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Africa Is Not a Country: Notes on a Bright Continent

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Definitive proof that Africa is *not* a country. A lively, entertaining and informative portrait of modern Africa that pushes back against harmful stereotypes. Over a billion people have been reduced to one simple story. Africa Is Not a Country fills in the gaps. So often Africa is depicted simplistically as a red landscape of safaris and famines. In this funny, insightful b Definitive proof that Africa is *not* a country. A lively, entertaining and informative portrait of modern Africa that pushes back against harmful stereotypes. Over a billion people have been reduced to one simple story. Africa Is Not a Country fills in the gaps. So often Africa is depicted simplistically as a red landscape of safaris and famines. In this funny, insightful book Dipo Faloyin corrects this view to create a fresh and positive view of the continent. By turns intimate and political, he looks at buzzy urban life in Lagos and the lively West African rivalry over who makes the best jollof rice, before giving us the story of democracy in ten dictatorships, an insight into different regional accents and the colonial foundation of many countries which are still younger than your grandparents. We learn about the dangers of white saviours and the cultural significance of Aunties, and he provides us with a tour guide of where citizens of several African countries need to travel to visit their own cultural artefacts - 90% of which are in museums outside the continent. We immerse ourselves in the energy and fabric of many different cultures and communities as Dipo shows his deep love of the region - as a concept, as a promise and as a reality.


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Definitive proof that Africa is *not* a country. A lively, entertaining and informative portrait of modern Africa that pushes back against harmful stereotypes. Over a billion people have been reduced to one simple story. Africa Is Not a Country fills in the gaps. So often Africa is depicted simplistically as a red landscape of safaris and famines. In this funny, insightful b Definitive proof that Africa is *not* a country. A lively, entertaining and informative portrait of modern Africa that pushes back against harmful stereotypes. Over a billion people have been reduced to one simple story. Africa Is Not a Country fills in the gaps. So often Africa is depicted simplistically as a red landscape of safaris and famines. In this funny, insightful book Dipo Faloyin corrects this view to create a fresh and positive view of the continent. By turns intimate and political, he looks at buzzy urban life in Lagos and the lively West African rivalry over who makes the best jollof rice, before giving us the story of democracy in ten dictatorships, an insight into different regional accents and the colonial foundation of many countries which are still younger than your grandparents. We learn about the dangers of white saviours and the cultural significance of Aunties, and he provides us with a tour guide of where citizens of several African countries need to travel to visit their own cultural artefacts - 90% of which are in museums outside the continent. We immerse ourselves in the energy and fabric of many different cultures and communities as Dipo shows his deep love of the region - as a concept, as a promise and as a reality.

30 review for Africa Is Not a Country: Notes on a Bright Continent

  1. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Hicklin

    I have learnt SO. MUCH. from this book. Absolutely mindblown and so so so so happy that I read it. Brilliantly written.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    (Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) When I glanced over the table of contents and the various topics that Dipo Faloyin’s Africa is Not a Country was to cover, I initially wasn’t sure what to make of them. Ranging from the carve-up of the continent by European powers, to the jollof rice rivalry that exists between several west African nations, to a brief visit to his native Lagos, it all felt a little disparate to me. But once I was several chapters in, I (Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) When I glanced over the table of contents and the various topics that Dipo Faloyin’s Africa is Not a Country was to cover, I initially wasn’t sure what to make of them. Ranging from the carve-up of the continent by European powers, to the jollof rice rivalry that exists between several west African nations, to a brief visit to his native Lagos, it all felt a little disparate to me. But once I was several chapters in, I found myself completely engrossed. Faloyin’s selected subjects work as both a mercilessly fierce multi-pronged attack on the long-standing stereotypes of Africa as a famine/poverty/corruption/war-stricken, rural, backward Lion King-esque monolith of a land and also a fantastic introduction to the continent’s true diversity and complexity. The book almost feels like a must-read for untold many, and not just for those caught in the thrall of a simplistic all-Africa-is-all-just-the-same mindset. I came into the book with a somewhat better grasp of reality than that. However, the avalanche of information that Faloyin provided through his sharp writing made me intensely aware of all that I didn’t really know (which turned out to be quite a lot, to say the least). Also, to my great appreciation it simultaneously gave me a large head start in filling in my relevant knowledge gaps. As I worked my way from chapter to chapter, I compiled a sizably long mental and also physical lists of people, places, and other items that I wanted to explore further on my own later - which to me, is always an indisputable mark of a high-quality work of myth-busting non-fiction. Packed from beginning to start with immense informative and eye-opening power, Africa is Not a Country is definitely not a title to be overlooked. After I suggest this for purchase at both the academic library I work at and my local public library, I look forward to overzealously recommending it to my friends and family.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mikey

