“It is a constant source of frustration, despair almost, for the average African – this Western mindset that insists on seeing the African continent as one unfathomable mass of misery,” writes Wordsbody in response to Winona Rasheed’s reference to Africa as “a courageous country”. The occasion: Publication of a new collection of short stories by African writers. Platform: The Foreword section of the Africa 2008 anthology. Context: Author-Me.com (and Lulu?) African writers publication opportunity.
I don’t know what Winona’s reasons for labeling Africa a country in two different anthologies were, but I can’t find words to express how I felt as I read the article on Wordsbody. The Africa series is part of Author-Me.com, a playground for emerging writers from more than 41 countries. The participating African countries are listed individually as countries, each with its own editor. Winona Rasheed is listed as the Managing Editor, “presiding over” the numerous country editors. So, Wordsbody seems to wonder, at what point of the publication process at Author-me does Africa shrink from continent to country? One would add: where are these African writers when a decision is made to call their 50 countries one country? Or is it a marketing strategy that appeals to commonly-shared stereotypes of Africa?
Below is part of the text Wordsbody was responding to:
Writes Wordsbody: “I am tired of it. The West’s lack of education, or the refusal to be educated, about Africa. The lack of curiosity about her except to the extent to which she reinforces deep seated stereotypes.”
As writers from the continent, we appreciate opportunities publishers everywhere offer to promote our art, but we must not let ignorance discredit our efforts. On another note, Africa, which I believe is going through a massive literary renaissance, should grow and nurture its own editors and compilers. I doubt if the editors of African Writing Online or Kwani? would ever encourage anything that comes close to calling Africa a country. The African editors at Author-me, great writers themselves, should work more closely with their managing editor when compiling upcoming Africa anthologies.