Nigerian couple aims to show the other side of the story
By Woodrow Wilkins / email@example.com
GREENVILLE - “Why do Africans have tribal marks?” asks Jonathan of Ontario, Canada.
“Are African men the sole bread winners?” asks Anita of Charleston, S.C.
“Do parents still give their children out in marriage without their consent?” asks Kimberly of Florida.
These are examples of the kinds of questions asked in the second edition of Goge Africa, a publication that's being shared with those in the Greenville area who met the magazine's operators: Isaac and Nneka Moses.
The issue, published in 2006, includes a feature about Umoja, a South African dance ensemble; an interview with Kanayo O. Kanayo, who won Best Actor in the Africa Movie Academy Awards; articles on fashion and Nollywood, the most popular African movie industry; and a piece Sade Turnipseed wrote about Mississippi Delta-born bluesman B.B. King. The articles are accompanied by colorful photographs.
Isaac is chief executive officer, and Nneka is editor in chief. The couple visited Greenville last week, spending time with Turnipseed, the couple's friend who is the recently appointed director of Cultural Arts Programming for Mississippi Action for Community Education. Their association is not only about friendship, but also about their mutual efforts to promote the cultural aspects of their homes and to show positive images that historically have not been presented by major media.
The couple's focus is to connect an international African community, spreading positive images about Africans who have immigrated to other countries as well as African descendants in those countries.
“Every year, some two or three times, we travel to America or Europe,” Nneka Moses said.
The Moses meet African Americans and others to interview, photograph and record video for both their magazine and Goge Africa TV, which is broadcast to some 40 million people across the continent of Africa.
Last week's visit was an opportunistic one. The couple arrived two days before Turnipseed was introduced as MACE's new director of Cultural Arts Programming. The visit also coincided with Black History Month.
Among other things, the Moses want to spotlight the blues in Africa and share with their audience the similarities between African cultures and places where black people live outside of Africa.
“They do not give us proper information about black people,” Nneka Moses said.
She said major news media reports, such as those seen on CNN, tend to show only the negatives. If it's in America, the images are of criminals, poor people or young men wearing pants that sag. If it's in Africa, the images are of poverty, starvation or war.
“What you see of Africa is the ‘Tarzan' image,” she said.
“That's not all there is to Africa,” Isaac Moses said.
The couple also tries to educate fellow Africans.
“Most people in Nigeria don't know about their neighbors,” Nneka Moses said, referring to such nations as Ghana, Togo, Mali and Camaroon. “When you have money, the first urge is to go to Europe or America and experience Western culture.”
Another goal is to promote tourism within Africa. Most visitors are from other parts of the world, but very few Africans tour within the continent.
“It's not hip,” Isaac Moses said.
“It's the colonial mentality,” his wife added.
It works against internal promotion because Africans view American and European values as symbols of class.
“You've become successful because the Western world has approved,” Isaac Moses said.
That lack of familiarity is particularly striking when considering how much Africans know about the United States.
“We can tell you about festivals in America, but we can't tell you about festivals in the Congo,” Nneka Moses said.
The couple also wants the people of Africa to realize that people like them are all around the world. For example, they told the story of a black woman in the Mount Pleasant area of South Carolina who practices the art of basket weaving.
When shown video of her, Africans thought she was from their continent. Nothing about her appearance or her surroundings distinguished her.
“Only when she spoke did they believe she was American,” Nneka Moses said.
While in Greenville, the couple met such local blues artists as Mississippi Slim and Little Dave Thompson. On Saturday, they visited Clarksdale, where they had dinner at Morgan Freeman's restaurant, Madidi.
They were scheduled to leave the Delta today and travel to South Carolina.
At least they are willing to ANSWER QUESTIONS.
Still alot of WORK NEEDS to be DONE on BOTH SIDES of the ATLANTIC