Love in Africa

This book explores love, that stuff most Western journalists rarely write about when they write about Africa.

Images by Zanele Muholi. Not in the book.

In his now legendary essay, “How to write about Africa,” the late Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina listed as “taboo subjects” to not write about “ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved)” and later he adds that if there’s to be loving, it will be existential: “… mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset.” Which is why a new book, about that stuff most Western journalists don’t write about when they write about Africa: love. It is edited by two American academics, Jennifer Cole and Lynn M. Thomas.  The editors opens with book’s introduction with a mention of Binyavaga’s essay and his list of taboo subjects.

In her endorsement of the book, the anthropologist Caroline Bledsoe from Northwestern University, writes: “Love in Africa sets two scholarly milestones. First, it demands that students of Africa confront the full spectrum of human emotion in the continent. Second, and speaking more universally, it shows how love, while experienced in the most deeply personal of ways, invariably arises from economic and social circumstance.”

From ‘Isibonelo/Evidence’ by Zanele Muholi. Not in the book.

Chapters on such exotic topics as “Love, Sex, and the Modern Girl in 1930s Southern Africa,” ” Making Love in the Indian Ocean,” and “Media and the Therapeutic Ethos of Romantic Love in Middle-Class Nairobi,” among others.

Further Reading