For most Indians, Africa is a collection of vaguely cognised snapshots of knowledge and imagery: Mahatma Gandhi’s Phoenix farm in Durban, Idi Amin and the exodus of Indian-origin people from Uganda, the famine-stricken children of Ethiopia, Somalian pirates or Nelson Mandela’s victorious walk out of a South African prison. These are superimposed on a more enduring collage of the continent’s breathtaking landscapes (the awesome Sahara in the north, the densest of forests in Central Africa, the grasslands of the east) and natural life. Overlaid on this ‘land of adventure’ are caricaturised, comic-strip images from, say, Phantom or Tarzan. All of these conjured up a patchwork, definitive picture of Africa.
This mix of knowledge and imagery are almost a century old, implanted at a time when both India and Africa were very different, actually as well as how they were perceived by the world at large—both being burdened by a set of exoticising tropes.