Rebranding blackness and bringing African perspectives to Hong Kong…
Needless to say it’s been an eventful year and the pandemic has brought an onslaught of challenges to countless charity organisations and social enterprises. It’s been amazing to see how they’ve adapted and grown despite all of this, and we are excited to feature more amazing organisations in the new year that are constantly striving to change the world for the better. For the month of December, we’re thrilled to feature Africa Centre Hong Kong, a resilient group determined to put an end to racial inequality and systemic racism in the city.
Between hosting race relations talks, book clubs, cultural workshops and much more, Africa Centre Hong Kong has been working tirelessly year round to share African culture and perspectives with non-African communities in Hong Kong. We spoke to Africa Centre Hong Kong Co-founder and CEO Innocent Mutanga to learn more about the social enterprise, the problems it seeks to tackle in Hong Kong and how we can get involved.
Tell us about Africa Center Hong Kong. What is it you do?
Africa Center Hong Kong is a platform and creative hub dedicated to rebranding how people think or feel about blackness or Africa by challenging and changing the narrative. The status quo is that blackness is seen as dangerous and/or vulnerable, two views which are racist and problematic. We work to challenge these perceptions. We also work to increase awareness of power dynamics rooted in colonialism. From an African perspective, we talk about “black consciousness” and prompt people to question their desires for certain aspects of whiteness or westernness, and learn to love and appreciate themselves, their culture and how they look. Lastly, we strive to connect people through a uniquely African platform; where people can connect, gain an African perspective to things, co-create and share value.
We saw a great need in Asia for an alternative perspective to what’s dominant now. A perspective that can speak to the uncertainties that we face today and will continue to face in decades to come. We believe that for us as Africans, having dealt with uncertainties ever since the first white man set foot in Africa, we have become experts in handling uncertainties and can share our perspective with our Asian brothers and sisters, so that they navigate these uncertain times with a clearer perspective. We also noticed the growing significance of Asia and the shift in global order from the West to the East, and thought it is high time for Africa to also have a seat on the table.
We work to achieve these goals through a number of workshops and events, which range from educational, food and arts programmes such as African Literature Book Club, African cooking workshops and African dancing workshops. Heading into 2021, we are hoping to be able to bring people to Africa, to visit and learn more, as well as make our platform more visible and accessible to more communities in Hong Kong.
Why should we care?
The lack of consciousness is really a problem that affects almost all formerly colonised people. It’s not only in Africa where skin whitening products have a market, it’s a much bigger issue in Hong Kong and most other Asian countries. We believe the African perspective can help Hong Kong people to question and reflect on these power dynamics.
The tarnished image of blackness is another issue we tackle. The direction the world is moving towards is really a special one; where one’s misconception of another group can be more harmful to the carrier of the misconception, as it leads them into making incorrect decisions which can be consequential. As much as we as Africans hope people change their prejudiced views of us, we more so hope they change for their own sake rather than for us, as the value of having accurate views of Africans or of any group is more important.
How can we get involved?
People can engage with us through our various programmes. I would recommend joining our African dinner meet-up or networking events as a start, but there are a lot of other programmes that people can join where they can learn more and meet some interesting people. There is something for everyone depending on what level of knowledge you already have or what type of people you may want to connect with.