Ah 2015. You had to be there to believe it. 2015, more than ever was the year Africans took a stand against dominant media potrayals and did the unheard of – deigning to diversify the African narrative. Here’s a rundown of the hashtags that surprised, delighted and moved us.
Africans love and do satire well. What started out as poking fun at characteristics and generalisations soon became a riot of laughs. The premise was simple. Motswana writer and satirist, Siyanda Moutsiwa asked:
If Africa was a bar, what would your country be drinking/doing?
— Siyanda-Panda (@SiyandaWrites) July 27, 2015
African Twitter did not disappoint. “A lot of trending topics on African Twitter tend to be negative; it’s usually people complaining,” Mohutsiwa told CNN. “I thought it would be fun to do something we all participated in that was light-hearted and educational for everyone involved.” Politics, colonialism, corruption, fashion, cultural norms. Nothing was left unscathed. And the shade? Inspiring…
#GarissaAttacks & #147NotJustANumber
When one of us bleeds we all bleed. At least 147 vibrant lives were snuffed out in an attack carried out by the militant group Al-Shabaab on a university in north-eastern Kenya. Heavily armed attackers stormed Garissa University College in April, shooting indiscriminately at students. Vigils in memory of the deceased were held all over Africa and the hashtag #147NotJustANumber soon began to trend.
Questions about international media coverage and ethics arose when unauthorised pictures of the dead and wounded surfaced on the internet before victims had been identified and families notified. Within those protestations was a call for us to mourn our own after #JeSuisCharlie (the hashtag in solidarity of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France) seemingly garnered more sympathy from African leaders and news outlets. After the names of the deceased were released #147NotJustANumber became more than a moment of national mourning. Across Africa tweets from Kenyans using the hashtag to share the stories of individual students murdered in the attack began to trend.
— # (@FelixMind) November 28, 2015
Kenyans on Twitter are a solid unit when it comes to patriotism. You do not court the wrath of #KOT. Someone over at CNN clearly didn’t think this one through because they referred to Kenya as “a hotbed of terror” before President Obama’s visit to the east African nation…
Then Kenya’s Interior minister John Nkaiserry kindly asked CNN to apologize for the gaffe… “if they are civilized enough“. Bloop!
We all know the images that mainstream media conjures when they speak about Africa. The Save the Children ads, the filth and squalor… you get the drift. #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou highlighted the positive and uplifting stories and images of Africa; the side seldom seen in popular media. Garnering over 40k tweets – Africans from Cape to Cairo repped their respective countries, cities and cultures. We told y’all Africa is not a country!
Florence Warmate a member of an Abuja-based book club started one of the most eye-opening hashtags of the past year. The conversation was sparked by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay “Everyone Should Be a Feminist,” an adaptation of Adichie’s TED Talk, which went on to be sampled by Beyoncé on “Flawless”.
#BeingfemaleinNigeria The vendor in traffic will put the Forbes Magazine behind and automatically offer you Fashion and City People.
— Iyalaya Anybody (@IjeomaOgud) June 30, 2015
By sharing their experiences of sexism, harassment and discrimination Naija women found a place to commiserate and vent which led women in other African countries to join in with their own country specific #BeingFemaleIn____ tweets.
President John Magufuli of Tanzania hasn’t even been in office for 100 days and he’s already an internet sensation. His frugality and austere approach has made him a beacon of responsible change for many Africans jaded by other African leaders’ extravagant lifestyles and corruption scandals. Magufuli cancelled Independence Day celebrations, banned all but essential foreign travel, and restricted first and business class travel for all officials except the president, vice president and prime minister. African Twitter decided to join in the thriftiness and of course hilarity ensued.
— Victor Mochere (@VictorMochere) November 26, 2015
When I first read the Harry Potter books, I wondered why there weren’t more Africans at the school because if we’re gonna keep it hunnid we are supposedly OGs at this. One Ugandan Quidditch team? Nah. Enter Walle Lawal with hilarity and wit.
Honourable Mentions: #AskMmusi, #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall, #MiniskirtMarch, #BestOfAfricanTwitter2015 #ThanksgivingWithAfricanFamilies
These are a few of the hashtags that got Africans talking, laughing and sometimes crying; expressing deep-seated pain or engaging in lighthearted foolery. Why are these hashtags and trending topics important? Watch Siyanda Mohutsiwa at TEDx Amsterdam as she explains the importance of Africans claiming their space online as a means to get Africans to speak to one another in a “lighthearted, non-hateful sort of way.” Mohutsiwa says, “many Africans know even less about other Africans than some Europeans do about Africa as a whole.” This lack of mutual awareness is not purely the result of ignorance; the African continent has a history of oppressive regimes that flourished on their citizen’s lack of awareness about other ways of being African.