Television and Film in Sub-Saharan Africa by Myles Darby

Additionally, another medium of large influence has been television. Television originated in sub-Saharan Africa in the late 1950s. While it was mainly used for entertainment, it contrasts to America in the fact that television isn’t a popular medium. One of the reasons for this centers around the fact that it is a media inaccessible to many, and “remains a symbol of national status that hardly goes beyond the major African cities” (Mano 4). However, the second reason for this centers around some of the sub-Saharan African’s resentment towards television. This resentment stems from the some of them, like South Africa, being miseducated on the medium and believing that television was inherently “‘morally corruptive’” and that it would “provide information that would strenghten anti-apartheid forces” (Mano 4). In addition to this example, sub-Saharan Africa encountered other miseducations through television and film. This was exemplified in 1939, when the Britain’s Colonial Film Unit was created to “tell ‘the story of the War with the right propaganda’” (Smyth). This was mainly targeted at the literate Africans, who then, could be used to further teach this lessons to the illiterate Africans. Also, through these television and film, sub-Saharan Africans were denied access to representation. A quintessential example of this would be that films were never “produced, directed, photographed and edited by Africans and starring Africans who spoke in African languages” (Diawara). Instead their history was relegated to the narration of “British, French and U.S. filmmakers” (Diawara). As the nation has progressed, and there has been more access to television, many Africans have felt a sense of liberation, as Mano describes.


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  1 comment for “Television and Film in Sub-Saharan Africa by Myles Darby

  1. Ebenezer Sampong
    April 27, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    Hello there Myles. I think this topic is particularly interesting, especally in this class as we examine the rippling effects of globalization, and as Professor Levenson discussed today, the rise of Western captialism and hegemony after 1989. Too often, if you’ll excuse the metaphor, we focus on the initial splash, and not the ripples. We can look to Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” story which mischaracterizes Africans grossly, as an example in literature. But I think television’s miseducation is perhaps more dangerous, because of how easy it is to consume, and how hard it is to know you have been lied to. And now I’m thinking of that scene in the God of Small Things, where Baby Kochamma views the world through her television, and it both frightens and amazes her.

    For sub-Saharan Africa I think we are now and have been seeing a growth of hearing, reading and seeing African voices in the post-colonial age. But in order for the West to stop producing such propaganda and stereotypes completely, I think we first need to divest ourselves of our monolithic, biased notions.

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