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Nadia Monsengo

Guest post by Nadia Monsengo, a graphic artist living in the Netherlands.

My thoughts on Africa’s Image Problem
Nadia Monsengo
African Artista

A while ago I read a book in Dutch called: Hoe Congolees Zijn De Congolezen? It means, how Congolese Are The Congolese people? A very interesting book. It is basically about how the image and identity of the Congolese people has been lost due to the colonization. I would recommend this book; unfortunately, it is written only in Dutch. Well, for a more general view, we could look at the media of the Western world.

The way they feed on the negativity of Africa is disconcerting. The media only shows negative images of Africa (poor kids living on the streets, diseases, war). They show that Africa depends on them. Mainly through charities. They take advantage of the negativity of Africa and take advantage of the positive light it shines on them for giving generously. In the media there is almost nothing about the kingdoms of Africa. The way they ruled, what kingdoms there were. Basically, not much is written before the history of the colonization of Africa. I find this unfortunate. It looks as if Africans/Africa (except Egypt) did not exist before the colonization. It seems as if the image of Africans depends on the Western World.

Let’s talk about Ancient Egypt. I happen to know that there are many disagreements about the identity of the ancient Egyptians. Many believe that the ancient Egyptians were black and others (the Western World) believe that the ancient Egyptians were white. I do not know how the ancient Egyptians looked like, but I do not believe that they were white (like Europeans). Egypt is in Africa, so the most logical to me is that they had dark skin. Egypt is one of the ancient civilizations that was very developed  in terms of society and many other things.

A very developed country like Egypt could’ve been built by people of colour. And why not? A while ago I saw a documentary on the history of Africa. In this documentary they talked about the great monuments in Zimbabwe (then called Rhode Islands). During exploration of the country, the British refused to believe that the monuments (which were the remains of a great kingdom) were built by black people. They were convinced that these monuments were remnants of an old white civilization, that black people could not have built this. Again, I could not believe the image people then already had of Africans. This negative image of Africa/Africans, the Western World has goes way back.

Films
Why doesn’t the film industry produce more movies about great kingdoms of Africa? Why are there so many slave movies? Movies where black people are poor or slaves don’t contribute to a positive image of Africa. Why do people think that there is always war in Africa? Why do people think that a lot of Africans have HIV? If there is one thing I’ve noticed in the media, is that they ALWAYS use a black person in a commercial for HIV.

A former colleague of mine (she is Cape Verdean) told me once that her little sister always told everyone that she was not African and that Cape Verde was not a part of Africa. Only because of the bad image that people have about Africa. She was so much ashamed that she tried to convince people that Cape Verde was not a part of Africa! I was very much suprised when I heard this. I could not believe this.

I mostly blame the media for the poor image of Africa. Of course there are a lot of Africans that are ignorant and don’t care. I find this unfortunate. But I don’t fully blame them. When you look at Africa’s history, it is understandable how a lot Africans became this way. I once asked my mother if she could tell me something about our history before the colonization. And she did not know. It is very sad.

By ΠιCΘLΣ

Life is short, so let’s be decent.

24 replies on “Nadia Monsengo”

MGM, I would like to post your response as a standalone guest post from, if I may? I want every one of my readers to see it. This is what an education should afford us: the ability to set aside judgement and deal with what’s in front of us first. Nadia has gone AWOL and I don’t know when she’ll emerge from her various busy projects. Thank you very much for doing this. I’ll schedule this for tomorrow if you approve. Please and thank you. Love x

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Jackpot! Thank you so much. I’ve already set it up and it’ll be published about 20.30 your time tomorrow. DST is baffling us all but it’s scheduled for 09.30 British Summer Time and add eleven hours for you in Melbourne. Have a great winter day. x

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Excellent! It’s not quite winter yet although you’d be forgiven for thinking so this morning. But it is beautiful right now with the sun beaming benevolently. I shall capitalise and head outdoors. If simple arithmetic does not fail me, it should be very late there young lady 🙂 Have a great night x

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I’m quite obviously not African (my loss — they’re an interesting people), so I can’t comment on the issue itself. However, I really loved the way you talked about the shame people of a demographic group can feel when they’re stereotyped in popular culture. (That sentence was not one of my best.) I live in an area that involves a lot of cultures, and I can see the same shame in the Chinese, Southeast Asians, Polish, even the French when you mention smoking, drinking or berets…

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Thanks for commenting on Nadia’s post. She’s really busy and probably won’t be around for a while, so I’ll comment on her behalf. Thank you very much for your input. I was raised to be blind to cultural differences (out of many, one people) and as an only child so I’ve got my own culture so to speak. I am very grateful for that because I don’t see the problems that a lot of people bring up with race and ethnicity, etc. I just don’t see it as a problem. We’re all just people, to me. Warmest, SB.

