Introduction: The Lion's Story by Yovanka Paquete Perdigao and Henry Brefo

How should we present West Africa? Its vastness and immense diversity, rich cultural heritage and historical depth. How is West Africa perceived? How best do we enable an appreciation of the region and its people that avoids the pitfalls of cliché and superficiality? How could we collate a series of engaging stories, expositions and insights that were not just the usual ready-made and well-packaged versions of West Africa that already saturate news headlines? When should Africa’s history begin? Should we start from the usual vector - colonialism? But surely there is more to the continent than just that! Should we source a pure native Africa of war and poverty? Or pursue a decidedly contemporary tone, fraught with corrupt elites and downtrodden citizens on one side, and young tech-savvy activists holding governments accountable, on the other? And, of course, we could not possibly ignore the diaspora as an adulteration of an organic image of this part of the world. No matter how negligent or well-meaning the effort to tread familiar landscapes was, the subtle sleight of colonial indoctrination gained through a predominantly white curriculum was evidently at play.
 
Let us begin with the words of the African writer Chinua Achebe. As he points out, ‘until lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter’.
 
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