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The story of Africa in the modern age is one of war, disease, corruption, repression and poverty. On the upside, there are tons of monkeys and you never need a jacket.
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Darkest Africa is only dark to those wearing blindfolds,
to him who cannot think

whose brain is hardened and dusty
—Fokofpolisiekar, "Antibiotika" [Afrikaans]
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A great favourite of stories involving the Colonial period of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Africa has lent itself well to many stories. Its breadth of landscape includes the immense sandy wasteland, the grassy veldts and savannahs, and thick, treacherous jungle. The history includes the ancient sophistication of the Egyptians, rich ancient kingdoms like Kush and Mali, and mysterious tribal groups— as well as the more recent European colonies and military juntas. And always, there is the wildlife, some of which may be misplaced.

When Africa is not being used as a Lost World, it's the next best thing: mysterious and dangerous, but populated with outcroppings and ties to the modern world. This balance of civilization just within reach and terra incognita a mere wrong turn away gives the "Dark Continent" a unique position. "Adventure in your own back yard" takes on a new meaning if one's back yard hosts the occasional elephant stampede.

It may be noted that in many modern stories, quite a bit of finagling or handwaving is required to get the "traditional" level of isolation, bringing it into Discredited Trope territory (not to say Unfortunate Implications). On the other hand, the old stories resonate strongly, and traditional ways of life still hold sway, enough that subversions are frequently effective; the hero can still be surprised when the chief of the village lets him use the (generator-powered) satellite phone.

In older stories, the Mighty Whitey abounds, along with Misplaced Wildlife.

You might be able to get away with replacing "Congo" with "Amazon", however.

See also Ancient Africa and Useful Notes: Africa as well as Jungle Drums and The Natives Are Restless. See Bulungi for a modern take on this trope.

Examples of Darkest Africa include:

Anime and Manga

  • Pyunma/008's home country looks like this the first time we see it in Cyborg 009, but in subsequent stories, Shotaro Ishinomori tried to portray a slightly more realistic version of modern Africa, with cities & cars & things like that (and also changing Pyunma's backsotry from a former tribal prince turned into an ex-slave to a former guerrilla fighter caught an injured in a crossfire). Actually lampshades this trope, with 009 saying that Africa's nothing like what he read about in books when he visits.
  • Kimba the White Lion takes place in an African jungle most of the time.
  • Subverted in Hana no Ko Lunlun. The Egypt episode does use several of the Egypt cliches (starting with pyramids and treasures from Ancient Egypt, as Lunlun is "partnered" with a Gentleman Thief), but the one in Morocco has a somewhat more realistic ambientation while recreating an old Moroccan village ( which is the hometown of Lunlun's friend Sayid, who has been living in England with his grandfather Scharo and is the reason why she's in Africa in the first place) and two or three local traditions.
  • The Pokémon anime episode, "The Kangaskhan Kid" had Ash and friends lost in a jungle-like area of the Safari Zone.

Comic Books

  • Marvel Universe: Wakanda, the kingdom ruled by T'Challa ("Black Panther") has laws that maintain "tribal customs" despite being extraordinarily wealthy - a convienent way to maintain its Lost World flavor.
  • The home and main headquarters of The Phantom is in the fictional country of Bangalla, which has been represented as a fairly realistic African nation.
  • Carl Barks' Donald Duck yarn "In Darkest Africa".
    • Voodoo Hoodoo also contains elements of this.
  • The early Tintin adventure Tintin in the Congo, infamous for its condescending depiction of African natives and senseless slaughter of wildlife. It's been intermittently available in English; current print runs are aimed largely at older fans and put out in an almost embarrassed fashion.
    • Mind you, that's the revised colored version, where Herge rounded the sharpest corners and excised the parts that caused the most criticism. The original black-and-white comic was much worse.
  • The setting for Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Cheetah's post-Crisis backstory plays this entirely straight, with the source of her powers stemming from a cannibalistic cult deep in Africa's jungles.
  • Simba, King of the Beasts
  • From the Popeye the Sailor comics, it states that Jeeps originated from this place.

