Afrominded is Back
My fellow African,
Do you know how amazing you are?
We as Africans don’t get a lot of words of encouragement. We are just not used to it. That needs to change. Now.
The past several weeks, I have really tried to listen to the comments I hear around me about Senegal (and the African continent in general) from both Africans and non-Africans. What I hear saddens me. I hear criticism that isn’t constructive, refusal to believe in development, and inability to break free from the mental bondages of colonialism.
When I asked my Senegalese compadres why they had such negative comments about our beloved country and continent they simply replied “Daara dokhoul” (meaning nothing is going right) or “Senegal dou dem” (meaning Senegal isn’t going to go anywhere). The latter is something that many Senegalese say and unfortunately they do not realize how dangerous this statement can be.
Let’s say you wake up every day and tell yourself “You are never going to amount to anything.” If you keep that mindset, do you really think you will be able to accomplish your goals? I highly doubt it. The same thing goes for us Africans. If we keep telling ourselves that our countries suck, that we will never have a bright future, and that we will never develop our country then we never will get anywhere. You have to believe to achieve. You can’t just expect things to occur magically. You have to put in hard work to get where you want.
But I understand how we have become this way. Let’s face it, we have had some hard blows. Colonialism has really left its mark. Sadly, we still argue about skin color, hair texture, tribes and social status. When we should be focusing on economics, education, self-sufficiency, and diminishing poverty.
So how about we change our mindset. Let’s be proud Africans. This doesn’t mean saying “We are perfect” or “We are the best” (although if you want to, by all means). This means loving ourselves, loving our continent, accepting our faults, identifying our issues, being unapologetically African, and believing that we can get better. We know that we are not perfect and there is major room for improvement. But we shouldn’t let this stop us from being champions. We need to stop looking at our problems as obstacles and start seeing them as opportunities.
I wanted to do my part so I started a facebook page called “#SenegalDeyDem” (meaning “Senegal WILL go somewhere”) to counter the ever-so-popular “Senegal dou dem”. I know that it is a small act but sometimes it’s the small things that grow into huge movements. Someone else can see this page and want to start something similar and the movement can keep growing.
I believe in the future of our continent. I know that I am just one person. I also know that there are thousands of other Africans who are trying to do amazing things for their countries but who also think that they are just “one person.” Together, we can be a pretty strong group. I can already see a new generation of entrepreneurs and leaders rising. Let us encourage and help each other because, in the end, this beautiful land is ours and we are all in this together.
Here is my first short film! Please read the descriptionon the video. I am proud of this project, even though it was made with no funding and no budget. I had nothing but a camera, some friends, and a big imagination. Enjoy!
Today, AfroMinded is proud to feature Madmaks! A young Senegalese leader.
Madmaks considers himself a global citizen. He yearns to soak in all cultures and ultimately grow from it. He looks at culture and societal edicts with a critical eye in order to get to the core of every matter he finds himself or his people involved in. His writings are based on personal experiences and he uses them as an outlet for all the uncomfortable questions he constantly ponders on.
Without further ado, here’s what Madmaks has to say:
“I have always had that feeling that something was off with me. Well, people around me never missed an opportunity to make the remark. For instance, I could be all friendly and outgoing for a moment but the next day, I would seem far off, pissed, arrogant, soof* . At some point I tried (one never succeeds in something they are not), but it was even worse as I had to force myself to socialize and conform in ways that seemed tocut off a part of my soul. I ended up damaged.
Luckily I am now able to put a word on my blessing. Yes, I am blessed to be an INTROVERT. After a few psychology classes, several years of soul searching and a few months in a place where “me time ” was allowed, nay encouraged, I have reached a point in my life when I can fully embrace that part my personality.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean that I hate being around people. It just means that I need some time to be alone, time to put together pieces of information, emotions and lingering issues that might be a source of turmoil if not properly dealt with.
The mind of an introvert cannot process ongoing events. It works like a machine that loads raw information in order to process it on resting mode. If it loads a lot of information without processing it, a sort of mental clog sets in, causing discomfort and bitterness.
Self-knowledge is crucial in the development of an individual. It gives us the tools to anticipate an eventual difficult situation, deal with it and learn from it.
My personal me times involve writing, reading, listening to music or just lying in my bed and staring at the ceiling. I usually keep a straight face, which makes people around me assume that I am pissed or bored.
