How Not to Write about Africa
Always use the word "Africa" or "Darkness" or "Safari" in your title. Note that "People" means Africans who are not black, while 'The People" means black Africans.
Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these.
Throughout the book, adopt a sotto voice, in conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-expected-so-much tone. Africa is to be pitied, to be pitied, to be pitied, worshiped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.
Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Monkey brain is an African's cuisine of choice.
Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable. Africa is the only continent you can love, because you care.
Your African characters may include naked warriors, loyal servants, diviners and seers. The modern African is a fat man who steals and works in the visa office, refusing to give work permits to qualified Westerners who really care about Africa. Or he is an Oxford-educated intellectual turned serial-killing politician in a Savile Row suit.
You must always include The Starving African, who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits for the benevolence of the West. She can have no past, no history; such diversions ruin the dramatic moment.
Your hero is you, il faut partages, or a beautiful, tragic, international celebrity or aristocrat who now cares for animals. If fiction, describe in detail mutilated genitals, and dead bodies.
Remember, any work you submit in which people look filthy and miserable will be referred to as the "real Africa."
Animals, on the other hand, must be treated as well rounded, complex characters. They speak (or grunt while tossing their manes proudly) and have names, ambitions and desires. Never, ever say anything negative about an elephant or a gorilla.
Readers will be put off if you don't mention the light in Africa. The African sunset is a must.
You'll also need a nightclub called Tropicana, where mercenaries, evil nouveau riche, prostitutes, guerrillas, and expats hang out.
Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances.
Because you care.
That's Djimon Hounsou reading from the essay in a video produced for Bono's online magazine and music service, (RED)Wire. The full version of Binyavanga Wainaina's essay appeared in Granta. Wainaina himself offers further explanation of his essay in a three-part video that begins here.
Binyavanga Wainaina is a Kenyan author, journalist and winner of the Caine Prize for his short story "Discovering Home." He is the founding editor of the literary magazine Kwani?, and he has also written for The East African, National Geographic, The Sunday Times (South Africa), the New York Times and The Guardian (UK). In 2007, Wainaina was a Writer-in-Residence at Union College in Schenectady, New York, and he’s the newly appointed director of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Literature and Languages at Bard College.
[h/t: Jack Turner, Jack and Jill Politics; Renee also has a discussion of the video at Womanist Musings]