Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Continent ready to break free from its chains?

Either by chance or by a strange twist of fate I've had Africa consistently on my mind of late. Shortly before Christmas at a bargain book sale I picked up a work called The Shackled Continent by Robert Guest, a writer with The Economist magazine. It's an excellent read which covers a very broad and complicated subject in a succinct and interesting way. Guest attempts to explain why Africa has become so infamous throughout the western world as a continent of poverty, disease, famine, war, corruption and despotism.

The film magazine Sight & Sound in its latest issue has a special feature on African cinema, something which appears to be going through a renaissance at the moment. I recently went to see The Last King of Scotland, a first rate film capturing the vibrancy of Africa and building up tp a thrilling climax. Forest Whitaker (who I last saw as a British soldier with a convincing Birmingham accent) is on top form throughout as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, brilliantly conveying his Jekyll and Hyde character which alternates between bungling clown and evil psychopath. In short an excellent film adapted from an excellent book even though both tend to mix historical fact with fiction in a somewhat confusing way. The subject matter is certainly topical considering how many other African nations are to this day suffering under the yoke of similarly tyrannical regimes. Zimbabwe, a country whose once flourishing tourist industry has all but been destroyed by the insane policies of Mugabe springs to mind. Zimbabwe of course is not rich in oil, nor does it occupy a strategic position of potential benefit to America, so the west leaves it well alone, allowing another dictator to continually subjugate and torture his citizens.

I've also acquired a dvd of The Constant Gardener featuring Ralph Fiennes as a diplomat attempting to expose the hidden agenda of unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies in Africa following the murder of his wife played by Rachel Weisz. And I look forward to seeing the newly released Blood Diamond starring Leonardo di Caprio, a morality tale highlighting the evils of diamond mining and conscription of child soldiers in Sierra Leone.

So it was to my surprise that I saw on the side of a London bus an ad promoting the Nigerian tourist board. Nigeria has come in for bad press lately. Stories of foreign oil workers being abducted and gullible westerners falling for elaborate e-mail scams would not exactly persuade you to visit the country. Having said that it is a big place and we only hear the horror stories rather than getting the bigger picture, so good luck to the tourist campaign. The country badly needs tourist money, but lets hope it benefits local economies rather than end up in the pockets of corrupt government officials and their cronies.

8 comments:

Cybez said...

I was born in Nigeria and spent most of my 'primary' years there.My brother is currently working in a university in Nigeria and from what I gather it's portrayed similar to the way Northern Ireland was during the troubles.Then people from outside the country expected bombs in every street every day of the year.I'm sure like most countries militants have hardened and crime has risen but that shouldn't put people off.The road network is better now and every other Nigerian has a mobile phone so it's not too bad.Last night I noticed a Nigerian blog (by a Nigerian living in the UK)http://uknaija.blogspot.com that I hope to read a bit more which might give me a greater insight into Nigerian culture.

Lorainne said...

Usually fact and fiction in film don't mix but I make an exception for Last King of Scotland. Whittaker is a method actor so he was eating mashed bananas & beans and trying to learn African languages while he was playing the role of Amin, much to the irritation of his family I believe.

CW said...

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Lorainne said...

I enjoyed Last King of Scotland. Whitaker did a great job of playing Amin. He is a method actor and I read that he would only eat mashed banana and beans while he was doing the film. Also he started learning some African languages.

Cybez said...

testing too

I left a comment which isn't showing up here.

CW said...

Sorry about that Cybez. Normal commenting now resumed!

CW said...

I take your point Cybez. I also spent part of my early childhood in Nigeria. It's a fascinating and diverse country despite its problems and undeservedly gets a bad press which when you consider the sheer size of the country tends to get blown out of proportion.

Cybez said...

Ciaran I'd be interested to find out where in Nigeria and why (even if it's by e-mail)?

Off topic, could you e-mail me c_y_b_e_r_scribe[at]yahoo.co.uk
[at] = @ I've a question regarding a blogger I'd like to ask you that I wouldn't ask publicly. I'm also practising spam e-mails to get Norn Irish bloggers to join http://www.ringsurf.com/netring?ring=Cybez;action=list