Do’s and Don’ts when writing or teaching about Africa
- Use the names of specific countries where appropriate.
- Present problems such as hunger, poverty, disease, and war in global contexts and highlight African solutions to problems. Avoid perpetuating stereotypes of Africans as hungry, poor, unhealthy, and the continent as consumed with war, political strife or corruption.
- Avoid the offensive, inaccurate or biased terms listed below. As often as possible, use words and phrases that are normally used when discussing life in the U.S.
- Offensive and Inaccurate terms: native, tribe, hut, jungle, witch doctor, dialect, primitive, warlike, fetish, uncivilized, pagan
- Western bias: developing, under-developed, civilized, emerging, backward, non-white, non-Western, Black African, communist
- Emphasize African perspectives and actions. Avoid overemphasizing western solutions and western celebrities.
- Avoid stereotypical art activities such as building “huts” or making generic “African” masks.
- Include North Africa countries when discussing Africa.
- Emphasize typical social groups and activities with which Western children can relate. Avoid highlighting exotic practices and small minority groups such as the Maasai.
- Focus on animals that most Africans commonly see (domestic animals and small game). Avoid safari and big game themes.
- Avoid depicting Africans leaders as the sole agents of change. Discuss them within historical, political, economic, and social contexts.
- Make sure images (if applicable) are representative, diverse and non-stereotypical. Illustrations should correspond to the time period, geographical area, ethnic group, etc. Show Africans in contemporary dress styles. Avoid overemphasizing people with few or no clothes, in masks, grass skirts, etc.
- Present history in chronological stages beginning with early and ancient times? Avoid an overemphasis on the colonial period and the actions of Europeans in Africa?
- Strike a balance between information on men and women. Discuss the problems women have faced in historical and global contexts. Provide examples of female politicians, presidents, farmers, professionals, etc.
- Describe local African religions respectfully. Avoid simplistic vocabulary and discussions e.g. “animists,” worshiping ancestors. Describe the longevity of universal religions in Africa e.g. Christian roots in Ethiopia in the 3rd century c.e. and Islam in East, North and West Africa (8th-9th centuries, CE)
- Discuss African leaders within historical, political, economic, and social contexts. Avoid simplistically blaming corrupt leaders for the country’s ills,
Writing or Illustrating a Book?
What It’s Like to Work with a Literary Agent by Tomi Adeyemi.