Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Movies - Africans in the Media

Once in a while, I enjoy watching old time movies made in Africa like King Solomon’s Mines (Haggard Rider), She, Mogambo and others, which were made before we could complain about the negative portrayal of Africans. It is somewhat amusing to see the wierd and tactless ideas moviemakers and writers had of Africa and Africans. We were portrayed as ignorant, lazy and cowardly and that we desperately needed western civilisation to save us from chaos.

What I strongly protest is the modern remakes of those same old stereotypes like King Solomon’s Mine being shown by Hallmark TV and staring Patrick Swayze, - you know the Ghost guy. I was irritated by Hallmark and this movie and so I watched a few scenes so that I could register my objections. Some of the ideas about the “Dark Continent” that still persist include:

Africa as one great lump of land
The people, languages, cultures and countries are interchangeable
Africans are superstitious and under the power of witchdoctors
white people are still smart and come to our rescue – we need them to survive
Africans are uncivilised, ignoring proof of our ancestors’ civilisations
Africans are naïve and are easily duped
Africans do nothing all day but sit outside their thatched huts – who does the cooking, farming or even build the huts? Who makes the clothes, takes care of the animals and fetches water?
The natives will spontaneously start singing and dancing to entertain the white man or the chief (king, headman etc)
The movie makers do not differentiate between regional dressing, hairstyles or dances

The list is endless, the faults and stereotypes are the same – even in this day and age.
The most annoying fact was that the movie makers did not bother to recruit Africans who speak the same language. There were several languages spoken by a number of people, who understood each other!!! Wonder of wonders. People who spoke Swahili, Zulu, Xhosa and others could all understand each other. Here is an example of a narrative

Speaker one in Swahili: I am the rightful ruler, not Twala
Speaker two in Zulu: How can I believe you are the king?
Speaker one Swahili: Look at my markings
Speaker three in another language: Yes those are the markings of the King
Chorus of Africans in a Babel of languages; Hail to the King

Swahili is my second language and I know a few Zulu words so it was apparent to me that the actors were separated not only by language but by a several thousands of miles. The cultures and customs are as different as Germany is to England. But did the movie makers take this into consideration?

I suppose the movie makers’ primary audience are non-Africans so it would not matter if such things as African languages, cultures and customs were rather hazy. The primary audience would not be the wiser and would thus not affect them.

It is incredible that these famous stars and reputable movie companies can make such movies that are insult to Africans without a second thought. I suppose the fact that there were Africans acting in the movie did nothing to ensure that the movie was not an insult to Africans.

Christmas part one

Well, that season is well and truly upon us now. There is no escape - everyone even your cats and dogs are sending lists to Santa. But what does Christmas mean to us in this brave new millennium? If you believe in adverts, it is presents, food, drinks and parties. Retailers and manufactures, start their commercials earlier and earlier in the year. This year, the prize goes to Azda for starting their Christmas commercials right after “Back to School” sales were over.

In the USA it is possible that shoppers are marginally protected from the Christmas commercial frenzy by the Thanksgiving commercials until the last weekend in November. But in other parts of the world, as soon as it is decently possible, (and the lines get more burred each year) shoppers are bombarded with everything from perfumes to toys to room deodorisers to music and electronic gadgets as possible gifts for people you hardly know or care about. High Streets are nightmares of crowds who look more like sleepwalkers or zombies hunting for presents. Everyone works super hard to separate us from our hard earned money in anyway possible.

In November, we are bombarded with commercials of upcoming movies, shows and TV programmes for the Christmas season. Musicians release their biggest CDs at this time; movie producers release their soppiest movies. There is a variety of Christmas this and Christmas that shows, and of course Santa Claus – and his reindeers, and his movies!!!! Santa Clause, Mrs Claus, Santa Claws and a variety of combinations that are just mind boggling.

What about the Christmas paraphernalia? There is so many of the seasonal hats, scarves, cards, underwear, reindeers, trees, lights and trimmings on sale all. And the songs, the jingles!! This year, the one I want to cancel, rub, erase and delete from existence is that one “Santa Claus is coming to town…” I might just scream if I hear it one more time. It is Argos’ favourite method of torture for this season.

Where is it written that Christmas equals gifts, toys or drinks? What has more (and expensive) gifts, more food or drinks have to do with Peace on Earth? Who said that Santa equal to Christmas? That without him there is no Christmas?

Some 2,000 years ago in a remote part of the Roman Empire a poor carpenter’s wife gave birth to a Baby Boy in an animal shelter. This event would have been unremarkable but for the signs that followed this Boy’s birth – angels sang to shepherds about peace on earth and goodwill to men. Several wise men travelled from places unknown to pay Him homage. This Child’s birth brought change to this world.

Let us look beyond the noise and commercial for the truth of Christmas – why it is a season of goodwill.