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by Omoy Lungange, at 12:00 am, May 02, 2012, News

Do Westerners Undermine The Image of African Men?


In a very simple yet significant and amusing way, short video African Men: Hollywood Stereotypes, a PSA created by Mama Hope, highlights the Western stereotypes of Africa men which are more often than not misrepresentations.

Some Westerners are quick to put African men and their cultures together into a single entity, focusing exclusively on their own preconceptions of what is an “African Man” than on the African’s own definition of who he is. What emerges as a result are several images of a homogenized, essentialized African man who is "‘exotic", violent, grotesque; a powerless victim unable to think clearly, and has only problems and needs, not choices; incapable of self-determination, self-expression, and reasoned decision making who is constrained by cruelty from his fellow men.

Moreover, there is this depiction of African men being portrayed as savages on one hand, and victims on the other always rescued by a savior, who is usually the White Savior Industrial complex. Plus if we carefully examine this savage-victim-savior metaphor, the underlying message that is sent is that the savage is not the state per se but rather, a cultural deviation, whereas the savior is the Westerner himself, along with the Western governments and organizations.

Watch the Mama Hope Video below:

This victim image from the film has little to do with promoting men's empowerment or Africa’s autonomy, instead the agenda creates a victim image that is reinforcing the notion of Africa –a Third World "Other" who is backwards when it comes to progression, thoroughly dis-empowered, and forever a disgrace. Furthermore, these images reinforce the belief in the superiority and power of one country, one culture over another and allows the international campaigns and sometimes the Western AID movement to have an arrogant tone that can create more obstacles than it eliminates.

While it might be true that some of these Western writers, critics, filmmakers, and actors have the greatest intention and desire to ‘teach’ us a few things so to speak, it should be acknowledged that for the Africans living in Africa and in the Diaspora, these Western stereotypes are offensive and clearly seen as arrogant, problematic, and insensitive to their cultural values.

Most feel there is an aspect of carelessness, culture disregard, conceit, and voyeurism in their approach rather than cultural sensitivity. It is for this reason that African people are continuously seeking to tell their own story since the birth of African nationalism in the 50s to the present day.

In the past 20 years especially, we have seen many African artists, writers, critics, filmmakers, producers, actors, including, curators taking full part in international platforms and in broadcast/social media, video, film, and other educational materials to reach the public inside and outside of the continent. This in turn has not only challenged Western preconceived ideas, but has also inspired and sustained the African men and women with the conviction that a better Africa, better yet, the beginning of a new century in the Continent, will be incited by Africans alone.
 

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