Media

The Maturation of Global Writing

“…being an object of compassion is not the same thing as being the subject of a story.” – Jina Moore.

Moore’s insightful piece, which looks at how journalists cover stories from Africa, warrants some discussion.

The article posits that western (American) journalists too often write stories which highlight the atrocities and poverty on the continent, which in turn, shape how we readers think about Africa. Rather than highlighting only the bad, she calls for writers – African and American – to write good stories, because they’re just that: good stories. They capture the mundane and the extraordinary of life in which the person about whom the story is written is the subject, rather than an object to be pitied or demonized.

When I read the article, I was in the middle of editing two pieces for Collaborator Magazine which themselves are rooted in Africa and I had to ask myself how well these reflect what Moore advocates, or if they are just other examples of the same issue under critique. The articles are certainly not a modern-day “Heart of Darkness”, but nor are they written solely by the Ugandans or Malawians describing their work in their own words. To be honest though, the articles do approach the later.

I try my best to be aware of cross-cultural dynamics, dominance and power in language, and the romanticization of the “other”. I framed questions to the authors to really determine what the relationships were like and then edited the responses into cohesive articles which are true to the author’s voice and experience. Overall, I was happy and impressed by what I read. The experiences were genuine. They exhibit both a motivation to work with the fellow human (subject, not object), but show learning and humility in the process of forging the relationships and carrying out their work together.

The way we (Americans) often talk about the place – Africa – is by identifying it as a whole continent. Very often we don’t discuss it in terms of being a continent, just like the others – comprised of individual countries, each with its different languages and cultures, customs, and aspirations. Here’s to moving in the direction of recognizing everyone as people.

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