Film

  • The Gods Must Be Crazy has been criticized for its portrayal of the Bushmen as entirely ignorant Noble Savages. For Xi, "Darkest Africa" makes pefect sense, but white society is bizarre and inexplicable. To the whites, dangerous wildlife and political turmoil are a source of consternation.
  • George of the Jungle, as a parody of Tarzan, by necessity is set here.
  • Jumanji, in which the board game draws out dangerous elements of a distilled "Darkest Africa"-type jungle located within itself. The jungle is not seen in the film, or even seen by any of its characters save for the main protagonist who is trapped there for years.
  • Road To Zanzibar
  • Most of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
  • The Three Stooges short Three Missing Links had the trio traveling to Darkest Africa to film a movie with Curly being casted as a gorilla until a real gorilla shows up and hilarity ensues.
  • Curious George takes place here during the first half of the film.
  • Jane and the Lost City, sent during World War II, plays with this trope a bit by introducing a jungle tribe led by the "Leopard Queen" - a scantily-clad African woman who speaks perfect English, and with the proper "colonial" accent to boot.
  • In Five Weeks in a Balloon, the heroes go on an expedition into this setting to claim unexplored territory and prevent ruthless slavers from doing the same.
  • Trader Horn: Mostly played straight, as the natives are portrayed as either savage or childlike, and in the business of crucifying people and making mounds of skulls when they're in savage mode.
  • Averted in the Film Serial Secret Service in Darkest Africa, which takes place entirely in the North African desert in WW2. So plenty of sinister Bedouins and scheming Nazis, but no jungles or spear-wielding natives.
  • The Tarzan film series is always about white people in Darkest Africa; see also the Literature entry below. In Tarzan and His Mate, Harry Holt says specifically that the Elephant Graveyard the expedition is setting out to find is in a part of Africa where no white man has been before, except for Harry and Tarzan.
  • The African Queen.
  • In keeping with its source material, the second half of Heart of Darkness (1958) takes place in an African jungle full of Hollywood Natives. (But the setting might be a product of Marlow's imagination.)
  • Mighty Joe Young (1949)
  • The Bud Abbott and Lou Costello film, Africa Screams.
  • Kirikou and The Sorceress
  • Congo Bill (1948)
  • The Naked Earth (1958)
  • Africa Speaks (1930)
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action had the protagonists going here to search for Drake's father and the Blue Monkey Diamond.
  • The Lost City (1935)
  • The 1975 film Hugo the Hippo takes place in Africa.
  • Stanley & Livingston
  • The World's Greatest Athlete (1973)
  • Jungle Jim (1948)
  • Lost in Africa (1994)
  • West of Zanzibar both the 1928 and 1954 versions.
  • The Jungle Princess (1920)
  • Jungle Drums of Africa (1953)
  • The Jungle Goddess (1922)
  • Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle, being an animated parody of Tarzan: King of the Jungle.
  • Simba: The King of the Beasts (1928)
  • In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro (1986)
  • Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa takes place entirely in Africa.

Literature

  • Tarzan, in most incarnations, relies on the African dichotomy for its stories.
  • H. Rider Haggard's She and King Solomons Mines, both with English explorers. Haggard had actually lived in Africa, and knew his stuff a lot better than most writers of colonial adventure fiction; but the European condescension is still present.
  • The book and movie Congo has the (fictional) ruined city of Zinj populated by evil gorillas.
  • Gregory McDonald's Fletch Too is set in Africa, discussing some of the issues, including slavery, being modern-or not, archeology, witch doctors, and law.
  • In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the trip into the savage wilderness of Africa mirrors Kurtz's descent into his own darkness. However, Marlow states that England was at one time also considered a dark and savage land by the civilized Romans.
  • Subversion: pretty much everything Chinua Achebe has ever written (the most famous being Things Fall Apart). He is very keen on dispelling this particular trope.
  • An early section of Robinson Crusoe has Robinson fleeing across the African coast, and treats Africa as hyperbolically dark, thanks in part, no doubt, to the fact Defoe had never actually been there.
  • The first Time Scout book ends with a trip to 17th century Africa. It doesn't end well. Well, it does, but it doesn't middle well.
  • The sword and soul sub-genre of Heroic Fantasy often is set here or in Fantasy Counterpart Culture versions of Africa with black heroes instead of Mighty Whitey heroes.
  • Most of the Babar the Elephant stories take place here.
  • The Oompa Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were originally attended to be African slaves from the jungle, but the film adaptations changed their backstories.

