The satirical essay “How to Write about Africa” by Binyavanga Wainaina focuses on the topic of clichés and stereotypes about Africa in Western media and literature.

Binyavanga Wainaina’s overall intention is to criticise Western authors, journalists, and media for reducing the African continent to simplistic, often negative, stereotypes, and ignoring the diversity of African countries and many of the everyday experiences of ordinary people living in Africa.

Criticising fiction and non-fiction writers

The first part of the essay focuses on travel writers and media who only explore exotic aspects of Africa and convey a simplistic negative image of the continent and its people. To criticise them, Wainaina uses antithesis such as: “It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates.”. Here, Wainaina shows how authors often pick their version of Africa and ignore all other aspects of the continent, geographically and culturally.

He also uses irony and satire to convey how these authors think of Africa: “If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woma...

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