Sammy Nickalls
February 07, 2016 7:14 am
Twitter

About a week ago, we were feeling pretty bittersweet about the announcement by Harry Potter‘s Evanna Lynch of a wizarding school in the general upstate New York area: Ilvermorny. (Like, obviously we were *so* excited that we get a Hogwarts, too,  but we were mourning over the fact that, when we were 11, we didn’t get letters from not one school, but two.) Ilvermorny is just one of several schools around the world announced on the J.K. Rowling-sanctioned fan site Pottermore, but unfortunately, one of these schools — Uagadou — has been facing some pretty intense heat.

While Mahoutokoro is a Japanese wizarding school and Castelobruxo is listed as being in Brazil, Uagadou is in Africa. No, it wasn’t listed in any specific country, like the others. Just Africa. And Twitter was not impressed — in fact, quite the opposite.

While the intention was clearly good — to include a continent that is underrepresented in Western pop culture — there are several major problems with Rowling’s execution. It all boils down to the fact that Africa has many unique cultures, yet this move felt a lot like an assumption that it’s just one big unified continent, entirely the same. It’d be like assuming Europe is all one, despite the fact that we know the cultures of Italy, France, Germany, and England are entirely different.

Rowling wrote the description of Uagadou on Pottermore, which reads, “Although Africa has a number of smaller wizarding schools. . . there is only one that has stood the test of time (at least a thousand years) and achieved an enviable international reputation: Uagadou.” All of this is positive, but still vague. However, she did respond to criticism very quickly:

The Pottermore press release now highlights that the school is located in Uganda.

Although this was clearly all a mistake on the part of Rowling, her intentions were good, and she very quickly corrected herself. It’s important that we have a conversation about these issues. After all, learning *is* magic, as Hermione would say.

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