Terribly beautiful AfricaMargit Maximilian
Wien: Verlag Kremar & Scheriau, 2011
Margit Maximilian, Africa correspondent of the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Service) revisited her reports from crisis areas in Western, Eastern and Southern Africa and, focusing on readers who don’t know very much about the continent, she combines descriptions of individual fates with well researched historical and political background information on the respective regions. Her aim is to “explain the complicated in a simple and entertaining way”. “Entertaining” might, however, be a somewhat ambiguous term, since most of her stories are not easy to digest, and, on the whole, Africa appears more “terrible” than “beautiful”. The little boys, who get trained as beggars in their Koran schools in Senegal, are still a relatively harmless example. The same goes for the rise of Rwanda after the genocide to an IT-model country, though without democracy, or Madame Diouf’s fight against human trafficking gangs, who entice young men from Senegal to go on suicidal boat trips to Europe. The Sahel is turning more and more into a deployment zone for Al Quaida, as Maximilian interviews rape victims in Sierra Leone and former child soldiers in Uganda. Her stories about the Samburu in Kenya deal with female circumcision, and the main topic in Zimbabwe is farm occupations. The chapter on the genocide in Darfur is not the only one that illustrates the courage and dedication with which Maximilian conducts her work. But on the whole they are reportages which after all were written because crises and problems are regarded as “newsworthy” by our media and as part of “normal everyday life”. And so the chapters about a women’s magazine in Uganda and a private college in Johannesburg which are probably meant to point to this normality, seem somewhat lost amongst all the crisis reports.