My dad woke me up to see this sunrise. It’s like an alarm that commands the earth to recognise the heavens. It brings with it new hope, new dreams, new love and simultaneously carries forward the baggage we willed to leave behind the day before; like a bearer of bad news ushering in a sequel to yesterday’s misery. But what I admire is its strength. It breaks the binding chains of night to end the lions’ hunt and enhance the birds’ song.
Like the rising sun, I must break through the night and see the dawn of each day as another opportunity to try again. I can’t just move on, I have to move strong. I must end the hunt of my demons and beg the presence of what is good in me. I must live, I must love, I must become my very own- my sunrise.
As I took this picture I wondered; if birds did not need to feed off the ground, would they spend their lives in flight searching high above the earth for heaven?
Occasionally, I wonder why it is I believe in God. Often it is my resolve that I would see no point in existing if I lived by a belief that humanity is the highest point of authority. I then close my eyes and scare myself at the thought and possible look of a Godless world- where man and beast have been equalised and let loose at each other. When my eyes finally open, I cannot ignore the realisation that for some of us this is truth. Sometimes man is beast.
Being African, outside of Africa I always felt an implied obligation to defend her against the stereotypes; the poverty; the corruption; the weak institutions; the inequality; the bribery; the tribalism; the ignorance; the brokenness; the struggle; the poaching; the economic divide; the blatant disregard for the law; the inhumanity; the oppression; the sub par quality of education; the danger; the loss of hope; the loss of life. But being an African in Africa for the first time in many years, I realise now I have no defence. I wake up and look out and my first thought everyday is- surely if God knew of this He would have done something. Surely if He saw the suffering, He would end it. I wonder, has God forgotten about Africa or has he chosen to abandon her? Did we do something so despicable or unconscionable to deserve the lives we lead; to be regarded the way we are? Did we not fight hard enough to stop our own colonisation, division, pillaging and enslavement? Did we not suffer enough fighting for our freedom? Where was God then and where is He now?
In Kenya alone you can buy a judge, bribe a policeman, massacre your own without so much as a slap on the wrist and still call yourself a leader. Are these not acts of the uncivilised, selfish, greedy and oppressive? Is this not the work of the beast? If so, where does this leave man? More importantly, where do we seek God?
African elephants are in decline; poachers ruthless as ever. But when you watch these beautiful giants one recognises a certain peace about them, as though they refuse to entertain the idea of impending death. They stand, so firmly planted on the ground. I took this picture and staring at it now it had me thinking. Maybe it’s not about the fight you put up, maybe it’s about the recognition you award yourself when you stop long enough to realize you’re still standing. #staystanding
When renowned Australian photographer, Bill Henson, photographed nude children below the age of sixteen for an art exhibition in Sydney in May 2008, Prime Minister at the time, Kevin Rudd, described it as “revolting”. Henson was arrested on the basis of publishing indecent articles according to the NSW and Commonwealth Crimes Acts. When it was eventually revealed in June that Henson would not be prosecuted, the public was outraged at the thought of a supposed ‘child pornographer’ going unpunished. What is perhaps most interesting about this incident is the fact that Henson had the necessary consent to photograph these children for the exhibition. However, what must be noted in Henson’s case is that his mistake was not in photographing children in the nude, it lay in photographing ‘white’ children in the nude.
In a satirical essay titled How To Write About Africa, Binyavanga Wainaina, states “Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these”. So it is interesting to note that when addressing the western world in regards with African issues, it is instinct for western media bodies to depict Africa as a war torn continent, where every African is the same; the women and men clothed in tattered pieces of cloth, saggy breasts wedged in the mouths of kwashiorkor stricken children, as flies dance effortlessly on their dark, dry skin. We must not forget the televised appeals from global charities often picturing common themes of semi-naked, poor Africa children who just need a small donation of ten dollars to eat for a month. The shock-value commercials offer little on the causes of poverty and prevention, instead exploiting African’s in exchange for good ratings. The double standard implies that whilst it is absurd to see a white child naked in an art gallery for critical acclaim, there are no rules broken in taking pictures and videos of defenceless African children, with no knowledge that their rights are being breached for the sale of a magazine or the acceptance of an award for photojournalism. However, it is not just the media. A prominent early colonialist writer, Joseph Conrad, can be seen at the inception of where these misconceptions and images of African’s spiralled. In his infamous novella Heart of Darkness, Conrad on several occasions describes his first encounter with African’s as though they are of different species to humankind and I quote: “A black figure stood up, strode on long black legs, waving long black arms”. In his criticism of Heart of Darkness it is no wonder why celebrated African writer, Chinua Achebe, described Conrad as “a bloody racist”.
