Representing Africa: Field Trip Experience

nmofokeng's picture

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.

Comments

alesnick's picture

reading students

I'm curious how you assessed students' awareness of the influence of a "single story" of Africa . . . I appreciate yout question: what new narrative is possible give the museum's dated (and limited) collection?  This really connects with the role of story, the essential role, in literacy . . . things make sense within narrative frames, yes?  One question is how museums, or curricula, can equip learners to recognize and create multiple stories, to translate, to revise . . . Even without re-visiting, what would you say the museum, or we as teachers and learners with it, could do during or after a visit to help others and ourselves get a hold of alternative narratives, and of narratives that are more open-ended?

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