Two Faces of Africa

young man attacked by machete during clashes in Garissa, kenya. credit: Tony Karumba, AFP / Getty

I came across this picture yesterday and I couldn’t look away. My reactions:-

A part of me understands that the photographer was doing his job, and like any other job it’s not always butterflies and rainbows. I have always sympathized with anyone who’s work takes them right to the heart of conflict, and photographers are no exception. It is their responsibility to show us exactly what is going on in the way that only a picture can. I imagine it takes a lot out of you. I was reminded of Kevin Carter and the Pulitzer Prize winning photo which allegedly pushed him off the edge. So I am not going to bash Tony Karumba. But I have to say I was shocked nonetheless, firstly by all the blood. I mean, is it even ethical?

Secondly, I have already alluded to my potential to freak out about all the bad news in the world, and it is even more horrifying that as a country we have seen some record-breaking conflict-related losses of lives this year. This picture made it ten times realer to me. Third, I must also admit that some of my outrage was from seeing my country portrayed so poignantly as the “photo of the day” on a New York website.

I’m still trying to convince myself that this is a work of art, and to seek comfort in the fact that the graphic images of HIV/AIDS, poverty, famine, malnourished children, civil war and political instability that impersonate my homogenous ”dark continent” do not define it. At least, not to those who know better. Fourth, let’s face it,

If it bleeds, it leads.

Still feeling sad, I found this amusing video:

The description reads:

Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway” video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?

If we say Africa, what do you think about? Hunger, poverty, crime or AIDS? No wonder, because in fundraising campaigns and media that’s mainly what you hear about.

The pictures we usually see in fundraisers are of poor African children. Hunger and poverty is ugly, and it calls for action. But while these images can engage people in the short term, we are concerned that many people simply give up because it seems like nothing is getting better. Africa should not just be something that people either give to, or give up on.

The truth is that there are many positive developments in African countries, and we want these to become known. We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa’s development. If we want to address the problems the world is facing we need to do it based on knowledge and respect.

The video is made by The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (www.saih.no). With the cooperation of Operation Day’s Work (www.od.no). With funding from The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and The Norwegian Children and Youth Council (LNU). Music by Wathiq Hoosain. Lyrics by Bretton Woods (www.developingcountry.org). Video by Ikind Productions (www.ikindmedia.com)

Apart from the facts that

1) the lyrics were written by someone named after the-system-of-monetary-management-established-for-commercial-and-financial-relations-among-the-world’s-major-industrial-states-in-the-mid-20th-century, and

2) the video is FUNDED by none other than the Norwegians (………?!?!………)

I was happy again; we can take a new direction after all.

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