By Tafi Mhaka
There are thousands of children living in orphanages in Malawi who are waiting for a Madonna-like figure to adopt them and save them from the bitter nastiness of homeless impoverishment. But the fabulously rich elites of African society are waiting for Bugatti Chiron-like luxury vehicles to be shipped from Italy so they can live it up in the privacy of exclusive neighbourhoods. Less affluent members of African society, who happen to be the majority of citizens in Africa, watch the elite flourish to no end as they await measly handouts of food aid from a motley mix of foreign benefactors, charitable organisations and government-backed food schemes, simply so they can survive another dreadful summer of pitiful hand-to-mouth existence.
Working-class Africans, who are fleeing war, political instability, famine and economic crises in banana republics like South Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo are waiting on the shores of Libya for dilapidated fishing boats to set sail for the coastal city of Sicily in Italy so they can make death-defying journeys across the Mediterranean Sea and hopefully become much-loathed immigrants in Europe or die at sea as nameless would-be African asylum seekers. And there are middle-class Africans who are waiting for pop star Madonna to adopt another African baby so they can make unbearably smug statements about foreign adoptions being abnormal and terrible for African children on social media, TV and radio.
You remember the hullabaloo Madonna caused when she adopted David Banda as her first African child, don’t you? People bemoaned the loss of an 18-month-old baby to a woman from a foreign culture. Groups like the Human Rights Consultative Committee of Malawi (HRCC) lamented the adoption of an African baby by Madonna and placed all manner of demands on her seemingly heartfelt gesture. The I-am-more-African-than-you-are crowd said David should visit his homeland on a regular basis and be taught about Malawian culture so he stays in touch with his African roots.
It all sounded reasonable and justified and commendable of people to be saying that at the time. But the rabble-rousing suggestions made by the seemingly astute Pan-Africanists rang very hollow when the ubiquitous and long-held social stigma around adopting children who are not your own flesh and blood became apparent: nobody else but Madonna wanted to raise David as their own child. That is Africa for you: people will complain endlessly about foreign adoptions but avoid serious analysis of the factors behind the high number of orphans and abandoned children in Africa like the plague.
When a child like David is stuck in an underprivileged orphanage in one of the poorest nations in the world: how significant is speaking Chichewa to his future well being in a foreign land? Culture is simply a manifestation of the way we live our lives and not life itself. People talk about Ubuntu in affectionate terms all of the time, but adoption rates in Africa are tremendously low for African ideals of manhood and womanhood are inseparably bound to bearing children. While A-list celebrities like Angelina Jolie dominate the news whenever they adopt a baby from Africa or donate millions of dollars towards humanitarian causes on the continent African celebrities habitually make headlines for inane reasons like buying exorbitantly priced Bentleys, losing five kilograms after binging on rare champagne and caviar over the festive season or having the biggest booty in showbiz.
From power-hungry politicians to a scandalously profligate class of highly connected businesspersons, civil servants and ruling party chiefs, the political elites of Africa are amassing so much wealth a culture of individualism is so pervasively rife in all sections of African society it is undeniably immoral, irresponsible and embarrassing. But when a person like Madonna comes along to save a young and innocent soul from a life of hardship and loveless existence, steely keyboard warriors and fretful middle-class activists emerge from the shadows of deathly silence and social inertia to make extravagant and questionable assertions about the superiority and importance of African culture.
Africans love to major in the minor details when it comes to matters of values and do little to foster a culture of association steeped in reality. Culture is obstinately related to the role it plays in fostering social mobility and helping less fortunate members of society move up in life. Narratives of children languishing in orphanages and living rough on the streets of Africa are lifelike reflections of culture in practice and much less the fanciful portrayals of African lifestyles well-off citizens like to champion unceasingly from the comfort of trendy middle-class living rooms, yuppie coffee houses and glamorous workrooms. Who is helping poor children in Africa the most today? Is it you or Angelina Jolie-like parents and philanthropists? It takes love, compassion and honesty to adopt and care for a stranger like you would your offspring. So before you judge people like Madonna and present a laundry list of unfeasible demands prior to a foreign adoption, do consider the happiness of homeless children who yearn for family, love, security and a good education.
Being an African citizen is a great thing no doubt. But if fate presents a golden opportunity to an unwanted baby like David, should that child be raised at a place like Home of Hope Mission: a cash-strapped orphanage located in a remote village in Malawi or should they be brought up by a close-knit family in Spain, Portugal or Ghana for example? And to the people struggling to have children in Africa: there are millions of lovely children of all races and ages looking for love on this beautiful continent. Ignore the woeful innuendo you hear from people about adoption and start a family of your own. African culture is what you make it and less what naysayers say it should be. For look at the happy African boy David Banda is today.