Q

Oversimplifying Africa: lessons from a book cover cliché

Why do so many Africa-themed novels look alike? Is an acacia tree against a red sunset really the best we can do?
Why do so many Africa-themed novels look alike?  Neelika Jayawardane, blog editor for  Africa Is A Country and a professor of post-colonial literature, joins Jian to decodes the visual shorthand used on dozens of books about Africa -- namely, a clichéd visual of an acacia tree against a red sunset. 


Jayawardene says the meme-like trend is harmful because it perpetuates a simplistic and colonialist image of a big diverse continent , as well as an image of "otherness that is easy to consume." 

Plenty more where that came from

The rows of books featured at the top of this post, created by History Ph.D. candidate Simon Stevens, are only part of a larger collage featuring this concept. Below you'll find the missing rows that add up to a bigger picture. 

book-covers-2.jpg

What does the alternative look like?

Here are three covers that defy convention. From left to right:  Binyavanga Wainaina's  One Day I Will Write About This Place, featuring the work of Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu ("My Strength Lies" 2007).  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's  AmericanahTeju Cole's  Open City.

africa-non-stereotypical.jpg

We're curious: do you have any Africa-themed books on your shelf? Do they conform to this stereotype or break the mold? Tweet us a photo at @CBCRadioQ or email it to q@cbc.ca. Please do include your thoughts about whether or not this visual representation should be retired.

Our friends at CBC Books have started rounding up the results from your book shelves! See their collection on their site.


. @cbcbooks I've def noticed this. my own books seem to be anomaly but they're not all fiction. #AfricanBookCovers pic.twitter.com/ZCvoVK2wRE-- Sylvia Vandekerkhove (@sylvia9000)May 20, 2014

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