Doing it for/vs Daddy

It’s one of Africa’s oldest archetypes: The Daddy’s Boy. Groomed by their powerful fathers to continue the family dynasty – be it in businesses or politics, they’re the lifeblood of exclusive international schools around the continent (e.g. British School of Lomé (BSL), Togo) and are typically rich, soft and spoiled – just check out BSL’s Sunday Bunch to get a taste of the lifestyle.

We explore this archetype:

Riffing of John van de Ruit’s internationally best selling novel (and now movie) Spud – Ruit diarises the on-goings at one of South Africa’s elite boys only private boarding school during apartheid – but there’s a way bigger, wilder story beyond South Africa’s white borders (and boarders).

What happens when these boys rebel? – e.g. the oedipal underpinning of the “Underwear Bomber” (he rose to fame in 2009 but reflects a bigger trend: rich daddy, posh school = spoilt kid = “I’m gonna show my daddy. One day.”)

The dynasties – kids groomed to take over from Daddy – from the Teodoro Obiang dynasty to Faure Gnassingbe in Togo, Ali Ben Bongo in Gabon etc

The orphans: the Daddy’s Boys stand in sharp contrast to the “Young Lions” – a crew of “orphans” who are beating and cheating a system gone rancid. With the corrupt “old fathers” refusing to get out of the way, and with all the old channels to success—emigration, foreign study, state employment, family connections—blocked, the new hero is a young trickster with a talent for self-promotion. The model is no longer the formal bureaucratic style of the colonizer; it’s the loud, unrestrained style of The Young Patriots, who seized power in Côte d’Ivoire at the beginning of the decade and the party-heavy attitude of South African ANC Youth League President Julius Malema, who “rulez” in the post-Mbeki era. Inspired by popular music – from kwaito to American hip-hop they’re leading a new “populist” charge on power.

What defines the current relationship between fathers and sons around the continent? As Jeremy Weate points out here, the question of how much parental consultation a son should indulge in can be seen as an index of transformation in any society. “I have heard Nigerian guys call their father Sir, Major, Chairman etc,” write Weate from Nigeria, “I’m not sure I’ve heard a Nigerian call his father ‘Dad’ – ‘popsie’ seems to be the closest we get to an intimate nomination. The general trend seems to be one of Command and Control. The interesting question is what these guys will want their sons to call them.”

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