My mum loves taking photos. To commemorate that she was in a certain place and who she was with, each photo fanning out into a story that can be told to relatives and friends who were not present. One thing about her photo taking has always amused me: her insistence on having something ‘green’ in the photo be it tree branches, leaves, even a blade of grass hastily broken off and held. When I ask her why, she says: “For the photo to look good”. To have beauty in it, a picture isn’t complete without her holding or being next to some piece of nature.
If I were to ask a non-African what comes to mind when they hear ‘African environment’, the highest chance would be wild animals. Second may be tree planting. Wildlife conservation and tree planting are both worthy causes. They are also contested arenas for the political and ecological issues they bring up, such as choice of species, land displacement of indigenous peoples, and conversion of biospheres that supported diverse functions into mono-functional ecologies.
These two issues might also be the extent of what many Africans, who have over years of external and internalised oppression become separated from their environments, think encompasses environmental concern. From being our first classrooms, we are now increasingly divorced from land hence less and less environmentally conscious.
I want to explore an African view of the environment born of Africans in their environments in this series. I am interested in broadening our imagination of what African environmentalism is.