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Darkest Africa
"The story of Africa in the modern age is one of war, disease, corruption, repression and poverty. On the upside, there are tons of monkeys and you never need a jacket."

A great favourite of stories involving the Colonial period of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Africa has lent itself well to many stories. Its breadth of landscape includes the immense sandy wasteland, the grassy veldts and savannahs, and thick, treacherous jungle. The history includes the ancient sophistication of the Egyptians, rich ancient kingdoms like Kush and Mali, and mysterious tribal groups— as well as the more recent European colonies and military juntas. And always, there is the wildlife, some of which may be misplaced.

When Africa is not being used as a Lost World, it's the next best thing: mysterious and dangerous, but populated with outcroppings and ties to the modern world. This balance of civilization just within reach and terra incognita a mere wrong turn away gives the "Dark Continent" a unique position. "Adventure in your own back yard" takes on a new meaning if one's back yard hosts the occasional elephant stampede.

It may be noted that in many modern stories, quite a bit of finagling or handwaving is required to get the "traditional" level of isolation, bringing it into Discredited Trope territory (not to say Unfortunate Implications). On the other hand, the old stories resonate strongly, and traditional ways of life still hold sway, enough that subversions are frequently effective; the hero can still be surprised when the chief of the village lets him use the (generator-powered) satellite phone.

In older stories, the Mighty Whitey and Hollywood Natives abound, along with Misplaced Wildlife.

You might be able to get away with replacing "Congo" with "Amazon", however.

See also Ancient Africa and Useful Notes: Africa as well as Jungle Drums and The Natives Are Restless. See Bulungi for a modern take on this trope.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Pyunma/008's home country looks like this the first time we see it in Cyborg 009, but in subsequent stories, Shotaro Ishinomori tried to portray a slightly more realistic version of modern Africa, with cities & cars & things like that (and also changing Pyunma's backstory from a former tribal prince turned into an ex-slave to a former guerrilla fighter caught an injured in a crossfire). Actually lampshades this trope, with 009 saying that Africa's nothing like what he read about in books when he visits.
  • Kimba the White Lion takes place in an African jungle most of the time.
    (From the theme song to the original 1960s dub):note  "Who lives in the deepest, darkest Africa?..."
  • Subverted in Hana no Ko Lunlun. The Egypt episode does use several of the Egypt cliches (starting with pyramids and treasures from Ancient Egypt, as Lunlun is "partnered" with a Gentleman Thief), but the one in Morocco has a somewhat more realistic ambientation while recreating an old Moroccan village ( which is the hometown of Lunlun's friend Sayid, who has been living in England with his grandfather Scharo and is the reason why she's in Africa in the first place) and two or three local traditions like a traditional race that Sayid must participate in to be properly accepted by the villagers.

    Comicbooks 
  • Marvel Universe: Wakanda, the kingdom ruled by T'Challa ("Black Panther") has laws that maintain "tribal customs" despite being extraordinarily wealthy - a convienent way to maintain its Lost World flavor.
  • The home and main headquarters of The Phantom is in the fictional country of Bangalla, which has been represented as a fairly realistic African nation.
  • Carl Barks' Donald Duck yarn "In Darkest Africa".
    • Voodoo Hoodoo also contains elements of this.
  • The early Tintin adventure Tintin in the Congo, infamous for its condescending depiction of African natives and senseless slaughter of wildlife. It's been intermittently available in English; current print runs are aimed largely at older fans and put out in an almost embarrassed fashion. Mind you, that's the revised colored version, where Herge rounded the sharpest corners and excised the parts that caused the most criticism. The original black-and-white comic was much worse.
  • The setting for Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

    Film 
  • Lon Chaney late-period silent flick West Of Zanzibar plays this trope for all its worth—jungles, alligators, voodoo, human sacrifices, and savage native tribes.
  • The Gods Must Be Crazy has been criticized for its portrayal of the Bushmen as entirely ignorant Noble Savages. For Xi, "Darkest Africa" makes pefect sense, but white society is bizarre and inexplicable. To the whites, dangerous wildlife and political turmoil are a source of consternation.
  • George of the Jungle, as a parody of Tarzan, by necessity is set here.
  • Jumanji, in which the board game draws out dangerous elements of a distilled "Darkest Africa"-type jungle located within itself. The jungle is not seen in the film, or even seen by any of its characters save for the main protagonist who is trapped there for years.
  • Road to Zanzibar
  • Most of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

