These arresting images – constructed mostly by flown-in photojournalists, with the help of their photo editors – grab our attention; the best draw the fundamentals of their aesthetic from European masters, referencing visual cliches that Western-educated audiences can identify and latch on to. They continue and reinforce colonial mythologies, fashioning the “us” of the geopolitical West as “civilised”, defining and distinguishing the enlightened European self from the dark, savage Africa.
When the same newspaper prints a story about the struggle that African photographers face getting their work published, with little critique of their own involvement in presenting an insistently racist vision of Africa and Africans that simply masquerades as compassion, it’s easy to end up with a little schizophrenia.
Source: The problem with photojournalism and Africa | | Al Jazeera
Here’s an interesting piece of information about what the British did as they retreated from their colonies:
“Thousands of documents detailing some of the most shameful acts and crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments, an official review has concluded.” Read more here
“Fifty-year-old documents that have finally been transferred to the National Archive show that bonfires were built behind diplomatic missions across the globe as the purge – codenamed Operation Legacy – accompanied the handover of each colony.” Read more here
Don’t think it’s good for conversation with the average British person because they still don’t know they had colonies!
Recently I encountered this white Polish woman who claimed Conrad as one of her own. The British stole him from us she said, seemingly oblivious to what this claiming Conrad meant. As I realised through the weeks I had known her, it wasn’t obliviousness at play, it was the need to make invisible white supremacy. This included another story I was told about a post-colonial writer known for the word ‘subaltern’. Apparently as this white woman escorted her around London, all this Prof did was to call all white people racist. This isn’t a story to be told at Goldsmiths or in a London radical political gathering. These are the kind of stories that get reserved to be told to browns when in a brown country!
A few weeks later reading through Achebe I came across his brilliant writing on Conrad and how problematic it was. I wonder why race is so difficult for white people to get and then maybe the question or understanding ought to be that it isn’t really difficult, what white people don’t want to acknowledge is the power that enables them to keep the privileges that sustain their race. Achebe, in his essay Africa’s Tarnished Name, deconstructs Conrad’s writing and here’ a quote:
“This tradition (referring to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) has invented an Africa where nothing good happens or ever happened, an Africa that has not been discovered yet and is waiting for the first European visitor to explore it and explain it and straighten it up, or, more likely, perish in the attempt.”
Here’s a link to another blog post that elaborates on the above essay.
Achebe’s book “The Education of a British-Protected Child’ is a great read.