African Appropriations: Cultural Difference, Mimesis, and Media

African Appropriations: Cultural Difference, Mimesis, and Media

African Appropriations: Cultural Difference, Mimesis, and Media

African Appropriations: Cultural Difference, Mimesis, and Media

Synopsis

Why would a Hollywood film become a Nigerian video remake, a Tanzanian comic book, or a Congolese music video? Matthias Krings explores the myriad ways Africans respond to the relentless onslaught of global culture. He seeks out places where they have adapted pervasive cultural forms to their own purposes as photo novels, comic books, songs, posters, and even scam letters. These African appropriations reveal the broad scope of cultural mediation that is characteristic of our hyperlinked age. Krings argues that there is no longer an "original" or "faithful copy," but only endless transformations that thrive in the fertile ground of African popular culture.

Excerpt

One Friday morning in August 2009, beautiful choral voices filled the air of the Kamunyonge Seventh-day Adventist Church in Musoma, Tanzania. Touched by the powerful force of this spontaneous live performance and deeply impressed by the professionalism of the choir, I sat at the table of honor provided for me and listened to the song. The female members of the choir set in singing, in Tanzania’s national language, Swahili: “Unfortunately, it was false and stupid, nothing can have a beginning without an ending.” The men replied: “Men built a huge ship called Titanic. They trusted and believed that it would never sink.” Together we sailed along on this journey, moving ever closer to the disastrous demise of the ship, and they ended their hymn by reminding me and the other listeners that “Now the world is just like the Titanic—about to sink. And even if it is difficult to believe that the world is coming to its end—that is the truth. The world will sink and men will perish.” This was not my first encounter with this song. Three years earlier, I had bought a tape recording of it in a music store in Dar es Salaam, also in Tanzania. Attracted by the cassette’s cover, with an image of the ship taken from James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), I was excited to add another piece of this Hollywood film to my growing collection of African appropriations. By that time I had already come across a Nigerian video remake, a Tanzanian comic book, and a Congolese music video clip. Later on I was to discover still more references to it, from names of video stores and barbershops to those of buses and boats. What is so fascinating about this particular material is . . .

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