In early 1998, in our fourth issue, we published a story about the challenges facing the Maasai in Kenya’s rapidly modernising economy. Soon afterwards, at a consumer travel show in London, a young East European student spent some time gazing at the cover before asking me: “Is this the face of Africa you should be portraying?”
I was in my late twenties and, frankly, hadn’t given much thought to the role we played in how people might view the continent; at that point we simply wanted to share our love for Africa and encourage others to visit. We ended up having a wide-ranging and thought-provoking discussion about the role of the media at a time when cultural tourism was beginning to make a serious impact.
The questions raised in that encounter have stayed with me as we have worked on Travel Africa over the subsequent twenty years, and I have been troubled ever since about the problem of how to present this ancient culture (in all its diversity) as it embraces and responds to a rapidly developing environment. Growing up in Zimbabwe during its transition to independence, I went to school with boys who were the first members of their families ever to go to school.
From 2005 to 2017 we had the privilege of publishing Kenya Airways’ inflight magazine, Msafiri, and for a while published our own Kenyan magazine, Kenya Yetu (see ta-emags.com). During this period we became directly engaged with the continent’s aspiring middle-class, the generation now shaping Africa’s future. It was both exciting and thought-provoking, and I saw a motivation and set of values that I personally worry are being lost in sheltered and complacent youngsters in the West.
Yet I have befriended Kenyans whose own children no longer speak their mother tongue. And, for some reason, that concerns me.
Are we seeing a valuable and important set of traditional values, that have sustained countless generations, being sacrificed in a fast-paced modern age? If these young people are not concerned about it, should we be? The fact is, all cultures evolve. And how should we, as a magazine devoted to this incredibly precious continent, reflect upon these changes?
And then, along come Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher with the final instalment in their remarkable and important mission to record Africa’s cultural heritage. The publication of African Twilight reflects the changes they have seen in their body of work spanning forty years. These are a truly remarkable pair of women whose life’s work will ensure that Africa’s culture is preserved in some way for all of time. I can only hope that future generations will come to see how extremely valuable Beckwith and Fisher’s work has been.
We are honoured and delighted that they have agreed to share some of their thoughts with us, and given us the opportunity to once again explore Africa’s changing cultural landscape.
Publisher / Editor