    4.5 stars. Witty and insightful, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the way it made me confront preconceptions of my own which I had not realised I had. This personalised journey offers a concise and informative whistle stop tour through some of the most egregious examples of how the West views, and has influenced, Africa. My only criticism would be that I wish some parts were more fleshed out as I was left eager to learn more.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Irmelin Vestrum

    Apparently there are no stereotypes about women in Africa, good for them.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tutankhamun18

    This book is a current, fresh and poignant piece about how Africa consists of 54 seperate countries with seperate cultures, histories, politics and people. It is divided into eight parts. Part 1 Lagos - The author offers a personal and evocative depiction of Lagos, which immediately pulls the reader in with rich language in a conversational style. Part 2 By the Power Vested in Me, I Now Pronounce You a Country - This was one of my two davourite parts of the book. An interesting overview, with a fe This book is a current, fresh and poignant piece about how Africa consists of 54 seperate countries with seperate cultures, histories, politics and people. It is divided into eight parts. Part 1 Lagos - The author offers a personal and evocative depiction of Lagos, which immediately pulls the reader in with rich language in a conversational style. Part 2 By the Power Vested in Me, I Now Pronounce You a Country - This was one of my two davourite parts of the book. An interesting overview, with a few well chosen details, of how Africa was divided jnto countries by men who had never visited and were ignorant of communities, access to religious sites, natural resources and terrain. Thus seeds for conflict were sown as country lines seperated groups from sites, cut through nomadic paths or used rivers as dividers that shift year by year or in response to climate change. Part 3 The Birth of White Saviour Imagery or How Not to Be a White Saviour While Still Making a Difference - Reads easy, the content like Chinua Achebe’s Africa’s Tarnished Name but updated with context and examples for 2022. Part 4 The Story of Democracy in Seven Dictatorships - Is a well written overview of 7 African Political Dictators and what made them such and how they rose to power; Sani Abache from Nigeria, Siad Barre from Somalia, Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe and the history of Rhodesia,Paul Kagame from Rwanda,Abdelaziz Bouteflika from Algeria and the Mbasogo family from Equitorial Guinea. This was my other favourite piece from the book. Part 5 There is No Such Thing as an African Accent and Binyavanga Wainaina Is Still Right - is a paired piece of writing about how stereotypically Africa is portrayed in film and media and how this has had a few notable exceptions that prove the rule. Part 6 The Case of the Stolen Artifacts - An exploration of how artifacta were taken from African civilisations and are displayed by European Museums and the promises to retirn them that have not been fulfilled. Interesting, but have heard this discourse many other places. Part 7 Jollof Wars: A Love Story - a love letter to Jollof Rice, particularly of the Nigerian kind and some of the cultural importance that it has. Fun piece of writing. Part 8 Whats Next? - An outlook of the current state of politics in several African countries via examples of positive ground roots action that has occured, ends on a hopeful note for the development of African countries.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Teghan

    I enjoyed this book. And it’s spurred more reading and watching on particular topics mentioned (sign of good nonfiction.) But it’s not perfect, or more accurately, not exactly what I expected. The book starts with a wonderful portrait of his home city of Lagos. The writing occasionally stepped into the verbose for me, but overall was vivid and rich. Next the book covers historical context, the Berlin conference, how Africa is depicted in western media, various dictators, and colonial violence and I enjoyed this book. And it’s spurred more reading and watching on particular topics mentioned (sign of good nonfiction.) But it’s not perfect, or more accurately, not exactly what I expected. The book starts with a wonderful portrait of his home city of Lagos. The writing occasionally stepped into the verbose for me, but overall was vivid and rich. Next the book covers historical context, the Berlin conference, how Africa is depicted in western media, various dictators, and colonial violence and thievery. All of this was fascinating, and surprisingly easy to get through due to his smooth writing style. (I was particularly fascinated with Rwanda, it’s leader Paul Kagame and the country post 1994 genocide.) I can’t really critique it. However as much as he talks in the opening about Africa not wanting to be defined solely on it’s poverty or violence (any more than a western country wants to be by their poverty and violence) it felt odd to then spend a lot of the book talking about the context around poverty and violence. Since he works at vice, I can understand why exploring the effect images and video can have in informing and misinforming is important to him, but I felt at times he was spending too much time telling me how he doesn’t want me to see Africa, rather than telling me what he does want me to know/think/learn about Africa. The last couple of chapters were more what I was expecting and came alive with tales of Jollof rice, football, current activist groups and various media. I wanted more of this. I wanted more of who these African countries are now, what normal people’s lives are like. I don’t think he quite succeeded in replacing those stale, cliched images with anything more vibrant and accurate (except for his home city of Lagos). So yes, I recommend this book! But it is more about why we think of Africa as a country, providing context and history in order to break up our monolithic idea, rather than replacing them with a new modern-day image. If you go in with these expectations you will get a lot out of it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rob Manwaring

