods in South Africa, and a proposed ban on cocoa – there are actually some refreshing articles. There is also one article that is completely ridiculous, despite excellent potential.

First, Jon Cronin ran a piece about War Child International’s efforts at agriculture training and youth empowerment in Robaka, Sierra Leone. Across the continent, youth face the same issues. War has caused them to lose a whole generation of knowledge. Families that have worked the land for thousands of years face a lack of knowledge because of conflict casualties. But the War Child project and others like it are offering a path toward the future. As the article states:

Strife once brought about by war is being replaced with the hope that Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurial potential – and future wealth – can be unlocked by the nation’s youth.

Also, Thomas Hubert wrote a piece about comics in Kinshasha, D.R. Congo. I’m not talking about stand up comedians but the superman kind. The art form was imported from Belgium but has since become a medium for spreading information and reflecting on the country’s history. I absolutely love this piece because it really conveys the complexity of African art, which most Westerners view as simplistic tribal dance and drum beats. As Hubert writes:

In return, the combination of harsh realism and wild imagination that feeds the themes of Congolese comic books stretched visiting artists beyond their usual limits.

Lastly, in a story that could have been great, but was degenerated into stereotypical expat verbiage- in “How I bought my South African bride” Christian Parkinson recounts his experience going the traditional route in negotiating for his Soweto-born wife. Most depressing about the piece is the fact that despite engaging in the practice, Parkinson shows absolutely no understanding of its meaning or importance in everyday life for Africans. In rural Africa, women dominate the agriculture sector and provide not only food but much needed labor around the household. The bride price is designed to compensate for this loss when a woman marries and moves to live with her husband’s family. Parkinson refers to this constantly as “buying” his wife. When in fact, the practice is not about buying and selling women, but about respecting her family and the hardship they will endure without her. This I see as a sign of reverence for women.

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