    Literature 
  • Tarzan, in most incarnations, relies on the African dichotomy for its stories.
  • H. Rider Haggard's She and King Solomon's Mines, both with English explorers. Haggard had actually lived in Africa, and knew his stuff a lot better than most writers of colonial adventure fiction; but the European condescension is still present.
  • The Michael Crichton book and movie Congo has the (fictional) ruined city of Zinj populated by evil gorillas.
  • Gregory McDonald's Fletch Too is set in Africa, discussing some of the issues, including slavery, being modern-or not, archeology, witch doctors, and law.
  • In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the trip into the savage wilderness of Africa mirrors Kurtz's descent into his own darkness. However, Marlow states that England was at one time also considered a dark and savage land by the civilized Romans.
  • Subversion: pretty much everything Chinua Achebe has ever written (the most famous being Things Fall Apart). He is very keen on dispelling this particular trope.
  • An early section of Robinson Crusoe, when Crusoe is fleeing in a boat along the African coast.
    But it is impossible to describe the horrid noises, and hideous cries and howlings that were raised, as well upon the edge of the shore as higher within the country, . . . this convinced me that there was no going on shore for us in the night on that coast, and how to venture on shore in the day was another question too; for to have fallen into the hands of any of the savages had been as bad as to have fallen into the hands of the lions and tigers; at least we were equally apprehensive of the danger of it.
  • The first Time Scout book ends with a trip to 17th century Africa. It doesn't end well. Well, it does, but it doesn't middle well.
  • The sword and soul sub-genre of Heroic Fantasy often is set here or in Fantasy Counterpart Culture versions of Africa with black heroes instead of Mighty Whitey heroes.
  • This is the setting of Five Weeks in a Balloon, the unexplored depths of 19th-century Africa, with no Western civilization to speak of.
  • Darkest Howondaland, in the Discworld, is very often a parody of this trope.
  • Pretty much every book by Wilbur Smith ever. There is usually a Mighty Whitey protagonist involved, with plenty of native advisors and companions to round out the cast..
  • In The Kingdom of Little Wounds Midi's origins are given this treatment by people at court, though not necessarily by the author.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Spoofed in episode 29 of Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which a band of pith-helmeted explorers discover a restaurant in the middle of the jungle.
  • The Magical Bushman arc from Season 3 of Heroes provides a slight example of this trope. The character himself is something of an aversion: despite making his home in the brush, he has a Walkman and keeps abreast of current events. However, places in the series are usually addressed as "Odessa, Texas," or "Tokyo, Japan." Whenever the action cuts to that plot? "Somewhere In Africa." Yeah...
    • Only because the character that was there didn't actually know where he was, he just kind of appeared there, and mysterious painter man isn't about to tell him that "you're twenty kilometres northeast of Mombasa, you can make it there by nightfall if you hurry", the man's got lessons to learn first.
  • Israeli brief comedy series Lost in Africa features an Israeli fashion modeling company flying to the fictional country Abuna Kilosa, which borders on Chad and Sudan (most likely where RL Central African Republic is), for a photo shootout with a Swedish model and an English photographer. The show averts, plays with, and deconstructs the trope.
    • While the people there are shown as rather primitive, sporting:
    • they also:
      • seem to be doing a genuine effort to fix their country by fighting corruption (as they put it, ‘This is not Burkina Faso!’), to the point that bribing a policeman can cost one half an arm (the original photographer, later replaced by the aforementioned Englishman, tried to buy back a piece of clothing from a policeman, which he interpreted as bribery);
      • they do have some modern technology, such as televisions and vehicles;
      • quite a few of them wear Western clothing;
      • and some of them speak very decent English (most notably the driver and hotel keeper).
    • They also seem to be very aware of their position:
      • when one of the Israelis asks for a doctor to see him at his hotel room and asks him to give him a treatment ‘for tourists’, the doctor does some silly ceremony to please said tourists for an absurd amount of money (hillariously threatening to put a curse on him if he isn’t paid);
      • and Suliman, the group’s driver seduces Shlomtsiyon, the company’s secretary, in an attempt to make her bring him with her back to Israel, subverting Where Da White Women At? (this fails, as she angrily dumps him the moment she realises his true plans, which leads to his death in the Tutsi-Hutu fight later on).
    • Also, the company’s boss wants to adopt a very bright kid he meets at the local village, who shows a remarkable talent in math and even learns to say ‘good morning’ in Hebrew (albeit mispronounced), even competing over him with the Swedish model. The Israelis treat the place they're in mostly with condescension (as one of them phrased it: ‘Everyone’s a shell-shocked darkie around here!’) and occasionally with some romanticising ( Shlomtsiyon’s argument with Suliman about their future revolved around this: she wanted to get away from the commercialised, competitive West, while he wanted to leave Africa; this is what lead her to realise his true intentions and dump him), and the two Europeans seem to regard Israel with the same condescending tone the Israelis treat the Africans (when told that the Israeli model is ‘very popular in Israel’, the English photographer says, ‘Yes, but so is war!’), while both Israelis and Europeans display every possible vice of Western society.