To all the introverts out there, I feel you. It is a tough time for us, especially in this era when technology makes it even harder to isolate from all this mess. I am still struggling with these endless group chats, Facebook notifications that are more distracting than productive.
I have read that «being alone is not the same as being lonely”.
So this is to more moments of self-affirmation in our hideaways, may they be physical ormental. These fortresses of solitude really constitute our cocoons, from which we can burst out stronger and ready to deal with all the bullshit out there.”
I am a patient person. I do my best to keep cool, I don’t get into arguments, and I keep my word. But nothing pushes my buttons more than when someone disrespects my time. Let me explain:
Today, I wasted almost 8 hours waiting for one person to give me one thing. What this person was supposed to give me was very important for my career and I have a deadline so I really had no choice but to wait. The waiting would not have been a problem if he had just told me the right time. You see, he told me 2:00 PM (14h00). He kept saying “just 30 more minutes. . .” In my mind, he’s talking about normal time, but no! He’s was talking “Senegalese time.”
Confused yet?. . .
I’ve heard of “African time” but I can’t say exactly what it means because it’s different in each country. For us Senegalese, we have something called “Senegalese time” which I know all too well.
In most places around the world, when you tell someone “I’ll meet you at 1:00 AM (13h00)”, you really mean 1:00 AM. But in Senegal, when someone says 1 o’clock, they mean 2 o’clock. Heck, even 3! When they say that they’ll meet you in 30 minutes, they really mean in an hour or an hour and a half. When someone says “I’m leaving my house right now,” they are probably still in their pajamas.
The whole “time is money” mantra hasn’t really set into the Senegalese way of thinking yet. Here, time is something that you have and you do whatever you want with it. No stress! That’s the Senegalese way. This is why someone who is supposed to start working at 8 in the morning, will show up to work at 8:30, eat breakfast, and then start at 9. And they wonder why they get fired?. . .humm, I wonder why?
Time is a gift and with every gift comes a responsibility. Time is precious and every minute that I wait for someone is a minute of my life that I will never get back. Every minute wasted is a part of my existence thrown out the window. If you are doing your own things, that’s cool. Take your time because it’s yours. But when someone else is depending on you, it becomes your duty to try and respect that person’s time.
Take a look at the more developed countries around the world and you will find a pattern: time is crucial and respected. Trains and buses are scheduled and, for the most part, on time. People rush to get to work on time and coming to work five minutes late is unacceptable. If you are 30 minutes late to a meeting, that meeting is probably over (or cancelled).
In order to develop ourselves and our country, we need to respect each other and each other’s time. Things take too long to fix here. We are wasting precious time with unnecessary protocols. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the Senegalese mindset. I love that life here is less stressful and that people have a joie de vivre.That’s what makes this country so charming and lovable. Like I said, if you are flying solo, then do you boo. But sometimes, it’s better to just throw “Senegalese time” out the window.
Oh the stupidity that we Africans have to hear sometimes! Sorry to have to be frank here but it’s true. Take it from someone who has lived her life in different countries and met all sorts of people throughout her voyages. A lot of individuals have some really backwards thoughts about Africans. From how we live to how we act. I don’t know if it’s innocent ignorance or actual stupidity but either way, here are 5 foolish questions that we Africans hear all the time:
#1: “Aren’t Africans Poor?”
Not all of us.
Yes, there are certain countries and regions that suffer from more poverty than others. However, to generalize that Africans are poor is just not fair. Now according to OurAfrica.org, 40% of people living on the African continent are living in absolute poverty which is a huge number considering that the population is at approximately 1.1 billion. So to deny the fact that there is a poverty problem on the continent would be hypocritical of me. Nevertheless, Africa is now one of the fastest developing continents. The rate of poverty is decreasing and business is booming. Technology is developing enormously and more and more people are being exposed to the internet, wifi, computers, smartphones, and all the latest gadgets. My Senegalese comrades are really good at keeping up with the latest and greatest gear on the market. Students are using their laptops and tablets for school work and people are already walking around with the new iPhone 6 Plus.
#2: “So most of you have AIDS or Ebola right?”
Again, no. First of all, AIDS in not an “African thing.” Some sources say it came from chimpanzees in West Africa while others say it came from the outburst of homosexuality in the western world during the 60’s and 70’s. Either way, AIDS is real. But it varies from country to country just like everywhere else in the world. According to statistics released by AVERT, the African countries with the highest rate of AIDS are Swaziland (26.5%) and South Africa (17.9%). Other countries rank a lot lower like Nigeria (3.1%) and my beloved homeland Senegal which only has an AIDS population of 0.5%. Considering that there are 54 countries in Africa (yes, Africa is a continent, not a country), it’s safe to say that most Africans don’t have AIDS.
