Journalist Afua Hirsch kicked off the highly anticipated Africa Rising on BBC on June 13th. This groundbreaking show is a celebration and exploration of the vibrant and diverse creativity found across the African continent. With its premiere episode, Africa Rising captivated audiences with a captivating focus on Nigeria, Morocco, and South Africa.
Hirsch, who is of African heritage with roots in Ghana, brings a unique perspective to the series. She experienced firsthand the negative perceptions perpetuated by the British and Western media about Africa. These perceptions, influenced by historical factors like colonization and enslavement, have overshadowed the continent’s rich artistic heritage and immense creative potential.
In Africa Rising, Hirsch aims to challenge these misconceptions. She provides an honest portrayal of African countries and their thriving art scenes. The show delves into the lives of artists, exploring their inspirations, motivations, dreams, and frustrations. Additionally, she also shows how they navigate the social, historical, political, and cultural contexts in which they create.
The choice of Nigeria, Morocco, and South Africa as focal points for the premiere episode reflects the scale and ambition of the program. These countries represent a rising tide of cultural renaissance within Africa. Nigeria has emerged as a powerhouse in the fine art scene. On the other hand, Morocco is gaining recognition for its photography and contemporary culture. South Africa showcases a diverse array of musicians, designers, and sculptors.
Selecting the countries to feature was no easy task for Hirsch. She aimed to ensure a fair representation of Africa’s vast diversity. With over a thousand languages spoken in Nigeria alone, it was crucial to reflect the distinct histories, terrains, and cultures across the continent. Hirsch acknowledges the challenge of choosing countries and hopes that as the series continues, more countries will be covered, providing a broader perspective on Africa’s dynamic art scenes.
Throughout the interviews conducted for Africa Rising, artists emphasized the complexity and multiplicity of African identity. They highlighted the shift from seeking approval from European institutions to a renewed focus on their own cultures and communities. This reclamation of identity and authenticity has invigorated their work, making it more accessible and resonant across audiences.
The show’s immersive approach allows viewers to experience the diverse facets of African countries. Additionally, it confronts both the remarkable beauty and the pressing challenges they face. From the Niger Delta’s juxtaposition of natural splendor and environmental degradation to the coexistence of extreme poverty and ancient royalty. Africa Rising encapsulates the paradoxes and intensity of the African experience.
As a journalist, Hirsch acknowledges the importance of being objective and honest in presenting the realities of African countries. While celebrating the remarkable art and creativity, the show doesn’t shy away from addressing the hardships encountered in everyday life. Artists often draw inspiration from the difficulties they face, channeling their energy into creating exceptional works. These works reflect the resilience and excellence of their respective countries.
Africa Rising serves as the tip of the iceberg, a starting point to inspire curiosity and encourage further exploration of Africa’s vast artistic landscape. By shedding light on the immense talent and diverse art scenes across the continent, the series aims to challenge existing narratives and provide a more comprehensive understanding of Africa’s cultural vibrancy.
With its engaging storytelling, Africa Rising marks a significant milestone in amplifying African voices and narratives, bridging gaps, and reshaping perceptions. The show’s premiere episode has set the stage for a remarkable journey, one that promises to uncover even more stories and talents from the rich tapestry of Africa’s artistic heritage.