Tag Archives: Media

One (Misrepresented) Direction in Ghana!

Oh. My. Gosh. Just when we thought the boys of One Direction couldn’t get any more perfect – BAM! – they post a bunch of pictures of themselves with happy African children.

1DinGhana

Swoon, right?

I don’t know how you feel about this British pop phenomenon. [If you don’t know who they are, for goodness sake, get on the bandwagon! They’re like a less talented, better-looking version of the Beatles with a random Irish guy!]
I happen to love them. Kind of. In the same way I love bad Disney Christmas movies and instant mashed potatoes – though irresistible, there’s also something a little wrong about them.

Anyways, back to the point, and the focus of this blog.

Niall, Harry, Liam, Zayn, and Louis went to Africa. They’re supporting Red Nose Day, which fundraises for the British charity Comic Relief, founded in 1985. Cool. They’ve actually already released a single that you can buy to help the cause:
https://itunes.apple.com/za/album/one-way-or-another-teenage/id593902718?ls=1&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

This totally sounds like I’m just plugging the cause. But wait for it, I’m about to get cynical.

Doing a remake of a Blondie song for charity, clapping with some kids, tearing up when talking about vaccinations… Sounds a lot like every celebrity trip to Africa ever. Maybe not specifically Blondie, but still. The whole thing was choreographed, from meeting boys who survive by digging through trash to wearing their nastiest T-shirts to blend in with the scenery. And it only lasted for TWO DAYS. How much of a continent can you see in two days?

A couple of the 20-ish year old guys got some slack for posting ‘insensitive’ Tweets during their days in Africa. You know, talking about how “real” poverty is, and how they’ve seen tragedy right in front of their eyes, etc., etc. Some Ghanaian celebrities lashed out at them on Twitter, saying that the band gave an unfair impression of their country and didn’t portray the positive parts of Ghana. Fair enough.

It is an issue that the British audience (of mostly pre-teen girls) probably don’t know anything about Africa or poverty or that the beaches in Ghana are some of the most spectacular ones in the world. It’s a shame, really. But should we really be surprised? And, should we expect the members of One Direction to educate the general Western public about these kinds of things?

It was all of their first times on African soil. And they had never actually seen mass poverty before. Which seems crazy to someone who’s lived in a developing country, but is completely standard to the average first worlder. Poverty is real. It’s shocking. It’s horrifying. Anyone with a heart would get emotional in an overcrowded, underresourced children’s hospital. Just Harry Styles was caught on camera and used as a fundraising tool – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahSIW5hOonk

Looking into the technicalities of how Comic Relief uses their funds is a whole other issue for another day. But I’m going to have to side with the Direcitoners on this one. If the guys’ responses were a little ignorant, hey, now they’re a little less ignorant than most of their demographic. If they were simply pawns in a greater scheme to make money to help abolish poverty, I think they’ll survive. And if they seemed a little one-sided in their representations of Ghana, apparently not all that stuck with them was negative. As Harry tweeted on January 13th:
“Today was the most amazing day I’ve had so far.. In my life ever”

Celebrities shouldn’t be the only source of information to Western youth. But they are a big one. So I say Amen! to even the tiniest bit of perspective thrown into Hollywood’s stew. We’ll take what we can get.

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5 Things You Should Know About Africa

So, when the average ‘Westerner’ thinks of Africa, they probably think this:

RafikiSimba

Or maybe this:

AfricanTribalDance

Or possibly this:

PoorAfricanKids

Good. We’ve all been mildly exposed to the media and its portrayals of Africa’s cultures and troubles. But there are some things that get left out. Like, a lot of things. I’m not claiming to be an expert on the subject at all, but I have learned a bit from my 5-ish years of residing on this side of the world.

Here are the top 5 things I think everyone should know about this beautiful continent. Not that the Lion King isn’t thoroughly educational…

Thing 1: Africa is not a Country
Africa is a continent. There are 54 countries within Africa. That’s more than the number of states in America. Shocking, I know.

Thing 2: Africa is Extremely Complicated
With over a billion people hanging out and living life, this continent’s got a lot going on. More than you or I will ever know. If you’ve never sat back to think about why Africa is the way it is… don’t. Unless you have years to sit and contemplate. Politics + geography + prejudice + timing + culture + religion + resources + etc. = however you want to describe Africa today. And feel free to dream up any kind of civil unrest or controversy or political mess or discrimination, Africa’s been through it. There are a lot of webs being woven, so be suspicious of anyone who tries to ‘define’ Africa in less than a few thousand words (or three pictures, for that matter).

Thing 3: Africa is Changing
It’s not like when you forget to donate to World Vision that Africa’s development screeches to a halt. The whole place is busy doing stuff, developing in completely unique ways to the rest of the world, just like every other place in the rest of the world. Each country’s identity is shifting slightly with each passing day. So is each city’s. And each person’s. That’s how it works.

Thing 4: Not Everyone in Africa is Black
I feel a little awkward bringing this up, but it’s actually pretty ridiculous how many people don’t know this. There are a lot of white people, and ‘Asian’ people, and other people too. It’s a little less monochromatic than you’d like to think. If you don’t believe me, here’s a link to Google: www.google.com. Type in “Are there white people in Africa?”, and then tell me I’m wrong. Really, you should have googled that a long time ago, right after watching Mean Girls.

Thing 5: Africa Can Hear You
Yeah. African people have cell phones and computers and other ways of knowing what’s happening in the rest of the world. But it’s fine, really. If you’re making dumb, sweeping remarks about a continent you know nothing about, the internet will gladly pass your message along into the right hands. And those hands will happily mock you.