I’m not travelling to Africa to do humanitarian work


Lately, I have been constantly asked: why do I want to travel to Tanzania and Mozambique and if I am going to do humanitarian or voluntary work over there as if it was the only logical reason to go to those places.

It feels as if I am repeatedly having this discussion, many people genuinely do not understand such a choice but the reason is actually really simple. I am planning a trip to East Africa simply to visit because there are some amazing, culturally rich, history filled places in Africa too, because I want to  discover a historical and cultural heritage I know little about, because I want to broaden my horizons, open my mind to the discovery of a new reality. Personally and culturally I have little doubt that it will be among one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

People’s reactions are due to the fact that stories about Africa are generally flattened and reduced to stereotypes. Narratives surrounded Africa simply fails to provide a complete picture of the African realities. The polyphony of African voices is often left unheard and unseen.The consequences and the biggest issue of such a situation are that our representation of Africa often dehumanises and stigmatises which can and does translate itself to acts of racism.

The constant stereotypical images and narratives we are bombarded with in regards to the African continent greatly influence our perceptions and enter our intellects. Some narratives are so deeply rooted in our mind that it takes a conscious decision and some work to deconstruct those thinking patterns and to reconstruct a more genuine and human yet still imperfect mentality.Throughout my conversations, I simply realised that many, even those who have travelled and have been exposed to different realities are submerged by this common belief.

Deconstructing those paradigms are a necessary challenge I think, so as to be a better friend and ally to Afro-descendants and ultimately a better human being. 

The simple steps necessary to do the work is to:

  1. Listen more and Talk less, ask questions and truly listen
  2. .Educate yourself, read, make your own research.
  3. When being criticised listen and act accordingly.

“It’s as if Africans are not allowed to have class, that somehow authenticity is synonymous with poverty and demands your pity and your sympathy. Africa is seen as the place where the westerner goes to sort out his morality issues. We see it in films and in lots of books about Africa, and it’s very troubling to me.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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