Friday, December 23, 2011

Rewriting Africa: My Top 10 Blogs and Websites of 2011

While the mainstream media’s coverage of African nations, and Africa as a whole, is still fairly disappointing, with stories usually being an assemblage of obvious narrative themes and cheap tricks, there is a great deal of dynamic reporting and blogging on African issues taking place at the moment.

Here is a list of blogs and websites that focus on Africa that I have been reading throughout the year:

Africa is a Country is one of my favourite blogs, despite the fact that some of the commentary can be quite snarky in tone. Its blend of media and cultural criticism, along with arts and culture reviews and criticism is a reminder that Africa’s story is not just about maternal and infant mortality statistics, ‘development’, war famine and conflict. It’s pithy slogan states:

“The media blog that is not about famine, Bono, or Barack Obama. For that, go to Newsweek.”

I am such a great fan of this blog because it underlines the importance of media and cultural representations of Africa. As journalists, I think we should never underestimate the power of representation and the way in which we use language, imagery, tropes, and narrative techniques to depict people and places, because this has real world consequences, particularly in areas of the world where many people do not have the education, or the means or the power to represent themselves.

Africa is a Country also offers sophisticated analysis of both pop culture and high art, and draws attention to the work of African writers, artists and intellectuals, and the fact that Africa and Africans are not defined by an endless struggle for survival. Their 2011 Hall of Shame is a great read.  

A friend of mine who is based in Ghana, Matt Muspratt also writes some sharp and nuanced criticism of mainstream media representations of Africa.

This is also a great blog and I’m not just saying so because I write for it. African Arguments is the blog for the Royal African Society, and has a mixture of pieces on issues and various African countries written by academics, journalists and activists. It’s heartening to know that there are so many people out there who are deeply engaged with issues and debates within Africa. African Arguments will also be launching a blog early next year called Diaspora Debate: ‘a forum for exciting, informed and vigorous debate and comment on the issues engaging the African Diaspora’.

This site focuses on some aesthetic and cultural movements within Africa and among the diaspora and is also focused on challenging dominant perceptions about Africa. Fiona Leonard, a friend and fellow blogger, based in Ghana interviewed the editor Missla Libsekal earlier this year. Fiona's interview offers a good overview of the site’s mission.

This is the blog of American photojournalist Glenna Gordon. I met Glenna when covering the elections in Liberia in October-November. Glenna’s photographs are intimate, beautiful and poetic. She writes about Africa but focuses a lot on Liberia in her writing and work.

Think Africa Press is not a blog, but offers many things – commentary, analysis, literary reviews and news stories, with many of the pieces written by African writers and reporters. The site/online magazine is still in its infancy, but I admire the ambition of the project: to present Africa in a multidimensional light, through the prism of a wide range of themes and issues rather than the ones audiences are used to. I anticipate this site receiving a great deal of attention as it develops.

Baobab is the Economist’s sharp and concise blog on Africa.

If you are interested in Nigeria, one of Africa’s most culturally, politically and economically dynamic nations, Sahara Reporters is a must read. The site was founded by Omoyele Sowore, a human rights and pro-democracy campaigner. Despite the fact the site is run from New York, with its network of reporters in Nigeria and throughout the world, it manages to break news, sometimes well ahead of local newspapers and major wire services.

A Nigerian investigative reporter introduced me to this site. It is an online platform through which Nigerians can report instances of abuse and corruption by the police. The site is a very interesting site, and ambitious attempt to tackle a seemingly indomitable problem. I only wish someone developed the same thing in Ghana.

I included this site because it is innovative and challenges this idea that corruption (and brutality) is an inherent part of Nigerian culture and society that cannot be changed.

Mac-Jordan Degadjor 
Anyone interested in technological innovation, social media and the Internet in Ghana and Africa should read Mac-Jordan's blog. 

While I don’t read this blog regularly I think it is a really important one. Authored by two Ghanaian women, the blog is a forum for African women to discuss their sexuality and offer each other tips and so on. I’m hoping to interview one of the authors in an upcoming post.

Thanks for reading North of Nowhere and have a Merry Christmas and a great New Year.