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Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Congolese Cliches

Fred Robarts, who has recently returned from Congo, sent a link to his Frontline piece on Congolese Cliches. Fred also has a blog here where you can check out the top sounds in Kinshasa

Congolese Cliches

Fred Robarts, 20 Apr 2008

Victorian era cliches about Africa are all-too-often the mainstay for reporters and writers

Always use the word ‘Africa or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Binyavanga Wainaina, How to Write About Africa (Granta 92)

The going rate for a Congolese press pass is around $500 a year. They should come rubber-stamped with a reminder to visiting journalists of Martin Amis’s view that “all writing is a campaign against cliché”.

I’m all for free speech, but I like to imagine that a rejuvenated Ministry of Tourism might one day go further, warning of hefty fines for gratuitous references to ‘The Heart of Darkness’.

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