In January 2020, I got an email from someone named Mark Weston.
He’d written a book and wanted to find out if I was interested in reading it. I get several queries like this from writers every now and then, and I deeply appreciate the chance to share the inner spaces of fellow writers. We writers can be sensitive about our work and it’s not an easy task to reach out to someone you’ve never said a word to, in hopes of establishing some type of creative connection or at the least, an understanding.
Anyway, I had never heard of Mark Weston, so I did some research, came across his website: http://www.markweston.net/ ; learned that he’d written another book: The Ringtone and the Drum: Travels in the World’s Poorest Countries, and found out that he has lived in Tanzania, Ghana, Sudan and South Africa (which means he’s experienced just about every region on the continent) while visiting many other African countries. I started following him on Twitter @markweston19. I came across some of his op-ed pieces about what’s happening across Africa, like this one on post-genocide Rwanda for African Arguments and this one on the deepening Africa-China relationship. In short, Mark is one of the many non-African policy consultants from the West who work in Africa. I’ve come across many in my work as a journalist.
I decided to read Mark’s latest novel: African Beauty.
It took me a while to get through African Beauty, not because it wasn’t interesting, but because I was working through dozens of other reporting assignments with deadlines. I eventually finished it and when I did, I couldn’t ignore the questions swirling around in my head about this guy Mark. So, I decided to have an Africa-centric chat with him and probe his mind a bit. We had a pleasant chat on Whatsapp. I hope I wasn’t too inquisitive, but I can’t help that. At some point in the chat he said he really enjoys West African music — and BOOM, alright, two thumbs up, Mark!
Mark kindly agreed to respond to questions that I said I would email him. This would be my chance to pose a few candid questions to a white guy from the UK who not only…