Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 29th, 2012

Mania of “Rebranding Africa” disaster: Vogue of Italy

Every now and then, someone is trying to rebrand Africa, and it isn’t going so well. Vogue Italia’s latest issue — boosted by great billowing gusts of editorial hot air from both the New York Times and the Guardian — is called “Rebranding Africa.
 
  posted on June 6, under “Vogue Italia’s Rebranding Africa disaster”

“First.   Suppose you’re re-branding the continent of Africa:  who do you pick as your cover star?  What self-inflating fashion magazine wouldn’t lead their Africa edition with a picture of a South Korean diplomat sitting behind a desk in Manhattan?

The new face of Africa is none other than UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. There are so many ways to read this choice. An obvious take is that Vogue Italia, despite their claims of “rebranding” Africa must have decided Africans can’t govern themselves and need UN intervention.

The interview with Ban is very curious reading indeed. Apparently, the man is just world-class at regurgitating very precise development statistics. It reads like an annual report of a large multinational NGO.

Either that, or what we’re reading is a mashed up press release or a stilted email exchange dressed up as a conversation that actually took place (the latter is most likely the case).

Ban Ki-Moon drones endlessly on about the Millennium Development Goals, which is exactly what you’d expect him to do, but is also precisely the opposite of the kind of thing which invites the readers of Vogue Italia to think of Africa in a new way.

With Ban Ki-Moon as its new face, Africa is (a) boring and uncool, and (b) a stubborn problem to be managed by foreign technocrats. No change there.

So why is he on the cover? We have absolutely no idea. The man dresses like any other boring technocrat. The Guardian said the Vogue Italia coverage showed that the effort to rebrand the continent “wasn’t just a token effort” and that it made us (in the West, naturally) sit up and take notice. How?

To us, all that this shows is that the addled people at Vogue Italia are incredibly unimaginative, and quite weird when it comes to its coverage of the unfamiliar — that is, the dark continent/country of Africa.

One guy they could have picked instead for the cover is Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, whose moribund interview with chief editor Franca Sozzani really ought to be somehow preserved in formaldehyde and wheeled out at journalism school graduations as a chilling example of just how bad journalism can get. Much of the copy is taken up with Sozzani’s worrying whether they can photograph Goodluck the Vogue way.

The “interview” is really long passages of Sozzani generously offering her explanation to Jonathan of exactly what is wrong with Nigeria:

All the richest Nigerians spend their money abroad because there a no shops here, no hotels with a chic African flair, no hip restaurants or clubs.

Why not build an African Rodeo Drive in Lagos or Abuja, with boutiques carrying both imported and Nigerian goods?

Finally, there’s a single lonely quote from Jonathan in there, in which he agrees with the long speech Sozzani has made. It’s not often we feel sorry for Goodluck Jonathan, but seriously, poor chap.

It’s also not sure when they did the interview. There’s no word of Occupy Nigeria, which showed Jonathan up to be insensitive and dithering.

You also get the sense that the next time Vogue Italia “do” Africa, Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt and terrifyingly incompetent oil minister will probably be the new cover star, as Sozzani drools mindlessly over one of Nigeria’s most detested politicians:

We are joined by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, a gorgeous and elegant woman – who also happens to be a princess – dressed in traditional robes, with a Master’s from Cambridge and the distinction of being the first woman to run Nigeria’s most important ministry.

Actually they did already. In the same issue.

Sozzani’s representation of Nigeria’s complex social and political situation is as astute as you’d expect it to be, and thanks to the internet, she gets called out big-style by a Nigerian called “Rachel”, whose comment on the website is by far the best piece of writing in the entire magazine, print or online:

This is possibly this worst piece of journalism on Nigeria I have EVER read. I cannot tell you how angry people are reading this. It is a shallow piece of vanity which glosses over the complexities of the tensions in Nigeria.

When you say ‘Muslim’s ultimatum to the Christians’ – do you mean that all the Muslims who make up half of the 158 million people living in Nigeria have a vendetta against Christians? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT????

It was Boko Haram’s ultimatum – you can’t just say ‘Muslims’ throwing in millions of people into a sentence who have felt just as much violence and suffering as Christians in Nigeria. It isn’t just Christians who have died during the violence but many Muslims.

Sweeping statements like this fuel tensions between Christians and Muslims but of course that is perfect for the American audience who probably believe every Muslim is part of Al Q’aeda.

Your dramatic entrance to Nigeria was completely unnecessary. There are thousands of expats who have lived here for years in complete safety. It is reports like this that do nothing for the country. Do not flatter yourself to believe that you would be of ANY value to a terrorist.

You would probably annoy the hell out of them. WHY did the editors think it would be important for readers to hear what you think what should be done in Nigeria?

You were talking to the President of the country who is dealing with increasing rates of poverty and a decline in security and you are telling him to build an African Rodeo Drive? Oh yes, please build it so the 5% of the super wealthy population that can actually afford to buy from these sort of shops will no longer travel.

The rest of the population can look on with their begging bowls in envy.

And the Petroleum Minister is probably one of the most corrupt people in Nigeria who has only added to the poverty, and therefore the security problems in the country.

Don’t you know ANYTHING about the fuel subsidy scandal here? Do you know how many people are calling for her resignation? I feel so disappointed. I dread to think what the issue is like.

I agree with you on one thing, it is important that people see beyond the famine and death in Africa and see the potential it has to grow but the potential has to be found in communities who are doing what they can to get out of poverty whether it be telecommunications to do banking, solar energy to power their small businesses or community initiatives to support women. What use is a Banana fricking Republic?”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

June 2012
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