    Brilliant. A collection of essays and writings which attack the stereotypes about 'Africa'. There are three sections in particular, that stood out for me. First, the series of vignettes about goverance in a number of countries - by understanding democracy through autocracy, with some complex cases, like Kagame's Rwanda. Second, the map drawing of the 1880s which set off the 'scramble' - almost unimaginable in condesion of the West, and finally, the section on repatriating the literally millions o Brilliant. A collection of essays and writings which attack the stereotypes about 'Africa'. There are three sections in particular, that stood out for me. First, the series of vignettes about goverance in a number of countries - by understanding democracy through autocracy, with some complex cases, like Kagame's Rwanda. Second, the map drawing of the 1880s which set off the 'scramble' - almost unimaginable in condesion of the West, and finally, the section on repatriating the literally millions of artefacts currently sequestered in Western museums. But, despite the seriousness, this is a very funny book, and Faloyin channels the brilliance of Binyavanga Wainaina - in particular this brilliant gem: https://granta.com/how-to-write-about...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    It's been a long time since I read a book cover-to-cover in day. Happy Memorial Day. This compellingly readable history of colonialism, as it affects charity, art, politics, music, sport, food and more is also wildly eye-opening. The takedown of "Do they know it's Christmas" is especially scathing - I remember hearing that song a few Christmases ago and thinking "Wow, these lyrics are something!" while DEFINITELY not thinking that the first 1,000 times I heard this song. The more we know. Someda It's been a long time since I read a book cover-to-cover in day. Happy Memorial Day. This compellingly readable history of colonialism, as it affects charity, art, politics, music, sport, food and more is also wildly eye-opening. The takedown of "Do they know it's Christmas" is especially scathing - I remember hearing that song a few Christmases ago and thinking "Wow, these lyrics are something!" while DEFINITELY not thinking that the first 1,000 times I heard this song. The more we know. Someday I'll be retired and I'll be able to spend a few additional days reading all the citations too.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Miles

    Covering colonialism, dictators, music, popular culture, geography, film, politics, and above all why stereotypical depictions of Africa are so inaccurate and harmful. This book doesn't stay in the past, but talks about injustice today (the chapter on how museums today treat Africa's stolen artefacts was particularly eye opening), and gives a witty picture of modern 'Africa'. Essential reading for anyone having to do with the continent in one way or another, so everyone. Covering colonialism, dictators, music, popular culture, geography, film, politics, and above all why stereotypical depictions of Africa are so inaccurate and harmful. This book doesn't stay in the past, but talks about injustice today (the chapter on how museums today treat Africa's stolen artefacts was particularly eye opening), and gives a witty picture of modern 'Africa'. Essential reading for anyone having to do with the continent in one way or another, so everyone.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Covers a wide variety of different countries in Africa. It tells short vignettes of what life is like for children there. Great illustrations. Love that it provides more information about each county at the end.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Millie Spencer

    Absolutely fantastic. Each chapter taught me something new about history, culture, and the experience and legacy of colonial invasion that I was embarrassed not to know previously. A true pleasure to read

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sveinung Haaland

    A mix of anecdotes and history but no real direction. Lots of words that don't say much beyond what the title does. If you already knew that African is not a country, I would not recommend reading this book. A mix of anecdotes and history but no real direction. Lots of words that don't say much beyond what the title does. If you already knew that African is not a country, I would not recommend reading this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Deb Lancaster

    Fascinating, entertaining and enraging. Excellent all round

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tamara

    Fascinating read and great framework on how one can begin to view the complexities and intricacies of the countries within the continent of Africa.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dominique

    This is an amazing book that should be required reading in every highschool.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bolade Lasaki

    Definitely an eye opener. Very highly recommended

  17. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This book is incredible. EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS. Please pick this up.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Graeme Eyre

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bianca ONeill

  21. 4 out of 5

    Morrison Cole

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paige Richardson

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maria

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anna McIntyre

  25. 5 out of 5

    Monika

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julia Denton

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eleri Riglar

  28. 4 out of 5

    vreep

  29. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dan Burgess

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