    Multi-media 
  • Many an adventure or treasure hunt involves a search for something "lost in the African jungle".

    Poetry 
  • As Vachel Lindsay so well put it,
    ''Then I saw the Congo, creeping through the black,
    Cutting through the jungle with a golden track''
    Then along that riverbank, a thousand miles
    Tattooed cannibals danced in files...

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Legendary big man The One Man Gang underwent a new gimmick in the late 80's and became Akeem, the African Dream. The gimmick (which was cheesy and somewhat racist, as it had a white man dressing in African tribal garb and using a stereotypical accent and mannerisms, though it was a Take That to the wrestler "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, a big fat white guy who tried to talk "black.") billed him from "Deepest, Darkest Africa".

    Radio 
  • Many episodes of The Goon Show took place here to spoof the old stories, and there's no such thing as Mighty Whitey, just "noble" British fighters and explorers who are complete, often greedy idiots (i.e., Major Bloodnok).

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Vampire: The Masquerade sourcebook Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom deals with African vampires. Whereas the Kindred of the East are something completely unique and different (even a little alien) from the western Kindred, the Laibon are just the regular clans with a darker epidermis.
  • The pulp themed Spirit Of The Century, set in the 1920s, actually refers to Africa as Darkest Africa, and talks about Gorilla Khan's exploits in the unexplored wilderness there.
  • The new Empire of the Apes faction in Monsterpocalypse called this home. No doubt the elders are wishing Kondo had kept to their advice and not decided to take a peek outside into the humans' proper dominion.
  • Spoofed in Toon (but then, of course it is), which has an adventure in "Darkest Africa" reached by...getting off the boat in Africa, then following the sign reading "Dark Africa". It's somewhere on the other side of "Darker Africa". The gag is actually directly lifted from Porky in Wackyland, below.
  • Pathfinder's default setting has the Mwangi Expanse, which is explicitly there to give players some jungles and lost cities to explore.
  • The third-party sourcebook Nyambe essentially gave a Darkest Africa setting for Dungeons & Dragons.

    Theatre 
  • Eugene O'Neill's play The Emperor Jones actually takes place on an island in the West Indies, but it might as well be a transplanted piece of Africa.
  • In The Book of Mormon, Kevin Price and Arnold Cunningham are sent as missionaries to Uganda and find out the hard way that "Africa is nothing like The Lion King!" Instead, it's full of Third World problems such as AIDS, clitoridectomies, and warlords who shoot people in the face. Even so, all the traditional clichés are brought out for one number which has the white missionaries sing, "Weeeee are Africa, We are deepest darkest Africa..."