In conclusion it is questionable that while western society is quick to label artists as ‘child-pornographers’ for photographing white children- journalists, broadcasters and charities reveal naked African children habitually at no cost to their reputations. The knowledge of this double standard is what makes poor-nography as big of a concern as pornography.
Amongst Africa’s recurring issues has been the weakness of its institutions, which has denied the people the ability to hold bad political figures accountable for their actions. This has allowed authoritarians like Robert Mugabe, Hosni Mubarak and Yoweri Museveni to serve incredibly long terms in office, obstructing any opportunity for change. It is arguable that African nations in past decades have engaged in civil unrest as a result of grassroots activism, this has been the case in the past year. In the 2011 Egyptian uprising the longest ruling President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, was forced out of office by an Egyptian nation hungry for change. With problems of unemployment and poverty being among their top priorities, the people had had enough of an autocratic government that abused weaknesses in the system and so aided by social media they were able to bring cities to a standstill, with organized non-violent protests and open acts of rebellion.
Another country in Africa that we may want to consider is Uganda, who re-elected President Yoweri Museveni on the 20th of February 2011 to serve his fourth term in office, marking 25 years in power. The election was questionable according to both the European Union and the opposition leader, Dr Kizza Besigye. However, unlike the case of Bush Vs Gore, there was no confidence in what is equivalent to the Supreme court, to appeal to. As the cost of living has steadily risen in Uganda following Museveni’s re-election, Kizza Besigye, encouraged the people of Uganda to join him in his ‘walk-to-work’ protest; highlighting the rising costs of fuel and other consumer goods. Dr Besigye has since been arrested and physically assaulted by police four times; Museveni announcing walk-to-work protests illegal in Uganda. Dr Besigye’s actions are another clear example of grassroots activism against an oppressive government. His resilience has enabled him to gain support from the people of Uganda, who are disturbed by the government’s acts of physical abuse against him, for merely encouraging them to non-violently address the high cost of living by simply walking to work instead of driving. Dr Besigye’s actions have unmasked the oppressive regime that exists under Museveni’s rule.
A notable difference between Australia and Africa is that desperation in African nations as well as the apparent need for reform has been the inspiration behind grassroots activism. Australia on the other hand lacks a sense of urgency for change that would encourage Australian’s to demand more from their government. So in instances like that of Pomona and its outrage at the quarry trucks that have recently started using their streets en route to a destination, the towns-people are not fuelled enough by the issue to make the impact that could bring the desired change. With poverty being at such high levels in Africa, activism defines a refusal to settle for a life of suffering – as citizens become aware of their rights and organise to demand these. In Australia on the other hand, it is easier to leave the status quo, since this costs less.
For years Hollywood has attempted to tell Africa’s story- but this is invariably flawed because it is seen through a western prism. With movies like Blood Diamond, Tears of the Sun and The Last King of Scotland, African’s have been depicted as destructive and uncivilized, brutally killing one another for personal gain. Often the African story is left untold, as an Academy Award is enough to dismiss all questions of truth. African’s, however, come from an oral tradition. They are storytellers by nature, which is perhaps what makes African Cinema so attractive. What is possibly most interesting about Nollywood, is its raw delivery of the city of Lagos as a dangerous place, indulged in heavy doses of drama, with a hint of dark west-African witchcraft. A limited amount of capital to fund such things as the building of sets’ has made Nollywood a phenomenal medium to explore the city of Lagos and learn more about the Nigerian culture through location shooting.
At the start of its era, few people would have suspected the Nigerian Film Industry, commonly referred to as ‘Nollywood’, of having the potential to produce the highest number of films in the world. Today, Bollywood is battling to hold this title as Nollywood was ranked second in 2009, beating the United States, according to a global cinema survey conducted by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Some might compare it to the United States variation of Fordism in the 1940s -1960s, where mass production encouraged mass consumption. Similarly in Lagos, mass production of cheaply made feature films distributed commonly on VCD and DVD, has made it affordable for everyone to enjoy; targeting an audience that expands further than those who can afford the luxuries of movie tickets.
Although there are distinct differences between Nollywood and Hollywood, Nollywood has borrowed some ideas from its American rival. On the 30th May 2005, the first African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) ceremony was held in Nigeria, to recognize the people responsible for Africa’s best 2004 films. Not only does this shed light on some of Africa’s star talent, but it has also created an incentive for producers and directors in other nations of the African continent to strive for excellence. For example, in 2011, the AMAA’s received the highest number of entries from Kenya, adding up to a total of 27 entries. Winning an AMAA is also, reportedly, a way to win access into the world film festival circuits, which could open doors to more funding for African film projects as well as international acclaim.