Vintage mail

Your supreme illusion is that you think you are an African.

A word of clarification: I am not a cultural Nazi.

The problem is not that you’ve never lived in an African country, that you don’t have a passport from an African country, that you don’t know what it means to travel (like a glorified refugee) with an African passport or go begging for visas from embassy to embassy with an African passport.

The question I’ve been burning to ask you is simply this: “what is Africa to you?”

I came across something you said once. You said: “We are Afropolitans…Africans of the world.” I can’t say there isn’t some “spontaneous overflow of strong feelings” coursing through my veins as I pen down these words of yours, that I’m not a tad miffed at your preciousness, calling yourselves “Africans of the world.”  Isn’t that phrase already taken by people who actually live in a place called Africa and are therefore the Africans of the world?

By the way, feel free to say I’m deliberately miss-representing what you meant by that statement.

Without seeming to cavil about petty points, can I draw your attention to some other thing you said: “There is the G8 city or two (or three)”—New York, London, Paris, Tokyo—“that we know like the backs of our hands,” but  “there is at least one place in The African Continent to which we tie our sense of self: be it a nation-state (Ethiopia), a city (Ibadan), or an auntie’s kitchen.”

You are African because you tie your sense of self to an auntie’s kitchen? “Africans of the world” via “an auntie’s kitchen”? Positively postmodern! By the way, I like the expression: “tie your sense of self.” It’s cute and pop-philosophical in a chic sort of way, politely non-committal. It also means that this tie that binds, not yourself, but merely your sense of self to Africa (read: “auntie’s kitchen”) is of a flimsy nature.

Africa is for you a  mask that you put on and take off as you please. Ah Afropolitans! I don’t know if you realize that you are the only ones who have that luxury (or is it delusion) to be African when and where you please.

Africa exists for you in the realm of dream as a ghostly memory you can evoke when the moment calls for it, as a vague but ambivalent force that fuels your artistic inspiration, as a card you carry and whip out when you feel vulnerable, as an outpost of the world, a hazy horizon on the fringes of the Afropolitan map drawn around your favorite “G-8 cities.”

My dear Afropolitan, Africa is, for you, an aesthetic element, a self-stylizing device, an accessory, an add-on, an ornament.

P.S. Let’s make a toast to Africa, Your Imaginary Africa!

Sincerely,

Ms. Screwscape Paper

 

 

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

9 Responses to “The Screwscape Letters—My Dear Afropolitan Africa Is Not Your Auntie’s Kitchen” Subscribe

  1. Mr Typo 2013/08/14 at 18:00 #

    More like Miss Scroogescape!

  2. Chielozona Eze 2013/08/14 at 20:37 #

    It is difficult to satirize a satirical piece like yours, Ainehi. You are unto something, though, in highlighting the risks of conflating continent with country when people claim that they are Africans. I thought, however, that Taiye Tuakli-Worsonu was (rightly, in my opinion) drawing attention to that aspect of the identity of persons of African descent, that transcends geography and specific culture. Afropolitanism might be just a clever neologism that seeks to locate cosmopolitanism in African spaces. It seeks to go beyond the parameters of pan-Africanism by hinting at the global transcultural elements that inform the modern African person’s self reading.
    It might, of course, be an aesthetic stance, as you rightly observed. I would like to learn about that huge chasm between aesthetics and ontology.

  3. Ainehi Edoro 2013/08/16 at 12:50 #

    Hi Eze! Thanks for your comment. Your point about aesthetics and ontology—that being is also a problem of style? Brilliant.

    In general, I’d just like to say that the concept of cosmopolitanism that underpins Afropolitanism is sort of naive. It tends to define cosmopolitanism as the capacity to inhabit what it fondly calls “G-8 cities.” Why does Africa not figure as a location of the cosmopolitan? What I find striking is how in the Afropolitan’s discourse Africa is precisely what cannot be thought.

    On a different note, might pan-Africanism not be a kind of cosmopolitanism? But one that is just not located in the fringes of the “G-8” world?

  4. Olagoriola Lasebikan 2013/08/17 at 19:50 #

    “Africa exists for you in the realm of dream as a ghostly memory you can evoke when the moment calls for it, as a vague but ambivalent force that fuels your artistic inspiration, as a card you carry and whip out when you feel vulnerable, as an outpost of the world, a hazy horizon on the fringes of the Afropolitan map drawn around your favorite “G-8 cities.” –

    Thought-provoking! Afropolitan as a marketing ploy to sell products to G-8 citizens. It is best to be an African, than hiding/disguising under a phrase “Afropolitan”. Oh, I forgot, it’s pleasing to be an Afropolitan than an African.

    The key to this “Afropolitan” nonsense is to make westerners comfortable and not see the blackness, or, the Africanness in a person. You can’t help people with low self esteem. Shameless bunch!

  5. Nancy Henaku 2013/08/19 at 08:02 #

    I loved this write-up for three main reasons. First, your argument seem to clarify some of the thoughts I had after reading Taiye’s essay. Like you, I also got the impression that

    “Africa exists for you (Afropolitans) in the realm of dream as a ghostly memory you can evoke when the moment calls for it, as a vague but ambivalent force that fuels your artistic inspiration, as a card you carry and whip out when you feel vulnerable, as an outpost of the world, a hazy horizon on the fringes of the Afropolitan map drawn around your favorite “G-8 cities.”

    Though Taiye’s essay seem to raise a number of complex issues, I couldn’t help thinking that “Afropolitanism” is an identity complex.

    Second, I like your language. It’s not just beautiful, it contains a kind of bluntness that suits its satirical purpose. I particularly love the following:

    “You are African because you tie your sense of self to an auntie’s kitchen? “Africans of the world” via “an auntie’s kitchen”? Positively postmodern! By the way, I like the expression: “tie your sense of self.” It’s cute and pop-philosophical in a chic sort of way, politely non-committal. It also means that this tie that binds, not yourself, but merely your sense of self to Africa (read: “auntie’s kitchen”)”

    Third, I love the honesty with which you express your opinions. You have a gift.

  6. 3 Pokémon Who Could Kill You 2013/11/22 at 01:20 #

    When I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment
    is added I receive four emails with the exact same comment.
    Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove me from that service?

    Many thanks!

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    Јe peux dire que ce n’estguère faux !!!

  8. Squareliar2302.Soup.Io 2014/03/22 at 20:08 #

    Ce ƿost еst гempli dе vérités

  9. Elana 2014/03/26 at 06:11 #

    Encore uո sublime poste : j’en dіѕcuterai
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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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