Live Action TV

  • Spoofed in episode 29 of Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which a band of pith-helmeted explorers discover a restaurant in the middle of the jungle.
  • The Twilight Zone episode, "The Jungle", had Alan getting haunted by the sounds of Darkest Africa after a witch doctor placed a curse on him for building a dam in Africa.
  • The Magical Bushman arc from Season 3 of Heroes provides a slight example of this trope. The character himself is something of an aversion: despite making his home in the brush, he has a Walkman and keeps abreast of current events. However, places in the series are usually addressed as "Odessa, Texas," or "Tokyo, Japan." Whenever the action cuts to that plot? "Somewhere In Africa." Yeah...
    • Only because the character that was there didn't actually know where he was, he just kind of appeared there, and mysterious painter man isn't about to tell him that "you're twenty kilometres northeast of Mombasa, you can make it there by nightfall if you hurry", the man's got lessons to learn first.
  • The episode, A Thousand Tiny Wings from Big Finish Doctor Who takes place in Kenya during the 1950s.
  • Israeli brief comedy series Lost in Africa features an Israeli fashion modeling company flying to the fictional country Abuna Kilosa, which borders on Chad and Sudan (most likely where RL Central African Republic is), for a photo shootout with a Swedish model and an English photographer. The show averts, plays with, and deconstructs the trope.
    • While the people there are shown as rather primitive, sporting:
    • they also:
      • seem to be doing a genuine effort to fix their country by fighting corruption (as they put it, ‘This is not Burkina Faso!’), to the point that bribing a policeman can cost one half an arm (the original photographer, later replaced by the aforementioned Englishman, tried to buy back a piece of clothing from a policeman, which he interpreted as bribery);
      • they do have some modern technology, such as televisions and vehicles;
      • quite a few of them wear Western clothing;
      • and some of them speak very decent English (most notably the driver and hotel keeper).
    • They also seem to be very aware of their position:
      • when one of the Israelis asks for a doctor to see him at his hotel room and asks him to give him a treatment ‘for tourists’, the doctor does some silly ceremony to please said tourists for an absurd amount of money (hillariously threatening to put a curse on him if he isn’t paid);
      • and Suliman, the group’s driver seduces Shlomtsiyon, the company’s secretary, in an attempt to make her bring him with her back to Israel, subverting Where Da White Women At? (this fails, as she angrily dumps him the moment she realises his true plans, which leads to his death in the Tutsi-Hutu fight later on).
    • Also, the company’s boss wants to adopt a very bright kid he meets at the local village, who shows a remarkable talent in math and even learns to say ‘good morning’ in Hebrew (albeit mispronounced), even competing over him with the Swedish model. The Israelis treat the place they're in mostly with condescension (as one of them phrased it: ‘Everyone’s a shell-shocked darkie around here!’) and occasionally with some romanticising ( Shlomtsiyon’s argument with Suliman about their future revolved around this: she wanted to get away from the commercialised, competitive West, while he wanted to leave Africa; this is what lead her to realise his true intentions and dump him), and the two Europeans seem to regard Israel with the same condescending tone the Israelis treat the Africans (when told that the Israeli model is ‘very popular in Israel’, the English photographer says, ‘Yes, but so is war!’), while both Israelis and Europeans display every possible vice of Western society.

Multi-media

  • Many an adventure or treasure hunt involves a search for something "lost in the African jungle".

Music

  • The 1947 American song, Civilization, is a humorous satire of this trope. It's about a native of The Congo who learns about the "civilized" world from a missionary. From the Congolese native's perspective, the "civilized" lifestyle is actually uncivilized.
  • Vulvodynia's Mob Justice is something of a Deconstruction of this, as the album lyrically focuses on the dark side of modern South African life and the violence, poverty, widespread economic stratification, drug addiction, and lingering scars of apartheid and past oppression that never quite healed.
  • "In the Jungle, The Mighty Jungle, The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

Poetry

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Then I saw the Congo, creeping through the black,
Cutting through the jungle with a golden track
Then along that riverbank, a thousand miles
Tatooed cannibals danced in files...

