The unknown Africa: Everyday life beyond clichésReimer Gronemeyer / Matthias Rompel
Frankfurt am Main: Brandes & Apsel, 2008
In twelve essays, sociologists Gronemeyer and Rompel report on and about people in Africa and sketch the image of a continent threatened by modernity. Their main concern is to represent the everyday life of normal people without falling into the trap of European clichés about Africa. In the authors' exploration of daily life in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Namibia, they report on confident people, African traditions, the strengths and weaknesses of typical African families – but also on neighbourly help and crisis management, particularly surrounding HIV/AIDS.
In case studies, such as with the half-nomadic Himba, they write about their way of life, their will to survive and also their art of survival and the social accomplishment of women in these communities threatened by HIV and AIDS. They write about young men who construct new communities after the death of their parents, who, as AIDS orphans take care of their younger siblings thus establishing family substitutes. They also talk about the disintegration of typical regional social structures and about the dignified and honourable life of the elderly as well as the will to survive of young AIDS infected mothers and about people that care and are cared for and other human and cultural achievements.
The authors take the reader along on a journey though Namibia and the rural areas of Southern Africa, far from tourist attractions. They portray an Africa without attempting to gloss things over, open new perspectives for the reader and thus provide a conflict-free access to Africa. At the same time, the authors show their respect for these people that continue their life notwithstanding poverty, disease and early death – people from whom Western civilisations could learn something.