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(From East African (Kenya): AAGM)
Scholars of Joseph Conrad have refuted charges of racism, saying that he wrote for an audience for whom the realities of race were yet to be tempered. Staff Writer DAVID KAIZA reports A hundred years ago, Heart of Darkness, a book that more than any other fixed the image of bestiality that the African continent has had to grapple with, was published.
The author, Joseph Conrad, set the basis that was to inform the cultural repertoire about the continent that the mass media, book publishers and the visual arts lurched onto: Nothing good comes from Africa. And if anything does, it is by an Albert Schweitzer, a Lucille Cotti or an Ernest Hemingway.
The book was first serialised in 1899 in the magazine Maga, whose readers lapped up exotic tales of skulls, jungles, mountains, ivory, darkness and natives. Heart of Darkness, whose author Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe once said was "safely dead," outdid all classics in these special effects.
The image stuck. In books and on TV, Africans squirm in primordial muck and like tropical trees or hippos, are spectacular backgrounds for white heroism - recyclable fodder for writers and film makers: Ernest Hemingway, in his first Kenyan book, Green Hills of Africa, using the words "savage" and "black" interchangeably, and in the films I Dreamt of Africa, Out of Africa, Lucille Cotti, The Gods Must be Crazy (white South African), Africa becomes a therapeutic backdrop for determined white women facing personal trials.
Darkness is a powerful novella that has generated much debate but has also been misread by, among others, Achebe.
Conrad was venerated during his time as a genius who dared look into the depth of darkness. He wrote dozens of other books like Lord Jim, …