What is the first picture that comes to your mind when thinking of Africa?
Is it a conflict? Famine? Civil war? Dictators? For some, these are probably the first images that pop to head. And even more scary, these are the images you’re actually exposed to when going back in history and connecting Africa with colonization and slavery at large.
Mainstream media is busy propagating these images on a daily basis through their reports and the rhetoric image of Africa boasted by media is backed up by follow up stories of colonization and slavery. The NGOs (non governmental organizations) exacerbate these images furthermore either through their fundraising galas where they show impoverished children on big screens or pamphlets that carries depressing images of Africa to be dispatched in the streets of metropolitan cities.
This image of Africa as a continent of “All the bad things that could happen” reminds me of a “TED talk” by the famous Nigerian writer named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie is an amazing author who won prestigious international prizes as MacArthur fellowship and International Nonino prize in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Adichie is well known as a brilliant opinion builder and invited to many events to share her thoughtful insights. Adichie in one of her “TED Talk” presentation where she talks about “ the danger of a single story” she shares her personal story about how people are fixated on stereotypes to the extent it blinds them not to see all the possible good things. Adiche says- “…All of the stories make me who I am, but to insist only on these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook many other stories that formed me and single stories create stereotypes”. The single story of Africa that we see in the media has created a formidable stereotype about Africa. It has been going for centuries and it seems many out of a good faith take these stereotypes as an absolute truth about Africa.
But that is not the whole truth, single stories are dangerous as Adichie explained it. There are so many amazing and inspiring stories about Africa. You will never hear these good stories from the media or they will never teach you even in history classes. However there are countless untold amazing stories of which I am going to share one with you. Have you heard of The Battle of Adwa? I guess not. This story comes from one of the countries in Africa called Ethiopia. Ethiopia has never been colonized and Ethiopians fought for their independence against the whaite colonizers and kept their independence and freedom untouched. The battle of Adwa (1896) was a battle between Ethiopia and Italy. In this battle Ethiopians fought hard with the Italian army and won the war. The odds were like any colonizer: Italians assumed they had all the modern armaments and could easily defeat the “unmodern” army of Ethiopia. But Ethiopians by then taught the whole world that war is not about having modern armaments, rather it is about moral, discipline and techniques. What was mesmerizing about the Battle of Adwa was that Emperor Taitu,the wife to the king Minilike played a significant role in the battle as being the logistic commander of the Ethiopian army. I encourage you to go ahead and read more about the Battle of Adwa. Please keep in mind that the Battle of Adwa is not a single story towards African resistance from colonization as every country in Africa defended and resisted colonizers in the most brave way. I will try to explore these amazing stories in our next article. But for now , get empowered by the battle of Adwa! Take the undefeatable spirit of our African ancestors. You have a beautiful story about victory, resistance and freedom.