Bath Literature Festival: Writers unite against 'worst kind of stereotyping' of Africa in the media

 

The truth about the world's most violent conflict zones isn't black or white, scary or idyllic, corrupt or democratic. Yet our media tries to make it so.

This was the message from two expert, boots-on-the-ground writers about Africa at the Bath Literature Festival. As Ben Rawlence, author of Radio Congo, told The Independent after his talk: "There seems to be a race to the bottom on journalism, which accelerates the worst kind of stereotyping."

James Fergusson, who wrote The World's Most Dangerous Place, about Somalia, agreed. He felt that this helped to create barriers to understanding, which we sorely need. “The idea that 'citizen journalism' can somehow fill the gap is just wrong,” he said. “The texture of grassroots reporting is different – grainier, perhaps more lively. But there's no one filtering that, sorting fact from manipulation, doing the forensic analysis.“

Most people's view of Somalia, Fergusson pointed out, was probably drawn from the movie Black Hawk Down, which Ridley Scott filmed there. "But no country could possibly be as violent or computer game-ish as that."

It would be foolhardy to ignore the risks of reporting from such areas. But as Aminatta Forna, the session's chair and author of The Devil Who Danced on the Water, put it: "I've hitch-hiked through the Congo, and as a woman alone I sometimes felt that I'd rather break down in a car there than here."

When Rawlence first went to the Congo, he realised that most media correspondents had never been outside the hottest conflict zones. His reaction had been to learn Swahili so he could travel independently and form a more balanced view of the area. "I found that if I pitched up tired, hungry and dirty and asked for food and a bed, most ordinary people were incredibly welcoming."

What's on: Friday 8 March

11.15am Cecil Beaton. Introduction to the archive of war photographs taken by the legendary snapper.

1pm When Good Religion Goes Bad. Today's Independent Voices debate looks at religious conflicts.

1pm The Du Maurier Sisters. Jane Dunn explains how Daphne and her sisters lived lives of social and sexual non-conformity.

6.15pm Gavin Esler: Lessons from the Top. The Newsnight presenter explains how world leaders used stories to gain power.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week