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'The Primitive Side'

August 11, 1991

In her review of Kuki Gallman's memoir "I Dreamed of Africa" (June 23), Carolyn Slaughter, herself an author of a book on Africa ("Dreams of the Kalahari"), wrote that Europeans of "aristocratic and cultured background" often travel to a "primitive country" (pick any of the 50 or so states of the African continent) to get in touch with "the primitive side of their own nature, and very often find it."

As an African by birth and an American by choice, hence an African-American, I was troubled by her use of the word primitive to describe the culture and the life style that is cherished by millions of Africans, and perhaps millions more elsewhere in the so-called Third World.

To use primitive in this context is to assume that their culture and way of life is less developed (if developed at all!) than that of prosperous Western democracies, where the cash culture has conquered whatever appreciation there was for the beauty of nature. That isn't so.

Some of these supposedly "uncultured" people wouldn't dream of spending a night in the bedroom communities scattered around our industrial heartland. Most Africans wouldn't find it such a great idea to wake up early, get into little boxes with four wheels and get on the dangerous highways, only to labor for somebody else for eight hours and then come home, put some frozen "food" in the microwave and collapse while watching some stupid situation comedy or the "news."

ABDUL HARMAN ABDI, Student of Economics, University of Maryland, GREENBELT, Md.

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