Meskel Square ripped into this one already, but I feel compelled to add my two cents.
Sunday marked the fourth Global Day for Darfur. As part of the mobilization effort, people worldwide organized awareness-raising events that put the spotlight on the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Among those participating in protests, were a gaggle of celebrities.
Matt Damon, Thandie Newton and other celebs led a “star-studded” protest that involved destroying children’s toys (dollhouses, tricycles, barbie dolls) in a symbolic gesture meant to convey the suffering of Darfuri children. What? Meskel Square points out the obvious cultural disconnect here. How does a blow-torched barbie doll speak to the lost childhood of a Darfuri girl?
It doesn’t. That fact really doesn’t seem to matter though. The images are about the celebrities, their clothes, their actions.
This picture protest actually reminded me of a different celebrity photo campaign related to Africa, that fell somewhat flat. It was the “I am African” campaign for Keep A Child Alive. It still exists on the website, and it had a significant run in print media a while back. The campaign seeks to raise money for antiretroviral drugs for people living with AIDS in African nations. A worthy cause. However, the campaign relied on pictures of celebrities with the caption “I am African” underneath, to garner support and donations. The premise is that every one of us can trace our ancestry back to Africa, and therefore we should care about what is happening to people who actually live there now:
These amazing people traveled far and wide. Now they need our help.
Unfortunately that’s not the only patronizing and small-minded comment on the official website.
Opening up a copy of Newsweek to see Gwenyth Paltrow’s freckled face covered with a rendition of “tribal” paint, and the quote “I AM AFRICAN” was more than startling. Admittedly, the celebrities featured are a diverse group, and Iman, a supermodel, is Somali. Still, the whole concept is a huge stretch. Just google the campaign slogan to get a feel for the controversy surrounding the ads.