Friday, September 25, 2009

Multicultural Africa on My Mind

The other day at the library, I picked up a new novel to read called, Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin. Parkin is white, was born and raised in Zambia and has lived and worked all over Africa, including in Rwanda where this novel, her first, takes place.

Baking Cakes is set in post genocide Rwanda in an international community of aide workers, CIA agents, university professors and a prostitute or two. Angel Tungaraza lives there too and has set up a bustling cake business, making cakes for people's special occasions. The whole premise sounds absurd, and yet the book is entrenched in the painful realities of a country torn apart by violence and disease.

Besides the fact that I never really think of how life continues after the dust of war clears, I also never think about the individual lives doing the cleaning. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who falls into this trap of ignorance. This book (which I have not finished yet) is giving me an entirely new perspective of the day to day lives of people who call Rwanda home. From the author herself to the fictional character Mr. Akimoto, the Japanese, karaoke-loving, United Nations worker who loves Angel's cakes, I am seeing an entirely new face of Africa


And then Meltingpot reader Farah, sends me a link to this new movie, based on a true story called Skin. The film is about a White South African couple who gives birth to a "black" daughter while apartheid was still law. Apparently the couple wasn't as "white" as they thought they were. The movie, which follows the daughter's struggles of finding her place in South Africa's racial caste system, looks amazing and makes Imitation of Life look like a Disney fairytale. I hope it finds a United States distributor. (Thanks Farah for the tip.)

So all this to say, Africa has been on my mind lately, with all of its own unique meltingpot issues. What do you think? Is the African meltingpot even spicier than ours? Do any of our issues overlap?

I'll tell you how the book turns out. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend.



Quirky Film Chick said...

Wow, this sounds like an interesting book. I will definitely try to see that film.

and I think in a way Africa's melting pot is a little more complex then ours (the US). "Black" Africans are the majority yet they still have their own issues in terms of how they view themselves and each other...I'm most interested in how everyone progress after they deal with conflict as well.

By the way, great blog. I just started reading it and I like =]

LT said...

You're probably right. Africa is way more diverse than our little pot. And thanks for reading the Meltingpot.