I was somewhat perplexed and mildly irritated when I came across a news story on the BBC website this morning. The news item details a case taking place in Zimbabwe where three women are accused of raping a number of men for the purposes of harvesting their semen to use in rituals to make them successful in business.
In my mind this couldn’t be more ludicrous than trying to turn water into wine without some supernatural miracle to make it happen. I mean while every man would love to think that the product of their loins hold more power and mysterious properties beyond its baby making potential, it is a little farfetched to imagine that sperm can create riches.
However this is part of the difficulty that Africa faces as it struggles to gain credibility on the International Stage, and I cannot help but wonder if the African Traditional Values do not impinge on the ability of the world to take Africa seriously.
Western culture and Scientific forum wouldn’t for one moment entertain the rumour that people can seriously believe that women would go around raping men for purpose of using their semen in some ritual. Yet it has become a news worthy story for the main stream media in Zimbabwe to report on three women accused of these farfetched crimes against men. It is then not difficult for an organisation like the BBC to pick up on the story, and broadcast the contents of the story to the world at large.
What impact does this kind of reporting have on the image of Africa as a whole. We all acknowledge that there is witchcraft and an occult in practice. Pagan religions and traditional rituals are a part of every society, but are they news worthy? I just cannot help but wonder in the greater scheme of things how much of a dis-service this type of reporting has on our image Internationally.
Imagine sitting in a board meeting with powerful individuals looking to invest in Africa. Imagine they have read or heard of such a story. It is not farfetched to imagine that maybe they would even discuss the matter with their African counterparts, ask their opinion, gauge their reaction. You have to ask yourself, that seen through the eyes of Modern Society, how can we as African people expect to be taken as equals, respected as participants and given the credibility as a people of maturity and substance, when we dwell in a world of cultural mysticism.
I don’t mean to suggest that Africa needs to lose its cultural identity. I accept that in any society there will be elements of society that do not conform with the norm. Modern culture has a tendency to look down on difference with contempt. The men with power have a very black and white impression of the world, and medieval hocus pocus does not have a place in mainstream modern culture.
So do we put ourselves down as we give the floor to traditional rituals and strange pagan practice? Does Brand Africa punch with its weight in the face of suspicion and contempt from other players in the global market place. Personally I believe that there is a time and a place for traditionalism. I accept that witchcraft is a given part of African society, and we will never fully appreciate or understand it as it is a part of our culture that those that practice magic do not want to have exposed to scrutiny or understanding. Furthermore I accept that magic will always be intrinsically part of African society. However I do not believe that this part of our culture enhances our image as a modern, 21st Century society, and for this reason it is something that we should seek less to broadcast.
No one likes to be the laughing stock. We don’t enjoy being the fool at the table. We all have quirks, nuances and differences, but as individuals we learn to mask these, hide them and celebrate them with those that we trust and feel close to. Is this not a lesson we should transpose from our individual experience to our National existence? We must learn that the impression we give the world on a global scale will impact on our ability to be taken seriously and given the respect we deserve Internationally.