This July marks 30 years since one of the world’s most memorable concerts took place in London’s Wembley Stadium. Live Aid was a popular well-intended concert held to provide relief to people affected by the famine in Ethiopia.
At the time images of famine, disease and helplessness played well in the UK media and succeeded in tugging at the heart – and purse – strings of many who wanted to help ‘poor Africans’.
Unfortunately though, because of the ‘danger of the single story’ as celebrated former TEDxEuston speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes so eloquently at another TED event, many Westerners knew very little else about Africa as the media provided no other narrative.
That was 30 years ago. Fast forward to present-day 2015, and still we struggle to read the full African narrative. We have to strain our ear to learn of Africa’s resourcefulness, innovation, and entrepreneurship; or about the overwhelming hospitality, and generosity, or of the unbridled (and, some may argue, unrivalled) natural beauty of the continent, which can – literally – take your breath away.
Don’t get me wrong: I do not attempt to throw rose-tinted paint all over this verdant, mineral rich, well-populated continent. I know much better than to suggest that Africa is trouble-free.
But no continent is. I had to go to Africa to fully appreciate just how badly wrong the story is told here in the UK, and how desperately that narrative needs to be filled out. Uganda was the first country I visited.
Overwhelmed by its beauty, vibrancy, and richness and Ugandans’ hospitality, generosity and resourcefulness, I was startled at just how far removed my version of Africa is from the images perpetuated in UK media.
Since then, every trip to other parts of Africa confounds the Western tale and reconfirms my own narrative.
A snapshot of my version of #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou
- A ten-year-old boy who, with the help of his uncle, built his own home for himself and younger brother
- Overwhelming generosity of every home-maker, irrespective of income
- The extraordinary beauty of the undulant hills and rich-green of Virunga Park, the stunning beaches of Maputo, or the wildlife reserves in Kenya
Then there’s William Kamkwamba the young man who built a windmill; or the technological innovation of women such as harnessing solar energy as seen by our recent TEDxEustonSalon speaker Olasimbo Sojinrin from Solar Sister. Or the progress in entertainment as seen by former TEDxEuston speaker Jason Njoku’s Iroko TV , and the list goes on.
TEDxEuston is about championing, celebrating and inspiring others about Africa. We are determined to play our role in providing that fuller narrative of the African story. Year after year, through our TEDxEuston events, we successfully inspire and encourage Africans and African aficionados to promote all dimensions of the continent.
We will continue to press on, celebrating in the richness and fullness of this great continent, determined to see in 30 years’ time, Africa is represented in all its fullness, richness and beauty.
Eulette Ewart is a TEDxEuston team member and jointly leads TEDxEuston communications. As a communications professional who has specialised in human rights and sustainable development across the continent, Eulette has travelled to Africa on several occasions.