by Derek Workman
It is over - and I am a bit sad about it. The African Nations Cup 2013 concluded Sunday night. After Beating Ghana in the semi-finals Burkina Faso was not able to kill to two Goliath's in a row and fell to Nigeria.
Despite some issues with the refereeing and pitch conditions I really enjoyed the tournament. I loved the skill on display on the field and the atmosphere it creates as Africans mix together in bars and restaurants to support their teams.
Before the game there was another display of astonishing skills, as musical artists and dancers from around the continent performed in the tournament’s closing ceremony.
Nigerian D’Banj, South Africa’s Zonke, Kelly Khumalo, Micasa, Thembesile Ntaka and Kenya’s Muthoni all performed, accompanied by hundreds of dancers, set changes, pyrotechnics.
The show was extremely well-produced. The set designs excellent, the choreography ambitious and inventive, the themes dynamic - beginning with a more traditional feel and moving in a more modern/urban theme. All in all, a great display of African talent.
The problem for me through, came at the beginning of the ceremony. As goodwill ambassador for the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, and retired footballer Mark Fish awkwardly addressed the crowd about fighting malaria. Chaka Chaka then performed while surrounded by dancers and children holding signs saying, “we can beat malaria,” “we can treat malaria” and “sleep under nets.”
This whole section of the ceremony was disappointing. It was the least well-produced – low budget even. It seemed forced and quite frankly silly – and a horrid choice all around.
We constantly complain about “the narrative of Africa.” How everyone (read: the foreign media) never says anything positive about Africa – how is it always a rotating menu of rival war, HIV/AIDS, no water, pirates and terrible pandemics. We all know this is not the whole truth about Africa. The whole closing ceremony was a display of one of the many things that is right and good about Africa – things we should celebrate. Yet the choice was made – as it seems to almost always be – to tarnish such a display by shoe horning in some awkward reminder of those heavier issues we face on the continent.
This needs to stop. Concerts, art shows, and other public displays of art and most certainly sporting events are neither the time nor the place for these public service announcements.
Other places did not do this. Beyonce performed during the halftime of the Super Bowl in the US this year. She got up and put on a great show. She did not slow the proceedings at any point to give a speech about diabetes, heart disease or other issues Americans are currently affected by. She sang, she danced, she wowed the audience – they celebrated her talent...that is all.
If Africa wants to change the narrative – it needs to stop feeding into it. Campaigns about the issues that affect the continent have their time and place. But when we get the chance to celebrate what is great about Africa, lets just keep to the celebrating.
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Derek Workman is Editor-in-Chief of The Kalahari Review