Published15 Jan 2015
A Literatura de Viagens é um género ocidental? Como são vistas as viagens em África pelos turistas? E de que forma os escritores africanos encaram este género, tanto em termos do formato livro, como de outros suportes tecnológicos? Um artigo dividido em duas partes, no site This is Africa, aborda estas questões, com o contributo de vários testemunhos.
Travel writing is a simple yet strange concept. In Western terms (and on Western bookshelves) it has commonly meant middle-aged white men visiting ‘exotic’ or otherwise alluring places and commenting in world-weary tones on the vagaries of the local population or inviting the reader to share a wry laugh at their comical antics.
As this demographic group has dominated Western society, so has it dominated this particular genre – in a way only really rivalled by historical and political writing. It has often had a traditional anthropological bent, assuming an objectivity and neutrality that is not real. Who could be more a product of his culture than the upright, crisp-shirted modern-day explorer? Pith helmets are a thing of the past, but the ‘neutral’ uniform of the observational traveller remains.
“For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere”
Michael Palin is a case in point. From a literary point of view, Africa has, at least in recent centuries, suffered from being under the microscope of travellers often from the very countries that colonised swathes of the continent, erasing many of its histories and potential stories along the way. From a purely touristic point of view, specific corners of the continent became magnets for foreign pleasure seekers. “For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere”
As Jamaica Kincaid said in her book A Small Place: “That the native does not like the tourist is not hard to explain. For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere. Every native everywhere lives a life of overwhelming and crushing banality and boredom and desperation and depression, and every deed, good and bad, is an attempt to forget this.