Misrepresentation

Dear friends

Redbirds

Sorry for the radio silence – throat razored by some unknown (and antibiotic resistant) beastie, and unable to stay awake after about 9pm.

Still, it’s nothing really is it? I mean, when you think of all those starving kids in Africa…Hmmm!

I was brought up short recently, by a gentle, funny satire about the way we  use stereotyping to raise funds for our chosen causes.  Radi-Aid, with its story of collecting radiators in Africa so that the people in Norway won’t freeze, makes me wonder if I don’t owe Africa a huge apology.  The caption next to the Radi-Aid video asks, “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?” Do click on the link – it’s really well done.

Are your impressions of Africa that it’s a vast wilderness of drought and corruption, HIV and famine?  And have I helped to  shape those impressions?  Be assured,  they are not representative of this richly diverse and enormous continent.

Kenya with your tribal art and music, your truly breathtaking landscapes, your incomparable beaches, the almost indescribable Rift Valley, and Mount Kenya and your lakes.  The list never ends: your wildlife; the mind-boggling migration of wildebeest, and above all, your people; their languages; traditions and their history going back into prehistory – our hominid ancestors.

Ah! Kenya, beautiful Kenya!  Still when I emerge from your slums, my visions are of hopelessness and despair, illegal alcohol stills, hunger, cholera and discarded children.  I don’t see your beauty then.

I know these aren’t Kenyan problems – they’re world problems.  Cardboard cities; drugs in schools; children abused; the elderly ignored; the different feared and pushed to the side…Europe…America (North and South)…Asia…

We paint a partial picture, a close-up, a light in a shadowy corner, that’s all.  But the more I think about it, the more I realise that, as long as we don’t distort the truth – painting it worse than it really is – it isn’t wrong.

Even though it’s not representative, not even of the slums, it’s absolutely true of where we are working.  And it’s what charities do – publicising needs to raise aid.  It’s tourist boards who get to promote all the good things – lucky them!
And as long as they do their job as well as we do ours, we’ll get a better view of Kenya.  And everywhere else.