In 1995 the Nordic Africa Institute initiated a research project on cultural aspects of development and Nordic-African relations. One of the aims was to contribute to providing other images of Africa than the negative images of misery, war and catastrophes often conveyed by the mass media. Another was to encourage cultural aspects of change in Africa, and the dynamics of cultural production itself. It is indisputable that negative images of Africa increasingly dominate everyday reporting and therefore public opinion too. The generalised pessimistic pictures are in stark contrast to what those of us have experienced who have had the opportunity to visit Africa and work there. It was important not only to encourage alternatives to stereotypes and generalisations, which portrayed Africans as helpless victims, but also to try to understand how and why, and to what extent these images had developed. This was the theme of the first conference organised within the new project on culture, coordinated by Mai Palmberg. This research project was called "Cultural Images in and of Africa", and the seminar dealt primarily with the images of Africa developed in Europe. A selection of edited papers from this seminar is presented here and we thank the authors for their cooperation. We are grateful that we have also been able to include interviews with two prominent scholars, professor V. Y. Mudimbe and professor Terence Ranger, and texts by one of Africa's most prominent authors, Yvonne Vera, and one of the world's most renowned scholars specialising in African literature, Bernth Lindfors.
The seminar was held in cooperation with the International People's College in Denmark. We thank them, not least the college's international secretary, Garba Diallo, for their warm hospitality and the input of work involved in making the seminar a success. Thanks are also due to Susanne ?stman and Petra Smitmanis who contributed to the preparation and organising of the seminar. The images of Africa are a theme that will have to be revisited many times.
This book gives a topical input to the debate through the questions it raises and the simplifications it rejects.
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