Ryszard Kapuscinski: The Literary Vulture Circling African Suffering
April 14, 2005 3 Comments
I am not for disguising the violence and poverty that afflicts parts of Africa – in fact I am for it enough that I am writing a doctoral thesis on the place of genocide in political life by studying Rwanda. But I know that I am not the only one who is sick and tired of these European writers who come to Africa to wax on about bloodthirsty militias, corrupt and stupid officials, and, of course, good hearted prostitutes. Certainly all these observations are true, and to a large extent I agree with them. What I hate though, is how Africa for too many European writers and humanitarians is merely a mirror to confirm their superior humanity.
Africa’s importance to the world is not the minerals under its soil or its markets, as many neo-lefty types would contend. Its real resource is its misery and that is what writers like Ryszard Kapuscinski chase so feverishly. They are joined in this quest by the other ambulance chasers, the international NGOs and donor agencies, all united in their vulture-like need of the hungry and oppressed. See below as Binyavanga Wainaina, the founding editor of Kwani?, Kenya’s acclaimed literary journal, takes on the vultures. He starts with quotes from some of Kapuscinski’s more famous works. The next posting – ‘Binyavanga’s Rage in Manhattan’ will include his powerful rant which gave me goose pimples. Also see my previous posting (Misericonomics) on just this issue. Some Quotes by Ryszard Kapuscinski about Africa and Africans:
Extract from Granta 48 Africa Issue:
The European mind is willing to acknowledge its limitations, accept its limitations. It is a sceptical mind. The spirit of criticism does not exist in other cultures. They are proud, believing that what they have is perfect.
Extracts from Shadow of the Sun:
Let us remember that fear of revenge is deeply rooted in the African mentality.
The European and the African, have an entirely different concept of time.
In Africa, drivers avoid traveling at night darkness unnerves them they may flatly refuse to drive after sunset.
… in Africa a cousin on your mother’s side is more important than a husband.
The kind of history known in Europe as scholarly and objective can never arise here because the African past has no documents or records, and each generation, listening to the version being transmitted to it, changed it and continues to change it…