54Lights: Africa out of the Shadows

1 June 2020 | Hot Topic, Research

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54Lights: Africa out of the Shadows

To understand language is to understand thought.

By Kondwani Mwase

A seemingly inescapable shadow looms over conversations about Africa. This shadow infiltrates, informs, and influences our views of the continent and its people. It is a narrative that, when imbued, helps propagate an image of Africa as primitive, backward, and forever underdeveloped. This often starts with the popular term: The Dark Continent.

This term is problematic for two main reasons. First, the complicated connection with the word dark. Second, the continent as a single unit. While neither term is in and of itself negative or incorrect, both are laden. Together, they suggest that the expression Africa is a monolithic black mass.

This perception and a desire to change it inspired me to launch my podcast, 54Lights. Its mission is to reshape common narratives about Africa through intimate introductions to and conversations with individuals from Africa. The show layers voices, music, and narration to create a listening experience that is, like the “Dark Continent,” nuanced. There are, at present, 54 nations within the African continent. That’s emblematic of a stark reality; Africa cannot be cast as one black mass or even one uniform color. It is a collection of at least 54 different nation-states which, in turn, represent an even greater number of cultures and subcultures. If you consider the over 210 million members of the African diaspora spread across the globe, the task of uniformly defining these people becomes even more daunting. Light is the opposite of dark. Light speaks to the emotional and the educational spirit. Light illuminates, drives out darkness, and gives hope. 

The show aims to change listeners’ understanding of Africa and African people by shining a spotlight on ordinary people living extraordinary lives. By doing so, these stories work to deconstruct the social institutions that mislead, misinform, breathe life into racism and, instead, work to give voice to a group of people who are usually spoken for or to. On 54Lights, African identities are multiple, myriad, and above all, individual. All this, hopefully, casts a new, and more representative, shadow on the African conversation. One that is nuanced, complex, and deep in their texture.

About the podcast

54Lights illuminates the African continent. The show aims to reshape how people see African people and societies, using narration and interviews through a myriad of guests – typically with African lineage. Each episode has its own flavour, each is anchored in one ingredient. And while the show casts light on people who seem ordinary, the truth is they are only masquerading as ordinary. Whether they be activists, authors, entrepreneurs or mentors, the line-up is as impressive as it is diverse. To hear the podcasts, click on www.54lights.com, or Spotify, iTunes, Sticher, SoundCloud.

The host: My name is Kondwani Mwase. I have (African) stories to tell. I was born in Ethiopia, with parents from Zimbabwe & Malawi. Many would say I am imbued with the cultures of each nation; they are me and I am them. Yet, the claim rings   hollow when my Africa remains misunderstood. Africa has forever been identified with little more than famine, poverty, and desolation. I aim to change this narrative. Canada may be home but Africa is my heart.

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