Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “the older I get, the less interested I am in how the West sees Africa, and the more interested I am in how Africa sees itself.”

Last night Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture at PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature.

In the Q&A session afterwards, she said:

“You know I’ve actually found that the older I get, the less interested I am in how the West sees Africa, and the more interested I am in how Africa sees itself. I used to spend a lot of emotional energy being angry, but now I’m actually much more interested in Kenya covering Nigeria than I am in the U.S. covering Nigeria. And I think there’s a lot changing on the continent… There’s the fact for example that a foreign journalist comes to Nigeria and a Nigerian journalist wants to get an interview with the Nigerian President, the foreign journalist is more likely to get the interview. That’s a problem. How do we solve it? We need to just stop being stupid…

The idea that what happened in Paris was in the front cover of newspapers in the U.S., and what happened in Nigeria wasn’t. There are practical things to me. There’s that it’s harder to get access to the parts of Nigeria that’s been overrun by Boko Haram. It’s much easier to go to Paris. But also I think that we need to talk about who’s telling the story. I think that the people who make the decisions in the newsrooms just feel a closer affinity to France than they do to Nigeria. It doesn’t make them bad, it just is what it is. I wish that Boko Haram had been on the cover of every African newspaper. But it wasn’t, and that’s what I want to talk about truthfully…

I want to say that I’m becoming this sort of isolationist person, but I’m not. I do think that the West matters. I do think that engagement matters. But increasingly I’m not as interested as I used to be in this idea that somehow the western gaze should be that biding, interesting subject of the people on the continent of Africa. And also what it means then is we start to cut to those really ugly, dangerous colonial ties. But it’s much about a continent that is […] You know people say, ‘You can’t fly [directly], you must go to Paris first from Lagos. There are just things that are outdated, and I just find myself so much more interested in thinking and talking about those things that I am in […] the fact that the coverage of Ebola in the American press was so atrocious. It really was. I don’t want to get started or I’ll go on this whole rant.”

Massive hat tip to okayafrica for posting about this. There’s a link to a video of her saying this on their Facebook page.

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