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Puppet Shows

  • Subverted in a 1970s Sesame Street segment. Smart Tina claims that Africa is just one big jungle because she saw it in a Tarzan movie. But Roosevelt Franklin shows on a map that only a small portion of Africa is jungle. The continent is really a mix of different environments dotted with big cities and valuable resources.

Radio

  • Many episodes of The Goon Show took place here to spoof the old stories, and there's no such thing as Mighty Whitey, just "noble" British fighters and explorers who are complete, often greedy idiots (i.e., Major Bloodnok).

Tabletop Games

  • The Vampire: The Masquerade sourcebook Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom deals with African vampires. Whereas the Kindred of the East are something completely unique and different (even a little alien) from the western Kindred, the Laibon are just the regular clans with a darker epidermis.
  • The pulp themed Spirit of the Century, set in the 1920s, actually refers to Africa as Darkest Africa, and talks about Gorilla Khan's exploits in the unexplored wilderness there.
  • The new Empire of the Apes faction in Monsterpocalypse called this home. No doubt the elders are wishing Kondo had kept to their advice and not decided to take a peek outside into the humans' proper dominion.
  • Spoofed in Toon (but then, of course it is), which has an adventure in "Darkest Africa" reached by...getting off the boat in Africa, then following the sign reading "Dark Africa". It's somewhere on the other side of "Darker Africa". The gag is actually directly lifted from Porky in Wackyland, below.
  • Pathfinder's default setting has the Mwangi Expanse, which is explicitly there to give players some jungles and lost cities to explore.

Theater

  • Eugene O'Neill's play The Emperor Jones actually takes place on an island in the West Indies, but it might as well be a transplanted piece of Africa.
  • The Book of Mormon takes place in Uganda. While the Uganda represented in the musical reflects modern African sensibilities and concerns, one song does say: "Weeeee are Africa, We are deepest darkest Africa, ..."

Theme Parks

  • Disney's Adventureland at Disneyland parks has some elements from Darkest Africa in a 1930's like setting.
    • Disney's The Jungle Cruise has the Congo river and Nile river portions.
  • Busch Gardens at Tampa Florida is themed to Africa, in fact, it was once called Busch Gardens - The Dark Continent.

Video Games

  • Resident Evil 5 wanders over here for two chapters, but spends the rest in more developed areas.
  • Far Cry 2 takes place in a fictional African country called Leboa-Seko, which is populated almost exclusively by people who want you dead.
    • Somewhat justified in that the place is in the last stages of a ruinous civil war and most moderate people / civilians have long since left. Still, things like tarred roads, villages, shops (which don't sell weapons), and noncombatants are conspicuous by their relative absence.
  • Mazuri in Sonic Unleashed gives a very African vibe.
  • Congo Bongo
  • Kemco's Ghost Lion, which is probably the only RPG in the world set in (non-Egypt) Africa
  • The first Donkey Kong Country game's Kong Island is loosely based on this.
    • Donkey Kong Country Returns takes a much bigger approach with the African jungle setting with the introduction of the Tiki Tak Tribe.
  • The second continent Wiggly Wilds from Wario Land: Shake It! is based on the African savanna.

Web Animation

  • Parodied in The Cheese Family, where at the zoo the Cheese family see "...the funny grapes from Darkest France".

