Myopic View of PANAFEST Illustrates Writer’s Prejudices

To the editors:

This is in response to “Delusions in the Dark Continent” (postcard, Aug. 12), which I find downright condescending, insulting, and obnoxious. The article is premised on the writer’s prejudices and distorts facts to illustrate his condescension of African peoples.

It is befitting to his motives, therefore, that he writes that the chief aim of PANAFEST is “To establish the truth about the history of Africa” instead of “To establish the truth about the history of Africa and experience of its people, using the vehicle of African arts and culture” (emphasis added). In fact, the Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival, PANAFEST, is primarily an Arts and Culture festival, according to , and as such other festivals it promotes a united spirit among its participants—in this case, “Africans and people of African descent as well as all persons committed to the well being of Africans on the Continent and in the Diaspora.” While the author’s choice to exclude himself from the spirit of the festival a priori is surprising, the inferences he draws from his self-exclusion are shocking.

When I slept through successive visits to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I never once blamed the music or conductor to be “sordid,” “tedious,” “egotistic,” “uninspired,” or any of the myriad missives that the author uses against the festival. Instead, I admitted that I could not just appreciate the music. Such an admission is beneath the author, who proceeds with his snide remarks: incompetent journalists, “tough locals,” thieving Rastafarians, and “egotistic politicos.” His comments on the African-American participants are equally uncalled for. While millions of white tourists travel to cultural sites in Africa every year, there is only a “dark” irony in “hundreds” of African-Americans traveling to the PANAFEST.

While I sympathize with him for the “Don’t you feel guilty?” incident, it is very insulting of him to suggest that Africans are “deluded” and live in a “dark continent.” It is such a condescending attitude that led his supposedly righteous British liberators to expel Africans from their arable lands leading to land problems that still trouble post-colonial African states. The same British were responsible for a gulag of 1.5 million Kenyans and the murder of hundreds of thousands well into the United Nations era. His other righteous liberators were even worse: the Germans massacred 90 percent of Herero people in Namibia, the Belgians 40 percent of Congo’s pre-colonial population, and the Dutch setting up apartheid in South Africa. To dismiss concerns about such a history as mere “rambling” suggests more about his attitude than his knowledge.

I suggest to him, however, that evil has no race. These “white oppressors,” as he calls them, were as evil as their black counterparts who committed atrocities on their victims. However, his keenness on picking up observations that suits his argument that blacks have an obsession with a “Blame the Whitey” attitude suggests that he only saw what he wanted to see in the festival.

ISAAC N. OCHIENG ’07

August 18, 2005