5 Offensive, Yet Hilarious, Myths about Africa

 

As an African girl, I’ve heard and seen it all when it comes to people’s assumptions and stereotypes regarding my continent. From commercials on TV depicting malnourished and needy children, to Nigerian “princes”  scamming poor old ladies out of their pensions on Facebook, Africa certainly hasn’t garnered the best reputation out there. So in this article, we’re going to be debunking 5 hilariously ridiculous myths and stereotypes about the African continent.

1) Yes, it is indeed a continent and not a country.

Photo via Pixabay on Pexels

I know I know, shocking! No but seriously, there are some people out there who genuinely believe that Africa is a country and yes, you should be ashamed. You have no idea how many times I have heard people refer to Africa as a country and I'm always left bewildered, yet slightly amused. Yes Suzy, Africa is a continent and not a country. In fact, not only is it a continent, but did you know that it is the second largest and most diverse continent on Earth? Yup! Africa is home to 54 countries, 3000 tribes and 1500-2000 spoken languages, each of them in different dialects. This brings us to stereotype number two:

 

2) No, none of us speak African (sigh).

Annoyed Gif Giphy

Oh, how I’ve often wished and longed to speak “African” (or whatever that Black Panther language is) I mean, it would certainly make things easier whilst roaming around the hills and crevices of Wakanda. Okay but seriously, there are over 2000 languages spoken within the continent and none of them include African, (again, sigh). However, we do have a most spoken language across the continent and it just so happens to be Swahili, a bantu language which originated on the coast of East Africa and is the official language of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Fun fact, it also happens to be the language that is spoken in The Lion King, which is originally set in Kenya. You know that famous phrase “Hakuna Matata”? Well, that’s Swahili for 'no worries', and “Simba” is actually Swahili for lion, (real creative, lol). Following Swahili, the most spoken languages are Amharic, Yoruba, Oromo, Hausa, Igbo, Zulu, Shona, Arabic, Portuguese and French. Onto stereotype number three:

 

3) We are NOT a monolith, we do not all look, act or behave the same.

African american woman smiling against yellow background wearing flower crown Unsplash

Most people are often surprised at just how diverse the African continent is. As stated above, Africa is the most ethnically diverse continent in the world. We don’t all speak the same language, we do not all look the same and we certainly do not all behave the same way. There are 3000 tribes and over 2000 ethnic groups in Africa. People across the East, West, North and South of Africa are all distinctly different in appearance, language and behaviour. Even within the same countries, people differentiate themselves according to their tribes and languages. In Kenya for example, the Masai who are of the Nilotic ethnic group are very different from Luhyas who are of the Bantu ethnic group. Not only do they speak different languages, but their physical appearance, traditions and lifestyles differ greatly. Also, if you’ve ever wondered where all those fast and high-endurance Kenyan olympic runners come from, they mostly originate from one particular region in the highlands called the Rift Valley. Furthermore, they are mostly from the Kalenjin tribe who are a Nilotic people. But it’s not just Kenya, people differentiate themselves according to tribe in all African countries. Myth number four:

 

4) We do NOT all live in huts or ride our pet lions to school.

low angle of green trees Immortal Shots Even as ridiculous and amusing as that felt to type, there are still people out there who really do think that most of us live in mud huts and trees. In fact, one of my friends once told me that on a school trip to the U.S, she managed to convince some gullible Americans that she primarily rode her pet lion to and from school, while living in the trees. No, I’m not kidding, I’m dead serious. So, no, we don’t all live in mud huts or trees and neither do we have pet lions (although some people might). In all actuality, most African people live in modern cities and many of us live in nice suburbs and lead nice, ordinary and boring lives just like you. We don’t ride our pet lions to go to school, we lug ourselves out of bed every morning at 6am, get into our parents’ cars and contemplate whether or not this education thing is actually worth it, just like you. Which brings us to our last and final ridiculously hilarious, yet offensive, myth:

 

5) We don’t walk around naked (this isn’t National Geographic).

I mean...at this point if this even had to be said…then it’s too late for you, sis.

I can't help you mad men sally draper Lionsgate Television