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Why Do All of These Books About Africa Have the Sa

 
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    Posted: May 14 2014 at 4:22pm
http://www.policymic.com/articles/89339/why-do-all-of-these-books-about-africa-have-the-same-cover?utm_source=policymicTBLR&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social

Why Do All of These Books About Africa Have the Same Cover?

Zak Cheney-Rices avatar image By Zak Cheney-Rice  

The news: Africa Is a Country recently found something eerily similar in the covers of novels about Africa. Try guessing what it is:

Image Credit: Africa Is a Country

If your answer is “they all have acacia trees set against a dusty orange sunset,” you’re correct. So are the designers all just huge Lion King fans? Probably – but as Quartz points out, the reasons for these similarities are a bit more complex.

Wow. These 36 images represent books about a sweeping range of topics and locations, from Nigeria and Mozambique to Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. A quick geography lesson will reveal that these are, in fact, not the same place:



But Knopf Associate Art Director Peter Mendelsund says this image is recycled ad nauseam due partly to individual and institutionalized “laziness.” It’s easier resorting to tired clichés than it is to memorably engage with what makes a book unique or interesting – especially when it comes to Africa, a continent defined in the West by stereotypes and misconceptions.

“By the time the manuscript is ready to be produced, there’s a really strong temptation to follow a path that’s already been trod,” he explains. “If someone goes out on a limb and tries something different, and the book doesn’t sell, you know who to blame: the guy who didn’t put the acacia tree on the cover.”

Poor guy: The results are images that reflect a “vague, Orientalist sense of place,” a presentation of “otherness” that’s both familiar and easy to digest. Understanding Africa as a monolithic whole defined by sparsely populated savannas is damaging in that it effectively erases the continent’s incredible diversity, from the bustling metropolises of coastal Ghana to the chilly winters of South Africa.

Oh, and the publishers seem to have forgotten that people live there, too. In fact, it’s probably safe to say people are central characters in most of these books.

But: This simplistic visualized “othering” is not exclusive to works about Africa, sadly. Anyone who’s read a novel set in the Middle East knows the deal:

Image Credit: Word Press

So what can publishers do to permanently rid the world of “veiled lady syndrome” and “acacia sunset-ism”? Mendelsund suggests designers be more proactive in initiating conversations with editors about what makes a book unique, then responding with more accurate designs. If that fails, and the publishers insist on going with a stereotypical image? “We can tell them that it’s racist, xenophobic, whatever,” he says.

As for how that’s working out, we turn to Sam Cooke: “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.”

“Right now, we’re in the age of the tree,” Mendelsund adds. “For that vast continent, in all its diversity, you get that one tree.”

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JoliePoufiasse Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 14 2014 at 4:27pm
That's interesting. I know that the baobab tree is an emblematic tree but come on...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote naturesgift Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 14 2014 at 9:28pm
well to me all hood Black novels look the same too! its kinda werid

Edited by naturesgift - May 14 2014 at 9:29pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote AffirmativeBunny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 14 2014 at 10:30pm
Further encouraging the rest of the world's typical view on what Africa is. Only what they see on NatGeo and on these book covers, right? SMH 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote EPITOME Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 14 2014 at 10:41pm
a tree and a nice sunset ain't problematic imo

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BBpants Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 14 2014 at 11:49pm
wow I never thought about that lol
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sang Froid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 15 2014 at 5:11am
Reminds me of The Lion King.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote iliveforbhm Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 15 2014 at 5:50am
I think it's in East Africa as well. So only a small part of Africa is monolithic
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote afrokock Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 15 2014 at 6:39am
Originally posted by EPITOME EPITOME wrote:

a tree and a nice sunset ain't problematic imo

it is of the tree is not a tree indigenous to the authors region or the story

@ajax, what's in East Africa?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote iliveforbhm Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 15 2014 at 7:38am
That damn tree lol
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