Spoofing African Stereotypes

November 21, 2012

As Christmas approaches, warm-hearted Africans are coming to the aid of Norway, where winter temperatures can drop below -40°C. A charity is asking Africans to donate their radiators to the freezing people of Norway.  Called Radi-aid, its website explains its purpose: “Africans unite to save Norwegians from dying of frostbite. You too can donate your radiator and spread some warmth!”

The centrepiece of this campaign is a music video filmed on the sunny shores of Durban in South Africa in which generous Africans are shown donating their radiators, intercut with Norwegians slipping and sliding on winter ice. Breezy Vee, the Radi-Aid spokesperson, describes the purpose of the campaign: “People don’t ignore starving people so why should we ignore cold people, frostbite kills too.”

 

 

There is a serious purpose behind this spoof. As the creators of the video explain,

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 creators of the video want to counter the stereotypes about Africa by parodying Live Aid and Live 8-type fundraisers for Africa, singing “the tables have turned, now it’s Africa for Norway.”

There are serious messages behind Radi-aid and behind the humor.  According to the Radi-Aid manifesto:

1. Fundraising should not be based on exploiting stereotypes.
Most of us just get tired if all we see is sad pictures of what is happening in the world, instead of real changes.

2. We want better information about what is going on in the world, in schools, in TV and media.
We want to see more nuances. We want to know about positive developments in Africa and developing countries, not only about crises, poverty and AIDS. We need more attention on how western countries have a negative impact on developing countries.

3. Media: Show respect.
Media should become more ethical in their reporting. Would you print a photo of a starving white baby without permission? The same rules must apply when journalists are covering the rest of the world as it does when they are in their home country.

4. Aid must be based on real needs, not “good” intentions.
Aid is just one part of a bigger picture; we must have cooperation and investments, and change other structures that hold back development in poorer countries. Aid is not the only answer.

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