While reading a Flavorwire interview with Nora Chipaumire, one sentence really stuck out to me: "All brands exist to make someone money. A starving Africa is like Nike: it's a brand that sells...We are not beggars, we are a productive people, full of pride. I'm taking down this perception of Africa as a continent of beggars, of people who cannot stand on their own two feet saying, 'Send us food.'"
A strong statement from the Zimbabwean self-exiled artist. Brands and perceptions of Africa as a poor, third world country begging for international assistance and attention is exactly what Chipaumire is out to destruct with her newest creation, lions will roar, swans will fly, angels will wrestle heaven, rains will break: gukurahundi. The Zimbabwe Chipaumire knows and breathes energy from is a country of strong people, who overcome the daily battles against political upheaval and poverty to live a proud, normal life amidst the chaos.
Westerners like us, as the perpetuators of these brands, and the media who sells them, need to learn to view Africa not as a place to go volunteer and save people, but rather, need to view it from the broad eyes of an educated, global citizen, eager to learn about the richness of Zimbabwean culture. It's the strengths and weaknesses of countries and cultures that add to the complexity of humans, and enable us to look at a country, a person, or a dancer as an individual breathing body, instead of as a bunch of sedentary mouths waiting for foreign aid. I want students like myself to visit Africa like we choose to study abroad in European countries, simply for a glimpse, a taste of a culture that we envy or wish to experience. Through the exploration of Chipaumire's project, I have brought my brands of Africa under a magnifying glass, and subsequently broken them down in the humble act of learning and listening.
- Melissa Wray,