Western Animation

  • Wackyland, from the Looney Tunes short Porky in Wackyland (and it's color remake Dough for the Do-Do), is located here. Porky Pig has to fly over Dark and Darker Africa to get there.
    • Porky also traveled to Africa on Porky in Egypt, Porky's Ant, and Africa Squeaks.
    • Inki and the Minah Bird, an obscure Looney Tunes short, also takes place in there.
    • Congo Jazz is an early example of this trope.
    • The first and last halves of Nelly's Folly took place in the jungles of Africa.
    • The Frank Tashlin short The Major Lied Till Dawn takes place in Darkest Africa.
    • The infamous Censored Eleven short Jungle Jitters has this setting.
    • The Beaky Buzzard cartoon, The Lion's Busy.
    • Another two Bugs Bunny short's entitled Hold the Lion, Please and Which is Witch have Darkest Africa as their setting.
  • George of the Jungle, both the original and 2007 reboot take place in this setting.
  • The Classic Disney Goofy short, African Diary has Goofy writing about his past experiences in Africa.
    • The Donald Duck cartoon Frank Duck Brings 'Em Back Alive and the Mickey Mouse shorts Jungle Rhythm and Trader Mickey also take place here as well.
  • The very rare Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon Africa Before Dark has Oswald hunting in Africa.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons: The Half-Pint Pygmy has George and Junior trying to catch the world's smallest pygmy in Darkest Africa.
  • At least four of Van Beuren Studios cartoons are set in Darkest Africa; one of them is even called "Darkest Africa", with the other three being "Jungle Jazz", Mild Cargo" and "Plane Dumb".
  • Many, many episodes of Danger Mouse, mostly because it was parodying old adventure serials of the kind that inspired the Indiana Jones movies. (Weirdly, The Bad Luck Eye of the Little Yellow God was ostensibly set in Brazil, but is in all other respects Darkest Africa.)
  • The Tom and Jerry cartoon Sorry Safari had this theme.
  • The Betty Boop cartoon I'll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You takes place in the jungles of Africa.
  • Parodied on SpongeBob SquarePants on Club SpongeBob, where SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward get lost in Kelp Forest and get found by an explorer.
    • Also parodied on the comic story Sponge Monkey when SpongeBob and Patrick get lost in Kelp Forest and Squidward and Mr. Krabs have to look for them and find out that they were raised by Sea Monkeys.
  • Popeye once treveled to Darkest Africa searching for Bluto in Fightin Pals; the short shows him actually going through Dark Africa and Darker Africa before getting to his destiny.
  • Parodied on The Ren and Stimpy Show Nature Documentary parody Lair of the Lummox, with Ignoranium being a parody of Africa.
  • Animaniacs had Flavio and Marita moving from the African jungles to the big city on "The Big Move".
    • The Warner trio also traveled here to find a cure for Wakko's hiccups one time.
  • An episode of The Alvin Show had Dave and the chipmunks in Africa searching for jungle sounds for their songs.
  • The 1943 Superman cartoon Jungle Drums has Lois Lane crashing her plane in Africa and she and Superman come across the Nazis' base.
  • Johnny Bravo got lost here on Bungled in the Jungle when he broke Jungle Boy's foot after falling from a plane and gets chased by all the animals of the jungle.
  • At least three Terry Toons take place here, Who's Who in the Jungle with Gandy Goose and Sourpuss, The Lion Hunt with Heckle and Jeckle, and The Hapless Hippo with Mighty Mouse.
  • Two Pink Panther cartoons had this setting on It's Pink, But is it Mink? and Sink Pink.
  • Some episodes of Jonny Quest take place here.
  • The Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon, Spooking About Africa.
  • The Pinky and The Brain episode Welcome to the Jungle had Pinky and the Brain getting mistaken for monkeys and get taken to an African-like jungle where they meet Snowball.
  • The DuckTales episode Jungle Duck takes place here.
  • Famous Studios' Screen Songs had an entire short revolving around Darkest Africa called Jingle Jangle Jungle.
  • Jungle Land from The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! has several African elements.
  • The Samurai Jack episode Young Jack in Africa had a young Jack training and getting raised by an African tribe.
  • An earlier 1930s Silly Symphony called Cannibal Capers revolves around African cannibals in a jungle.

Other

  • Lampshaded and parodied mercilessly in this article by Kenyan blogger Binyavanga Wainaina, How to Write about Africa.
  • The physical anthropologist and white supremacist Carleton S. Coon was fond of using "congoid" instead of "negroid". On the one hand, the Congo is an actual place, and an autonym at that. On the other, Congo represents this trope in the Western mind more than anywhere else.
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