Editor’s word: Kenyan creator Binyavanga Wainaina died on Tuesday, May 22, after infection. Perhaps his most acclaimed work become the satiric essay “How To Write About Africa,” which we’re reprinting.
Always use the phrase ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ on your identity. Subtitles may encompass the phrases ‘Zanzibar,’ ‘Masai,’ ‘Zulu,’ ‘Zambezi,’ ‘Congo,’ ‘Nile,’ ‘Big,’ ‘Sky,’ ‘Shadow,’ ‘Drum,’ ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone.’ Also beneficial are phrases which include ‘Guerrillas,’ ‘Timeless,’ ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal.’ Note that ‘People’ method Africans who are not black, even as ‘The People’ approach black Africans.

Binyavanga Wainaina Tells Us 'How To Write About Africa' 1

Never have a photo of a properly-adjusted African on the quilt of your book or in it unless that African has received the Nobel Prize. An AK-forty seven, distinguished ribs, naked breasts: use those. If you need to include an African, make certain you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, deal with Africa as though it had been one united state of America. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands, massive herds of animals, and tall, skinny individuals starving. Or it’s miles hot and steamy with concise individuals who devour primates. Don’t get slowed down with particular descriptions. Africa is huge: fifty-4 international locations, 900 million folks who are too busy ravenous and losing life and warring and emigrating to study your book. The continent is complete of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs, and lots of other matters. Still, your reader does not care approximately all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative, and unparticular.

Make positive you display how Africans have track and rhythm deep in their souls and consume things no different people devour. Do not mention rice and pork and wheat; monkey-brain is an African’s delicacies of choice, in conjunction with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all way of game meat. Make certain you display that you can consume such food without flinching, and describe the way you learn how to experience it — because you care.

Taboo subjects: everyday domestic scenes, love between Africans (except a loss of life is involved), references to African writers or intellectuals, point out of school-going kids who aren’t laid low with yaws or Ebola fever or woman genital mutilation.

Throughout the ebook, adopt a sotto voice, conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-anticipated-so-an awful lot tone. Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and point out close to the beginning how a whole lot you love Africa, the way you fell in love with the region and cannot stay without her. Africa is the handiest continent you may love — take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her heat virgin forests. If you’re a girl, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sundown. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped, or ruled. Whichever angle you are taking, be sure to depart the sturdy impact that Africa is doomed without your intervention and your critical e-book.

Your African characters may also include naked warriors, dependable servants, diviners and seers, ancient smart guys dwelling in hermitic splendor. Or corrupt politicians, inept polygamous travel guides, and prostitutes you have got slept with. The Loyal Servant continually behaves like a seven-12 months-vintage and needs a firm hand; he is afraid of snakes, properly with kids, and constantly related to you in his complicated home dramas. The Ancient Wise Man usually comes from a noble tribe (now not the money-grubbing tribes like the Gikuyu, the Igbo, or the Shona).

He has rheumy eyes and is close to the Earth. Modern African is a fat man who steals and works inside the visa office, refusing to offer painting permits to qualified Westerners who honestly care approximately Africa. He is an enemy of development, constantly using his government process to make it hard for pragmatic and proper-hearted ex-pats to install NGOs or Legal Conservation Areas. Or he is an Oxford-knowledgeable intellectual who became a serial-killing politician in a Savile Row match. He is a cannibal who likes Cristal champagne, and his mother is a rich witch-medical doctor who surely runs the united states.

Among your characters, you should always include The Starving African, who wanders the refugee camp almost bare and waits for the benevolence of the West. Her children have flown on their eyelids and pot bellies, and her breasts are flat and empty. She needs to look thoroughly helpless. She can haven’t any beyond, no history; such diversions damage the dramatic second. Moans are top. She needs to by no means say anything approximately herself in the dialogue besides to speak of her (unspeakable) suffering. Also, make sure to include a warm and motherly woman who has a rolling chuckle and is worried about your nicely-being. Just call her Mama. Her children are all antisocial. These characters have to buzz around your fundamental hero, making him look accurate. Your hero can educate them, bathe them, feed them; he contains masses of babies and has seen Death. Your hero is you (if reportage) or a lovely, tragic worldwide movie star/aristocrat who now cares for animals (if fiction).