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Interesting reading! I really enjoyed this post.
As an African woman growing up in a western country I’m amazed of how little knowledge people around me have on Africa except for what is perceived in the media.
Great post, thank you for sharing!

A.B.

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Thank you for reading and sharing your understanding of this touchy subject. Nadia will come over later to chat, but I’ll say it’s easy to ignore things when you’re the default setting. I just want people to realise that even though we love each other, we might be unconsciously tearing others down, too and to just be mindful of how we consume information.

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“The Scramble for Africa.” I have the book, and began to read it like I began to read many of the books I own. But, I can speak to this: a very close family member is married to the daughter of a former Christian missionary – to the Congo. (currently living in the states, due to illness.) The main objective was to dress the Congolese in Western garb, obliterate the voodoo, and erect structures wherein Sunday worship and ministry meetings could be regularly hosted. Beyond this, I was astonished to find out many years later that the missionaries themselves lived in a jungle clearing in a house they’d built – wherein an African native regularly cooked (and, probably cleaned) and another African native chauffeured for them. The children were sent to missionary boarding school in Nairobi, since burned to the ground by Mobutu. This did not sit well with me at all when I first heard it, in fact I recoiled in horror, and the whole reality has since had a cumulative effect on my attitude toward the entire missionary culture.

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Thank you so much Ruthann. I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds like one I have to pick up. Thank you for the recommendation. I am glad in a way to hear that you were outraged by these atrocities that were committed against an indigenous people. It is sad that we can’t respect the traditions of others and learn from them (as long as no one is physically harmed in the process). It is startling how much condescension there is, but how do we stop it? I think it’s to drown out that intolerance, is an ongoing question. It’s a difficult problem. We all want to reach farther, but at what cost and who is making these decisions.

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The directive “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel, to every tongue, people and nation”. A movement that won’t change tomorrow…..particularly when a mentality that enables a select few to walk away from gainful employment and depend on the donations of the willing for sustenance. Logic only dictates: what if every Christian did that? Economies would collapse.

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True. This is an interesting point. I never saw it as “depending on donations.” It is a point for further discussion, and of course, I need to grab myself a copy of that book you recommended so I can have an informed opinion.

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Well, but it does. At least, the missionaries around whom I grew up all did. Our local assemblies regularly contributed to traveling ministers and missionaries – to Zaire, and the Caribbean, Central America, Ecuador and other South American countries.

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That’s interesting. And I’m happy you didn’t absorb that attitude. People have told me to my face that they had been in Jamaica to build schools. We have plenty of schools; they were there as a year abroad hobby and needed something to do. The implication being that I wouldn’t have an education were it not for their grace and favour… “and did you go to college?” My eye rolling technique is perfected for that reason.

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omg. And, the Jamaican women I observed, as I told you, were already more scholarly than the white American men, and weren’t afraid to speak up to teach in the youth Bible studies, either. [PLEASE keep in mind that I was raised by an exclusive sect.]

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p.s. They’re called “MAG Teams” — high school and college age kids who do several weeks to months on site. My brother, when he lived in Nassau, worked on an educational compound that was there to provide animals and power point astronomy shows for the Bahamian children, and then the Gospel before they left. My bro was their highly capable builder/remodeler/power point installer/electrician and general property maintenance man. When I visited, there were several MAG team kids who slept in a barn and barely spoke to me (all except two German boys whose parents I had known from Canada.)

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Thanks for adding this extra information. I was acquainted with a few Mennonites. I think we do have a church back home… lovely people. Of course, a few youth groups from other denominations visited our three universities so I really don’t know where this negative impression is coming from. That awful young man I mentioned most likely had gym membership, drivers and invitations weekend parties with supermodels. Please now. Anyway it’s not Africa but you get my point.

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Very interesting post. I can’t answer all of the questions asked, but most of your interpretation is correct, as far as I know. Europeans had an idea, they were smarter, and more intelligent than Africans so they were only to be used as slaves. Most of that Idea came from the Romans, via the Greeks, a long time back. All of the north African countries, bordering the Mediterranean were conquered so many times over history, lineages have been scrambled pretty badly. Great post!

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