Budding filmmaker Nosarieme Garrick is on a mission to change the world's perceptions about Africa. She, along with Kathleen Bomani, are the forces behind My Africa Is, an upcoming independent documentary series which aims to show a different side of the African continent. The show is focused on profiling young people who are overcoming adversity and creating change within their communities however they can.
We spoke with Nosa about her project, misconceptions about the continent, and what her Africa is.
How did you come upon the idea of creating My Africa Is…
It actually started out when I was writing for AfriPOP! I was contributing to the mag, and initially it was about getting my clips up and getting some experience. I got sent to cover a lot of cool events, and interviewed people who blew my mind. For the first time, honestly, I started being proud of being African, because there were so many inspirational stories I heard. Then I headed to Nigeria to do some work around our elections, and there I met even more people doing great things and decided to go full speed ahead with the documentary series. It was time for us to actually tell these stories, because these were the stories that inspired me to want to do something, and contribute to Africa's growth. Africans are insanely talented, and it's important that we contribute our talents to our continent's development. I see this as a something that will push people to think about how they personally can contribute to Africa in their own creative manner, and hope that the stories of their peers living and working in Africa could inspire them.
What do you hope to achieve with it?
Beyond getting young Africans to fall in deeper love with Africa, I hope it will push them to want to protect it even more, and help unleash it's humongous potential. I also think the world has been done a disservice with their skewed view of Africa. They don't know what they are missing out on. Since I moved to the US, I found myself constantly defending the continent, to people who made uneducated assumptions, and it's not their fault, it's the broad and homogenous narrative that you see on the news. Consider this to be alternative reporting, we're not trying to win ratings, by pulling at heart strings, neither are we trying to gloss over the obvious short comings of the various countries. We are in effect on a mission to give a more complete view of what Africa is, in her size, her diversity, her population, and her reality.
The West is saturated with images of an impoverished Africa. Which Africa will you be showing?
We won't be showing the minority of the African elite popping champagne in the clubs. We will be showing the Africa we encounter, as we do profiles on young people who are living on the continent, and are trying to create something to benefit their communities. We're not trying to put a “spin” on Africa. So I'm not sure we can put a label on the Africa we'll be showing. We'll be showing Africa with an emphasis on the different cities within Africa.
What, do you think, are still the greatest misconceptions about Africa?
There are the obvious ones of poverty, war, famine. I wouldn't say these are misconceptions, so much as generalizations. Most of Africa's popula
tion lives below the poverty line; there's been a recent coup and insurgency in Mali, and the DRC is still not rid of war. There are leaders on their deathbeds, who fight to hold on to power. The problem is that's where the narrative ends. A lot of people can't name a dictator, they just know that there are dictators. They see poverty, they don't see people rising out of it. They hear famine, and talk about the famine in Africa, not in a specific location. So that's the issue, the misconceptions are that everyone is living the same way, in a jungle, where there is no food, and there's a dictator sending troops to terrorize them.
Do you think social media has helped dispel some of the myths about Africa? If so, in what way?
Social media has given a voice to people from all around the world. So we're more readily able to hear someone's point of view who's actually living in a country where a news report is being done. It's created a watering hole for Africans to talk about what it is to be African, but I wouldn't say it has reached the mainstream. We're still able to pick and choose what is interesting to us. You'll find despite all the information out there, there is still not a whole lot of interest, because the poor Africa narrative has been so deeply engrained in people in general. While we Africans are able to talk about how fabulous life is there, turn to mainstream channels, they show the exact opposite, and people are still tuning into those.
Why is it important to you to dispel the myths?
I think it's important to put the myths into context. What areas are rural, where is there poverty, where is there a war, why is there a war. The battle is about the oversimplified narrative, that scares people from discovering Africa, from traveling, from investing, from establishing businesses there. Change on the continent is not going to come from aid, that gets siphoned off by the administrative bodies. It's going to come from the creation of opportunity for the layman, and that will come from trade and investment, leading to the demand for skilled workers, leading to employment, which is empowerment. It's about creating a narrative that advocates sustainable development.
What can we, as everyday Africans, do to help the world be more aware of our beautiful continent?
Find ways to tell our stories, be responsible to our culture, and remember that we are representative of it.
Finish the sentence: “My Africa is…”
My Africa is waiting for it's potential to be unleashed.
As of late there seems to be a ubiquitous (and failing if you ask me) global effort to “Rebrand Africa” (yes, now they are doing us a favor) ,this is not what My Africa is, Nosa and I deeply believe in the need to preserve and tell our own stories from our own perspectives (we are not team band wagon). In addition there seems to be a growth of “fatigue” from the counter punch stemming from the more amplified African voices of disapproval at oversimplified narratives and our shoddy portrayal in the mainstream, all i ask is to challenge ourselves as Africans is to always speak out when things appear amiss, when our story no longer appears to be our own. if not us, then who?
Click here to help Nosarieme and Kathleen fund the My Africa Is documentary series.