New African

Fellow ex-blogger Irena recently forwarded a paper copy of the NEW AFRICAN April ’06 edition to me (thx!!) and while going through their articles, it somehow surprised me that a magazine of such broadness (the last time I bought this zine was in February 2000) still seems to battle, to justify the self-worth of the African continent and their people in the 21st century. A battle for anknowledgement?

That is, the lasting impression is that they are constantly trying to portray this modern picture of the continent – the focus, it seems, is on showing the rest of the world what’s so new on Africa and how diverse it actually is.
Please don’t get me wrong – I like this approach, and I also like to read positive news and being informed on different background stories. The magazine itself is very interesting, and I take it that compiling such a magazine every month isn’t an easy task as its readers world-wide sure are some of the most critical.
On the other hand, though, I am of course tempted to compare this sort of journalism with the local, monthly media – if possible. And this leads me to the assumption that our local (european) journalism is much more foccused on reporting contemporary stories and thus focusses on the story itself – whereas the New African editors try to catch the bigger picture, often trying to combine the present with the past. It’s like introducing readers to a new world, trying to get their understanding for the various microcosms by adding the historical context. It’s like reading le monde diplomatique in the format of TIME magazine.
The reason I am mentioning all this is because I did not intend to write a review on the New African, but instead, I was wondering about the impact this kind of journalism / publishing / writing style has, and the message that tries to be conveyed with such approaches.
Or in other words: the African continent with it’s relatively young countries shaped by the colonial heritage, which still has more relevance to today’s politics compared to the also known history and cultural values found on the continent long before any white (wo)man set a foot on it, has something unique, something very important I think: a burning desire to advance and an undying thirst for knowledge.
Let’s take Germany, for instance, and the various debates going on in this democracy on a national level. Any bugging issues? Think of falling birthrates (resulting in unhealthy pension sheme), the european and global competition next door (= unemployment & frustration) or just excessive taxes. While politicians & others are debating the problem and trying to find possible solutions, only a few people really go back to this point where they ask the fundamental question of how we – as a society – want to live in future and what kind of target we are heading to.

And this is exactly where I would like to make the connection to this New African magazine: what we need over here in Europe is another type of journalism, something that just not reports facts, but instead shows us how all these little problems, microsms and societies mix up and deliver the bigger picture. There are (of course) a few such new styled magazines (~Brandeins) that try to catch the atmosphere, but I would like to see this kind of spirit swap over from the paper form into the heads of my people. Something that gives them an understanding for the global context and how new developments are to be seen with respect for the past.

The New African does exactly that in its April edition by publishing excerpts of Ayi Kwei Armah‘s new boook titled “The Eloquence of the Scribes”. Taking us back into history to get an understanding for where we are heading to in future – conscious and unconscious.

6 comments » Write a comment

  1. Jke:Thanks for your appreciation of the New African Magazine and the kind of journalism potrayed on their articles. I enjoy the way their Magazine is balanced highlighting African stories positive and negative and yes the past, present and future all in a intricate web .The most important thing that is the understanding of the fact that our history influence /shape the future and the fact they try to highlight the African histories and capabilities pre- colonial era and the present era which at times is highlighted in other media as one of hopelessness and despair whereas in the midst of it all there other stories that are full of hope , vision and a sense of “We can”. For instance , in the February issue, there was this balance of Liberia New beginning, Nkrumah’s legacy (this was such an interesting read), Kenya ‘s post referendum blues etc .Among those was an article about Malawi’s Urban explosion . Now with this kind of Magazine that really balances it all.

  2. Jke: P.s Hey am not an ex-blogger, I’m an ex-KBW blogger if there is such a term… there is a private ,exclusive, members only Irena’s nyumbani somewhere *wink**wink*:-)

  3. By the way, I think the New African is not looking for the ‘others’ to justify African continent’s worth instead , I look at it as a Magazine that is geared towards bringing some positive light to Africans and friends of Africans a more balanced news in an attempt to continue encouraging positive outlook of the continent on what it has to offer. The Magazine and especially the editorial part continually urges Africans to recognize that there is nothing to be ashamed of , that there is still a lot of potential in the continent and for those who already have the vision to continue pushing to keep the spirit alive. I have read some readers responses who were negative about the magazine(mostly from Western world) and one thing about the editors and writers, they have never replied apologetically about what they write or try to potray about the continent. So I don’t think one would say it is a battle of acknowledgement per se.

  4. first time here!
    I am a regular reader of the New African though the last piece I read was for Jan 06. I think the back-forth approach helps the reader to contextualize and understand through the eyes of Africans themselves. Remember the other world’s first impressions on Africa was concieved through the writings of early explorers. Although a number of these early journalistic writings were mostly negative and often exaggerated (the book ‘King Leopold’s Ghost’ highlights these early biases) and although their accuracy has since been challenged, it has been difficult for the west to shake off this early subjective view and see Africa for what it really is (was).. This kind of revivalist action seen in the New African approach is not only confined to the ‘zines’ but restoration of Africa’s History is also taking place through other actions such as the preservation of the Timbuktu Chronicles that South Africa and Mali is in the process of doing.
    I apologize for almost bloging on your blog?

  5. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Kenya: media presentations on Africa

  6. Hello, my name is Alex, i’m a newbie here. I really do like your resource and really interested in things you discuss here, also would like to enter your community, hope it is possible:-) Cya around, best regards, Alex!