|Quotes • Headscratchers • Playing With • Useful Notes • Analysis • Image Links • Haiku • Laconic|
Darkest Africa is only dark to those wearing blindfolds,
to him who cannot think
whose brain is hardened and dusty
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.
You might be able to get away with replacing "Congo" with "Amazon", however.
- 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.
- 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 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
- 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 Mc Donald'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.
- 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 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.
- 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:
- poor infrastructure;
- some backward attitude;
- tribal wars (amusingly between Tutsi and Hutu tribes, re-triggered on the last episode when Eddy, the company’s boss, burns down a sacred tree to stop a competing company from shooting there, unaware of the tree’s sacred position);
- poorly communicating with the Western world (they assume for some reason that the clothes for the shooting are a donation - Hillarity Ensued);
- 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.
- While the people there are shown as rather primitive, sporting:
- Many an adventure or treasure hunt involves a search for something "lost in the African jungle".
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...
- 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).
- 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.
- 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, ..."
- 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
- Parodied in The Cheese Family, where at the zoo the Cheese family see "...the funny grapes from Darkest France".
- Wackyland, from the Looney Tunes short Porky in Wackyland, is located here. Porky Pig has to fly over Dark and Darker Africa to get there.
- 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.)
- 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.