nmofokeng's blog

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Ghana Study: Children's and Young Adult Literature

In our Ghana Study group we attempted to paint a picture of the evolution and current state of children's and young adult literature in Ghana. What we were in fact able to achieve was limtied due to  lack of specific information that was accessible to us on the scale of our small research project. There were some very interesting tidbits which emerged nonetheless particularly in learning about the structural and symbolic monopoly that prescribed school texts have on publishing prerogatives.

One of the main aims we had was to explore the presence and/or conceptions of culturally relevant content. This was the hardest factor to trace in the available literature. The information which was out there was often associated with very new initiatives or, rather interestingly, with the desire on the part of African American parents to find books about Africa for their own children. This made me rethink my own stance on the necessity of culturally relevant content because of questions such as "whose culture?" "relevant to whom?" These are important interrogations of what can at once be an important discussion of the lack of content produced by and for African audiences that gains wide circulation but also risks recreating the very problematic narrow definitions of what consitutes culture in Africa. The varying levels of modernization throughout the continent have fostered constantly evolving relations to culture as well as changing tastes. Failing to recognize this can cause us to gloss over the nuances of what might be recognized as culturally relevant.

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The Necessity of Playfulness and Combating Arrogance

A couple weeks ago, I shared a youtube clip over twitter that was a response to the meme "Sh*t ____ says." In this case, the video ridiculed stereotypes that African Americans hold against Africans. Alice responded:

 This video is intense. What do you think about how it focuses exclusively on one group's ignorance? 

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Representing Africa: Field Trip Experience

When I asked our host at the museum how long the exhibition had existed in its original format - she sighed deeply and said a long, long time. This was no surprise at all but reminded me of a book by "journalist and writer Charlayne Hunter-Gault called "New News out of Africa" (2006). The whole idea of the book is to present a more nuanced image of Africa, with updated stories about what was really happening on the ground to subvert the narratives of the "four d's" i.e. death, destruction, disease and despair which dominate media coverage. It struck me on Friday that the high school students were aware of the singularity of the image they held of Africa and were very interested in learning about the experiences of their peers in environments such as school or their interests in things like music or fashion.

The "old"exhibition was dated in that it was from a time when the archeologists and anthropologsts were focusing on Africa as an object of study and not engagement. The new section was well-designed to update the ways in which people want to interact with Africa and represents a symbolic transformation in the approach to representing the continent.

I'm curious to revisit with more leisurely time to really pore over what the choice in artifacts on display is trying to achieve and to think more about what new narrative is possible considering their dated collection.

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Self-Righteous Victimhood as a Damaging Single Story

Last week's readings resonated deeply with my constant vigilance for misrepresentations/misconceptions and flat-out misinformation. I am sensitive to this insofar as it applies to my own experience, idea of self and heritage - the catchall term for history, place, community, culture, experience, memories etc. When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recounts the story of her own narrow-minded expectations upon arrival in Mexico, I recognized that moment when one's personal disdain for ignorance is abruptly challenged by one's own ignorance thus begging the question, am I a hypocrite? I've found that generally, one responds "no" and toys with becoming indignant about how others' lack of knowing is worse. I've born witness to this in my interactions with many people who do not identify as American. We can all indulge in stories similar to that of Adichie's roommate and yet we are rarely able to recognize that our own knowledge of another region of the world is as limited and often informed by stereotypes as perverse as any.

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