Kapuscinski: Nigerian PEN Centre Replies to Binyavanga
April 16, 2005 1 Comment
Thank you for bringing this to specific attention. There is indeed reason to shudder at some of the statements credited to Mr. Kapuscinski about Africa and cultures “other” than European, but these things are not new. He has been pinned to the memory of Mr. Conrad but I doubt if his energies or talents are close to the name. However, the invitation extended to Kapuscinski should not be considered a great source of alarm or terror the way I understand it now: it is his writings that must be given equal space and challenge as the writings of other authors who are Africanists or Afrocentric. Of course, there are ranges of Afrophobia, Afropessimism, and Afrophilia which you can’t gag or sanction, but which we have to deal with for, I predict, another half of a century. This is why I consider the statement of Mr. Dickson Migiro to “gag him” (itself sounding as a Conradian quip in “Heart of Darkness”) unnecessary and out of tune with the real spirit of free expression.
I have scanned through one or two interviews granted by Mr. Kapuscinski, in search of references to Africa, and have come to some preliminary understanding of his mind-set. He was fascinated by an idea of an imagined, monolithic African eldorado; he had the rare opportunity of contact with moments and places in the real Africa, and soon the subjective fascination of the writer blurred the objective sense of the journalist in him. In short, he is a factionist and sensationalist. For this, we need not ask for the guillotine but sympathise (if not challenge) with his too-familiar colonial opportunism.
Asking for a “fatwah” is to invite cheap and further popularity to the reprehensible imagination. What’s left? Let the true Africanist with an informed view of Africa talk back to the likes of Mr. Kapuscinski wherever they are. Talk, not gag.
— Nigerian PEN Centre firstname.lastname@example.org