Now, thanks the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus, people think that anyone who is from West Africa has Ebola or is “suspicious.” There are 11 countries in West Africa and there are only three (Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia) that have a widespread transmission of Ebola at the moment. I recently read an article about some young Senegalese boys in New York being bullied and called “Ebola” even though they didn’t come from an Ebola-stricken country. I also have a friend of mine who lives in Chicago and she got called “Ebola” while she was walking down the street. This behavior is unacceptable. People need to start learning and stop discriminating.
Plus, did you know that it’s easier to get the flu than it is to get the Ebola virus?
There are some speculations as to where Ebola came from. Yet, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks that both AIDS and Ebola were probably developed in some laboratory and spread out into the world (hence the reason why I avoid flu shots). But I digress.
#3: “Do you speak African?”
There is no such language as “African.” Yet, there is a language called Afrikaans. Afrikaans is a West Germanic language adopted from Dutch colonists. It’s spoken mostly in South Africa (by the white and mixed population), Namibia, and a bit in Zimbabwe and Botswana.
There are over 2,000 languages spoken on the African continent (again, Africa is a continent, not a country). According to afkinsider.com, The 10 most common spoken languages are Zulu, Igbo, Yoruba, Oromo, French, Amharic, English, Hausa, Swahili, and Arabic.
On top of all that, over 50% of Africans are multilingual meaning they speak minimum 2 languages.
#4: “Do you live in a sand dome?”
Well, I don’t. But some might. There are still people that live in villages like this:
Some live in places like this:
I could go on forever, but I’ll let you do your own research.
# 5: “So are you used to wearing clothes?”
I am more than used to wearing clothes and so are most other Africans. I blame this question on all the National Geographic documentaries portraying Africans in only one way. They seem to only show one minuscule slice of the African lifestyle by continuously presenting tribes that prefer nudity. Thus leading people to believe that that is African attire which is entirely false. We have countless different traditional clothes and fabrics and it varies from tribe to tribe.
Not only do we wear clothes, but we make them as well! We have world renowned designers like Duru Olowu from Nigeria, Korto Momolu from Liberia, David Tlale from South Africa, Kofi Ansah from Ghana, twins Idyl and Ayaan from Somalia, Colé Ardo Sow from Senegal, and numerous others.
It always makes me laugh when I see someone come to Senegal for the first time wearing some dirty t-shirt and some raggedy jeans thinking that they are going to “fit it.” Then I laugh even harder when they frantically walk the markets to buy new clothes after they realize that everyone else is really nicely dressed and they don’t fit in.
See, when it comes to fashion, Africans are actually amongst the best dressed. We love using our traditional prints and fabrics and wearing vibrant colors. We also like wearing modern clothes when we feel like it. We like to look good!
“The darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it.” – George Kimble
It may be difficult to believe but I have been asked every single one of these questions. It’s frustrating to hear that people still have these backward thoughts about Africa. In the Age of Technology, the people who have the most exposure to the internet and the miracles of Google seem to be the ones who know the least about the world. Why is it that when someone travels to Europe they say “I’m going to France, or Italy or etc.” But when they are going to a country in Africa they say “I’m going to Africa!”. . . WHERE IN AFRICA?! People expect to find the same thing no matter where they go. Trust me, going to Ghana and going to Djibouti will give you two completely different experiences. I hear too much talk about how poor Africans are and how hard it is for people to find jobs. I want to hear people talking about how the continent is developing, expanding, and how we are growing our own businesses and trying to become more auto-sufficient.
We are not monkeys and we don’t look like them. Not all of us are dark skinned and we don’t all live in the middle of the desert. We don’t ride elephants to school and we don’t all hunt lions for play. We are people. Normal, everyday people just like you. We have different traditions and cultures. We are too diverse (and too awesome) to be put into one category. We are everything! We are mothers and fathers, teachers and farmers, rich and poor, villagers and city people, warriors and scholars, hipsters and activists, black and white. We are beautiful. Every tribe and every culture is beautiful no matter how different their way of life may be.
Africa is a continent, not a country. And it should be treated as such.