The writing of Nicholas Kristof offers an objective and practical insight into one of the lease understood and one of the most ignored regions in world-Africa. Unlike many arm chair theorists, Kristof has personally made a number of detours of Africa, especially its violence torn regions, notably Darfur in Sudan, Congo, Somalia and Liberia, seen the devastation wrecked by years of conflict, met the victims, listened their tales, and took their stories to international audience.
However, unlike many reporters, Kristof’s stories do not end with the tales of the victims, but they involve readers by raising the question of individual actions on readers’ part. The images and narrations that subtly form the watermark of Kristof’s canvas continue to remind readers that while governments across the world would try to approach the problem from political consideration, the human crisis and tragedy unfolding in African regions also necessitates participation by international citizens.
In several of this blogs Kristof makes it clear that participation doesn’t imply people taking the first flight to Africa-it’s about creating a sense of solidarity and unity about the cause, creating a notion of identification, and inspiring people with the idea that something should be done. Action, Kristof maintains, comes quite later; and even when it comes, it may not be the direct action.
However, once people reach a collective level of thought and idea, they are better positioned to create the platform for the action. Kristof brings out the daily landscape of war ravished African towns, uprooted people, and broken societies and culture simply, but very realistically and powerfully. His writing is not about convincing people of what he has seen or experienced, but rather of allowing them to experience his experiences.
Gradually, building a continuous series of small insights, events, narrations, stories, Kristof takes readers to the depth of his observation, and the Africa, which most of his readers have only seen in images, movies and news, assumes a living shape, speaking to the readers through its people whom Kristof meets and interviews. The vagueness lifts and we see real people living through some of the most difficult situations imaginable, and yet maintaining the semblance of life, order, and ordinary hope in their endeavor to construct as stable a future as the circumstances allow them.
Through Kristof work we also get a taste of what developed nations are doing or pretending to do in Sudan, Congo, Somalia, Chad, and various other countries that are locked in vicious conflict. As it appears the network and coordination among global organizations, particularly UN and individuals appears to be more effectual that aid programs and campaigns run by European and American governments. The amount of aid and help, although promised in hundreds of millions of dollars and Euros, hardly make to the people who would need it most. And yet, life moves on in Africa.
And it is this depiction of movement, constant change, and readiness to accept even the most challenging circumstances, upheavals and uncertainties and assimilate them as a daily part of life and move ahead, that makes Kristof’s work on Africa significant and vital from every social and political aspect. Africa For a very considerable time Africa had been called the ‘Dark Continent’. This term, if analyzed closely, is not a reflection upon Africa, but upon the rest of the world, who could not, or rather did not peer into a whole and huge continent.
Thus when the world called Africa as Dark continent, it was admittance of their own ignorance and lack of knowledge about the place, that in all probability was the origin of humankind. Africa consist of 53 independent countries today, and numerous tribes, ethnic communities and cultures, which are spread from the extent of Sahara desert to the deep recess of equatorial rain forests. By western standards, Africa is not developed and advanced, which is surprising considering the fact that for a larger part of previous couple of centuries, a considerable portion of Africa was colonized by various European powers.
Today our understanding of Africa has widened considerably, thanks to dedicated explorers, researchers, aid and charity workers, and of course media. However, if we try to put this understanding in different compartments of knowledge, the images and visions making up the almost the entire picture constitute of a poverty-stricken, war ravished, famished, diseased, illiterate, and generally suffering population which is looking towards rest of the world for help and aid.
Indeed these images are not doctored and they do represent the reality that they want to convey; however, it is vital to understand that real as they are, the images, videos and clips that we see on news channels, books and books form only a part of the vast reality of Africa. The northern provinces of Africa exhibit cultural influence of both Asia and Europe, with their geographical proximity to both these continents. Countries situated near the equator have a rich blend of tribal and semi urban cultural influence.
Within previous 50 years, many of the countries have made remarkable progress, such as Cameroon, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Egypt, South Africa, and Uganda among many others. However, there is a the bitter reality of intense regional conflict, tribal clashes and war that has deeply afflicted several major countries of Africa, the notable among them being Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, and Chad. Decades of conflict in these regions have claimed millions of lives, and created an international humanitarian crisis of a magnitude that is often compared to the crisis of Jews during the Second World War.
Unfortunately the international knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of Africa and its people is extremely limited and dependent upon only the eye catching events that occur there. In the recent decades, much of the Africa has been projected from suffering through political stability, collapse of the law and order, war, famine, and tribal conflict. These images and stories persuade people to drop Africa from their travel itinerary; Africa is never considered in the same way as Europe, Australia or Asia Pacific countries are considered.