"We Are All Perceived To Be Violent & Drug Addicts": 1st Miss Africa India Organised To Dispel Stereotypes
India is slowly becoming a popular hub for higher studies and in recent times, has seen an influx of students and professionals, more specifically from African countries. Even as these students and professionals take back a fulfilling experience, however, one simply cannot turn a blind eye to the discrimination they face in India.
Stereotypes associated with a certain community is often a result of hearsay. Incorrect and incomplete information is what these stereotypes and its wide and far propagation thrive on. Realising this very problem, a 21-year-old student from Zambia, Laurisca Kalongo conceived this idea of organising an event to introduce the vibrant and diverse culture of African countries to Indians. This is how Miss Africa India came into being. On November 8, the event was successfully organised in Hyderabad and saw great participation.
“We are perceived to be violent and drug addicts”
For the last two years, Kalongo has been in India. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Osmania University, Hyderabad. Kalongo, having experience discrimination first hand herself, realised very early on that this attitude stemmed greatly from lack of information and awareness. She says that most of the Africans are perceived to be violent and drug addicts, a perception she was determined to change.
“Many of my Indian friends and collegemates gave me a puzzled look when I said that I am from Zambia. They were not even aware that such country exists because they had, till then only heard of popular African countries like Nigeria,” Kolongo told The Logical Indian.
She also adds that just as India is home to diverse customs and cultures, the African countries too have highly varied culture.
A model herself, Kalongo was also perturbed by the extremely limited modelling opportunities for African models in India. Keeping all these factors in mind, she with her friends Chigozirim Obike and Timothy Umukoro came up with the idea of Miss Africa India.
Participatants from all over India
Kalongo, along with 12 of her friends and like-minded people began the online auditions and applications started pouring in from Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Pune, Bhubneshwar, Warangal and from other cities. Interestingly, the identities of the organisers were initially kept secret. “We later realised that because we were anonymous, many girls might be hesitant to join thinking it to be a scam.” A total of 230 women participated in the auditions which were held between June and August.
Pageant – an opportunity to show African culture
“The participates in the event dressed in their traditional attire and represented their respective countries culture,” says Kolongo. She also says that through this pageant, they wanted to send a strong message of women empowerment.
The event proved to be a grand success. The whole buzz and the positive publicity around the event proved to be greatly beneficial.
The Logical Indian take
We Indians take a pride in being great hosts. In fact, we have been taught to consider a guest as a god. How much of this is in practice is highly debatable.
Last year in March, a mob in Greater Noida brutally assaulted three Nigerian men after a 17-year-old boy died of drug overdose. The mob suspected them to be drug peddlers. In May 2016, a Congolese national was beaten to death in Delhi Vasant Kunj area. This case was said to be racially motivated.
These incidents are disturbing, to say the least. Indians and African countries have a shared history, spanning centuries. If anything, we must be sharing cordiality and friendship, instead of hate. The Logical Indian appreciates Kalongo and her team for taking such initiative.