Anton Stolwijk is editor at ZAM Africa Magazine.

Anton Stolwijk: Mafrika - sophisticated parody of anti-prejudice film?

September 2009 -

The time had finally arrived: on 8 August 2009 the film Mafrika would finally be shown on television in the Netherlands. The sustainable broadcasting company Llink issued an excited press release in which its managing director Tanja Lubbers talked about "a highly-appealing comical film for the youth about Africa, sweeping away all those stereotypes of development cooperation."

Anton Stolwijk

Mafrika - roughly translatable as Silly Africa - sounds familiar. Wasn't that the mythical film that won the audience award during the Netherlands film festival but was never released because the producer went bankrupt? The film that once received a few hundred thousand in subsidy from the Ministry of Development Cooperation? The film about which questions had been asked in Parliament, after which Minister Koenders promised to do everything he could to ensure that it reached a large audience? A Must See! But those who tuned in that Friday evening at about ten past eleven - how many young people are aching to be relieved of their prejudices about Africa at that time of the week? - were sadly treated to a re-run of a different programme. A call to Llink brought the truth to light: the film had been moved at the last minute to "some other time".

What evil forces were at work here? Curiosity about Mafrika had now grown beyond the point of no return in the ZAM editing room. The film's director Paul Ruven finally got hold of a copy, after which the stereotypes about development aid would finally be exorcised. What proved to be the case? Africans don't need any aid! They all have a machine gun and that works very well, thank you! Besides, their table manners are atrocious and some keep tarantulas as pets. A cellular telephone is something Africans have never heard of.

Confusion. What exactly were the prejudices being exorcised? Or is this a highly-artistic persiflage of an anti-prejudice film? A cynic accusation against the idea that Africa might be fun? The tear-jerking ending makes one suspect that the only lesson being taught by the film is that Africans are only human, too, even though they live on a horrible continent where you would be wise not to go. With which, in some circles, the general idea of what development aid is about is, in fact, exorcised. Minister Koenders, in the meantime, is doing everything he can. Mafrika is now scheduled, if all goes well, to be shown on 11 October 2009 at eight-thirty in the evening, on the paid premium channel Film1.