Tag: Africa

Two continents meet over one vital issue in Americanah

There are books meant to be beautiful, there are books meant to make you think, there are books meant to make you feel. Americanah combines it all in its fight against the denial of racism.

Racism is real, even in this modern day and age it’s a subject that (with a little help from social media, where you can hide behind a mask quite easily) is shown across the globe. However, it is a complex matter, different to almost all recipients. Different countries and cultures have different opinions on what is racist and what is not, and it can be quite confusing to some. Americanah touches upon the complexities of race, class, gender, and mankind in general, and how those can differ in Africa and in America.

While many countries in this world have English as either the first, or the second official language, does not mean that all English is the same. In Americanah, the concept of Nigerian English is used to discuss the differences between the United States and Nigeria. The language differs, and therefore the meaning of things. And when meanings change, concepts change, and people change. Therefore, people are different, nurtured by their background and upbringings. This difference is one of the most important aspects of Americanah, as it shows the complexity of daily aspects of life that are sometimes taken for universal truths.

This concept of difference, through either ideas, language, or other cultural aspects, is the focus of Adichie’s book. It shows that not everything is as simple as it seems, through the eyes of the outsider. Even if that outsider is connected to the subject through other ways.

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The African summer

“Papapaa pa pa pa.” The familiar intro to a famous television-series blasts through the livingroom. It makes me look up from the plants I was watering outside. It is warm, summer, the smell of hot sand and dust is clinging to me in the backyard, and the sun shines down from a clear blue sky. I don’t know what the exact trigger would be, but for a second I have the feeling as if I’m back in South-Africa, where I heard that intro for the first time. The homesick-feeling hits me like a breaking wave, and longingly I stare at that blue sky that is never blue enough.

Africa… This week it would be four years since I returned from the six month-exchange I did at Rhodes University, but that homesickness still hits from time to time. I look at the plants. How different they are from the perfectly trimmed lawns of Grahamstown, where students ate, studied, or took naps. How different were the last four years compared to those scorching summer in Addo Elephant Park, that lovely autumn day in Sam Knott Nature Reserve, or that cultural winter in which I worked as a reporter at the National Arts Festival. I even miss the donkeys that roamed the streets at night, until their owners caught them again in the morning. I aim my face towards the sun, close my eyes, and inhale that scent of warm sand while my thoughts start to drift.

Photo: Linda Leestemaker

Photo: Linda Leestemaker

“Girls, we have to move. Linda’s brain is boiling.” Grahamstown, South-Africa, February 2012. It is summer, warm and sunny, the perfect weather for weekends full of safari’s, road-trips, surfing, and other adventures. We just finished a day-long safari in Addo Elephant Park, by munching on some delicious carrot cake. While I look suprised, my friend points at the table. Right above the shadow of my head, you can see little heat cirkels rise from my head. The sun clearly has an effect on my hear, with an effect that certainly looks dramatic. We can’t help but laugh, a relaxed end to this weekend full of elephants. It seems strange, in Amsterdam people are ice skating on the canals, and we are sitting in the scorching sun. Today, the heat rised to 45 degrees, a heat that even had effect on the elephants from Addo. It was so hot that they decided to forget their quarrels so they could all cool down at the water holes. The Africa-vibe is overwhelming when you see 200 of these gentle giants together to drink some water.

Photo: Linda Leestemaker

Photo: Linda Leestemaker

Addo Elephant Park is nog even a tenth of the size of the famous Kruger Park, but that doesn’t mean much when you measure in impressiveness. The elephant-population is not only impressive in size, but according to our guide also completely vital. We can see that when an older bull decides that he does not particular like the car in front of us. Radiating power and danger, the bull approaches the silver Toyota. The car honks, again and again, but the elephant clearly isn’t impressed. And why would he be? One of those feet on the hood and the car would only be useful for scrapmetal. It seems that the owner realizes that to, the rear-lights flash on and suddenly the car starts backing up with quite some speed. The only reason it does not hit us, are the quick reflexes of our driver/guide, who starts cursing in three languages. We can laugh about it, but only because the elephant does not threathen us as well. Menacinly, the huge animal shakes his head some more, before it decides that the show of force has been enough. Slowly, it moves way from the road, on his way to greener pastures for some snacks. As soon as he is gone, the rest of the animals dare to move again as well as we do. Zebra’s casually cross the road, warthogs dash away with their tails high in the air. A single ostrich ruffles its feathers while looking offended. The peace of Addo only gives way to the elephant, because  “No one argues about the right to pass, with the animal that even king Lion fears.” Good to know…

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