The Western world, generally speaking, is not kind to Africa and its native inhabitants. We acknowledge Africa's existence, but we do not want to see or understand anything about it beyond the obvious: overt things that are open to criticism like Apartheid (a European invention). The occasional praiseworthy entity is given momentary applause, but felicitations are short-lived and quickly forgotten. These statements refer just to politics, so one can imagine the rightful indignation by twentieth-century African writers when their work is largely ignored in favor of such enlightening fare as Heart of Darkness. One writer, Chinua Achebe, seeks to change this view by illustrating the complex, unquestionably civilized rituals and protocols of day-to-day African life. He is not alone in his endeavor, as several other writers also portray an Africa worthy of respect while they crumble the long-standing traditions of ignorant bias and patronization.
Can Achebe really change the perception that Africa is nothing more than the heart of an immense darkness that surrounds all of us? That is exactly what he tries to do in his essay on racism. He ascertains that "white racism against Africa is such a normal way of thinking that its manifestations go completely unremarked." He further questions the classification of Heart of Darkness (or any work that dehumanizes Africans) as a "great work of art" (12). Obviously, this essay is more direct in its attack on the standard view of Africa than his novels, but Achebe uses the essay forum to state his hopes about the future of African literature in the West. He wants to rehabilitate this image that he keeps seeing from everyone who ha...
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...oroughly rehabilitated me towards Africans in literature. Only a few billion more to go until Achebe can call his project a success.
Achebe, Chinua. "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays. New York: Anchor, 1990.
-- -- --. No Longer at Ease. London: Heinemann, 1960.
-- -- --. Things Fall Apart. 1958. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, Expanded Edition, Vol. 1. Ed. Maynard Mack. London: Norton, 1995.
Ba, Mariama. So Long a Letter. 1980. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, Expanded Edition, Vol. 1. Ed. Maynard Mack. London: Norton, 1995.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Signet, 1997.
Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King's Horseman. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, Expanded Edition, Vol. 1. Ed. Maynard Mack. London: Norton, 1995.
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