    Videogames 
  • Resident Evil 5 wanders over here for two chapters, but spends the rest in more developed areas.
  • Far Cry 2 takes place in a fictional African country called Leboa-Seko, which is populated almost exclusively by people who want you dead.
    • Somewhat justified in that the place is in the last stages of a ruinous civil war and most moderate people / civilians have long since left. Still, things like tarred roads, villages, shops (which don't sell weapons), and noncombatants are conspicuous by their relative absence.
  • Mazuri in Sonic Unleashed gives a very African vibe.
  • Congo Bongo
  • Kemco's Ghost Lion, which is probably the only RPG in the world set in (non-Egypt) Africa.
  • Both Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun and its sequel has nods to this trope in some of its event descriptions. The main reason being that they take place during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and have has one of their major themes the European imperialism of the period... including the colonisation of Africa.
    • From the same company, Europa Universalis (taking place from late Middle Age to Napoleonic times) has Africa as mostly uncolonizable/unconquerable/untraversable wilderness. What usable provinces are there are on or near coastlines (with some exceptions: Nile valley, horn of Africa, West African subsaharan kingdoms), usually have the Tropical modifier (increasing non-native troop attrition significantly), and occupied either by technologically backwards nations (compared to Europe or the Middle-East, anyway) or by very powerful, numerous and hostile natives, making colonization very difficult.
  • Borderlands 2:
    • The expansion pack Hammerlock's Hunt has a fair amount of this, with an unusual emphasis on dark and dreary environments with precious little jungle or savanna to be seen. Hammerlock is of course the very ideal of the Great White Hunter, and the Big Bad (such as he is) is very much a Mighty Whitey controlling the aggressive and shamanistic tribesmen. In a small twist (and possibly an attempt to head off Unfortunate Implications), the tribesmen are largely white and are former colonists who went mad after being abandoned on Pandora by their employers.
    • The natives return again in Sir Hammerlock and the Son of Crawmerax dlc, this time worshipping the titular Son of Crawmerax. Hammerlock will again comment on how savage they are, until one of them chimes in and points out that he (the native) has a degree from a university on Eden-5, then proceed to call Hammerlock a dickwad for the insensitive comments.
  • In an extremely rare variant of this trope, Ryse: Son of Rome has a mission set in Darkest Britain. The lands north of Hadrian's Wall are portrayed as a dark and foggy Death World where Everything Is Trying to Kill You. The local population are savages who wear animal skulls and furs, scream and holler in a horrific Black Speech, and kidnap foreigners to sacrifice them to their gods by burning them alive. Basically, it hits every characteristic of this trope... it's just set in Scotland.
  • Fricana in Quest for Glory III starts out with the Egyptian-themed Tarna, moves into the African savannah, and then eventually reaches this, culminating in the Lost World, the final section of the map containing the Lost City, as well as a hidden monkey village, a tribe of hostile apemen and lots of pissed-off demons. The section before that is a large jungle containing a secretive tribe of magic-wielding leopardmen that attack the player on-sight and are distrusted by their counterparts, the nomadic, savannah-dwelling Simbani, and it's the protagonists' job to stop the two from going to war.
  • The Lost Kingdom park in Theme Park World, full of jungle animals and tom tom drum-based rides.

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied in The Cheese Family, where at the zoo the Cheese family see "...the funny grapes from Darkest France".

    Western Animation 
  • Wackyland, from the Looney Tunes short Porky in Wackyland (and also from its remake Dough for the Do-Do), is located here. Porky Pig has to fly over Dark and Darker Africa to get there.
  • Many, many episodes of Danger Mouse, mostly because it was parodying old adventure serials of the kind that inspired the Indiana Jones movies. (Weirdly, The Bad Luck Eye of the Little Yellow God was ostensibly set in Brazil, but is in all other respects Darkest Africa.)

    Other 
  • Lampshaded and parodied mercilessly in this article by Kenyan blogger Binyavanga Wainaina, How to Write about Africa.
  • The physical anthropologist and white supremacist Carleton S. Coon was fond of using "congoid" instead of "negroid". On the one hand, the Congo is an actual place, and an autonym at that. On the other, Congo represents this trope in the Western mind more than anywhere else.


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