This special edition of Perspectives reflects on, analyzes and documents the evolution of African feminisms and feminist action that African activists have taken up to address both old as well as persistent and new threats to women’s rights and gender justice. It also reflects on lessons learned from African feminist practices for current and future generations across the region.
The Hollywood action movie Black Panther captured the imagination of audiences around the globe. In several African countries, it quickly became the highest grossing film of all time. The tale is set in Wakanda, a technologically advanced African kingdom that avoided the shackles of colonialism and slavery by isolating itself behind a guise of poverty and deprivation. Although what it presents as “African”, in terms of narrative and images, is far from uncontested, the film catapulted Afrofuturism – a discipline or aesthetic that enlists science fiction and technology to imagine black identities and futures unconstrained by past and present circumstances – from the avant-garde circles of artists and intellectuals into the mainstream.
The current public debate on African migration to Europe is largely fuelled by visions of boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea, filled with desperate people in search of a better life. The narrative positions Africa as a “continent on the move” whose people are surging into Europe on a seemingly endless tide. Although media images of desperate African refugees fleeing to Europe do portray the daily reality and the often-tragic consequences of the treacherous crossing, the framing conceals more than it reveals.
Since the third wave of democratisation swept through the continent in the 1990s, the majority of African states have replaced military dictatorships and one-party-dominant systems with more democratic forms of governance. Today, 61 percent of sub-Saharan countries are “free” or “partly free” according to Freedom House’s 2018 survey – although this is down from a high of 71 percent in 2008.
This edition of Perspectives contributes to the ongoing debate on infrastructure development in Africa by sharing snapshots of experience from around the continent, exploring questions about democratic participation, the role of human and environmental rights, and economic transformation.
Informed by the discussions at an international conference jointly organised by the German Development Institute, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and Stanford University on “Emerging Power or Fading Star? South Africa’s Role on the Continent and Beyond”, held 12–14 July 2016 in Cape Town, the articles gathered in this edition of Perspectives shed light on some of the nuances and challenges that define South Africa’s place in the world today.
Activists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and social movements across the world are facing verbal hostility from politicians, new laws and regulations that curtail their ability to operate, and outright violence. Africa is no exception.
When you write about Africa, make sure to always include sad and starving characters, advises Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainana in his famously ironic essay “How to write about Africa”, which takes aim at Western prejudices. In the same way that everyday laughter has been excluded from all-too-familiar depictions of the continent, African humour and satire as a form of social and political engagement remains underexplored.
With this edition of Perspectives, the Heinrich Böll Foundation explores some of the approaches and instruments that communities and their NGO partners have developed to create room for community-centred stakeholder participation, and to champion community interests and rights.