The Three African Porcupines – The Leaders, The Journalists And The Intelligentsia

During one summer evening, as I sat with Xiao-he watching TV in the living room, he started lamenting the sorry state of affairs on the African continent and how things were going on there. He did not make any effort to differentiate between countries in Africa. I reminded him that Africa was a continent – not a country.

“Yes, I know. But Africa is a continent – not a country. There are other parts of the continent that are relatively developed.”

“Yes, I know. But the overwhelming number of poor and underdeveloped countries situated in that continent alone makes it impossible for us the Chinese people to differentiate between them.” To us Africa is Africa. Okay? Let the politicians and the intellectuals do the differentiation.” He said fearlessly and angrily.

“But you can’t just lump the politicians and the intellectuals together.”

“Why can’t I do so?” He retorted.

“At least you do know the plight of these intellectuals. Their voices are not often being heard. Moreover, some even become targets of these very politicians.”

“Yes, I know. But there are also some of these intellectuals who run after every caller and bend in the direction of every political wind.”

“Xiao-he, I don’t understand what you mean by some intellectuals running after every caller and bending in the direction of every political wind.”

A moment of silence then descended upon us. I knew Xiao-he was no longer interested in this discussion. He wanted a change of topic, I guessed. I felt the same too. After quietly taking a few sips of brandy, he became garrulous once again. I often disliked his idea of always carrying along an alcoholic drink where ever he went. He drank in every occasion-in both his sad moments and happy moments.

“But I can’t also absolve some of the journalists from blame.” He said with a twisted face and widely opened eyes.

To Xiao-he, the nature of the relationship between the journalists, the politicians, and the intellectuals in Africa could be likened to what happens to three porcupines when they’re cold in winter-they get as close as possible to one another to keep warm-but not too close so that they don’t hurt one another. His reason was that, even though some of them did concentrate on Africa’s capacity for greatness, a good majority of them rather concentrated on blaming outsiders-especially Western ones-and colonialism-for Africa’s problems. He thought that often lead to they shooting themselves in the foot?”

I countered by making him realize the fact that most of these are actually a stranded intelligentsia. They’ve been trapped in backwaters. They often find themselves reduced to poverty and rustic irrelevance. If they refuse to sing the song of those in power, they aren’t going to survive.”

Video Script: My Best Friend & Under My Bed

Voice Over (Female Child)


‘I have a friend. She lives in my house.’

The little girl is peeping from a window. There is another window at the right side, there is a replica of the same girl in this window. The replica is a little faded.

‘When I am happy, so is she.’

The little girl is going round and round with her hands spread out. Her replica/reflection is also dancing by her side.

‘When I cry, she cries too.’

Both of the girls are crying.

‘But I cannot hear her voice.

My friend lives inside the mirror.’

”Come out,’ I tell her, ‘we will play.’

She does not come out.’

Now the little girl is standing in front of a mirror. She is holding a billy in her hands. She looks at her reflection in the mirror. She appears to be sad.

‘I am not happy.

I go to sleep.’

The little girl is lying in the bed. She is asleep on her front with both hands below her face.

‘She comes out of the mirror when I am sleeping. We have a lot of fun.’

The little girl is holding both hands with her replica. Both of them are going round and round around each other. There is little cuckoo flying around them.

‘We play, run, shout, and scream together.’

Both of them are now standing under a tree. There are two huts behind them. An owl, a cuckoo and a squirrel are playing around them. The girls are shouting.

‘When I talk to her, she also talks to me.’

Now both the girls are sitting on the branch of a tree, with their hands around each other’s shoulders. There is a blue bird flying around them. A butterfly too is hovering around them. The branch is laden with many colourful leaves.

‘In the morning, my friend will go back into the mirror.’

Now both the little girls are hugging each other in a window.

‘But I do not mind at all. We will play again in my dreams!’

The little girl is looking in the mirror. Her reflection is asleep in there.

No Voice Over(Subtitles)


‘I wake up at night feeling thirsty.

I want to get some water. I start

Looking for my slippers under the bed.’

An 8 year old boy wakes up, gets down from his bed and peeps under it for his slippers. He sees big flashing eyes of a tiger under his bed.

‘Oh, no! There’s a tiger under my bed.’

The boy is crouching over his bed and looking down. The back of the tiger appears under the bed.

‘Now what shall I do? Shall I call Ma? What if the tiger comes out?’

The boy lowers his head below the bed and he sees the back of the tiger.

‘Should I just go back to sleep? But I am not sleepy anymore.’

He lies down back on his bed. He is lying on his side. He covers his head with the blanket yet his face is still open and his hands are on his face.

(Then someone turns on the light. Ma is standing at the door.)

‘What happened, dear? Did you call me?’

Ma is standing at the door. The little boy lifts his blanket from one side and looks at her.

(I point towards the tiger. Ma bends and pulls the tiger out from under the bed!)

Ma bends down and pulls the tiger from under the bed. The little boy crouches with her.

‘Hey! There is no tiger.

This is my yellow and black sweater. Its buttons shine like a tiger’s eyes.’

Ma stands up and shows the sweater to the boy. The little boy sticks his tongue out with both his hands below his chin.

‘I got frightened for nothing.’

The boy wears the sweater and smiles.

‘Now I will sleep and dream about real tigers in the jungle!’