The African Queen is White.

Ondria Hardin, a 16-year-old white model poses as “African Queen” in Numero Magazine.

Don’t mistake exotification for cultural appropriation, especially when NOTHING about this reflects the image it claims to be projecting. What about this portrait is African or regal??? Not the Eurocentric fabric, design/style and certainly not her posture(would ANY queen, let alone an African one, be captured in that stance?). Incidentally, this happens to be ALL the picture has to offer, meaning all there is to appreciate(hypothetically) is EUROPEAN. Why couldn’t they just hire an African girl, or at least one of African descent? Because archetypically African features are much more appreciated when mimicked by someone of another culture. This is hardly contentious because I’ve NEVER seen African royalty grace the cover of a magazine, let alone be internationally appreciated for their aesthetics, but we’ve ALL seen Kate Middleton’s breasts.

I’ve spoken before about the Eurocentric definition of what constitutes royalty, and this portrait echoes my claim that African royalty is marginalized.

 Let’s call this “African Queen” misnomer what it is: ethnographic patronization. This is extremely disconcerting, and unfortunately not the only of its kind.

I’m one of those people who advocate publicizing African culture simply because girls like me need to see a positive images of themselves in the media. This can be done without compromising a people’s dignity or pretending to appreciate our culture while making “necessary adjustments”. 

This is why I NEED to work for Africa. This is what happens when my image is left in the hands of someone who isn’t me, doesn’t appreciate me, and defines beauty as opposite to me.

-Maleele Choongo

Is Social Media Democratizing Africa?

As an African in the Diaspora who still holds her Zambian citizenship, I can identify with the quest for a technological bridge back to Africa. Engagement and information are key factors in any citizen’s political participation. In light of this, I was overwhelmed to see that #KEDebate13 is trending WORLDWIDE on Twitter. Not only are people engaging in this dialogue IN Kenya, we are beginning to see the proliferation of worldwide attention and accountability. Kenya, like several sub-Saharan African nations, do not hold the reputation of peaceful elections.These candidates know that the WORLD is watching, and in REAL TIME. Not only the candidates, but also the electorate!  I am especially excited for the Kenyans in the Diaspora, who are being afforded the opportunity to deliberate and take on their civic duties. 

Now that these technological resources are made available, refusal for other countries to extend them to the international community is CIVIC DEPRIVATION. As democracy seeks to maximize participation, social media is the mechanism in which we can appropriate political education, with no respect to geography. Happy Monday :) 

-Maleele Choongo