While looking for an old file, I found this comic that I must have scanned from the Daily Monitor back in 2008. Still love it.
If you’re around on Sunday, anywhere in the world on the internetz, please join in for a a panel that the folks over at BagNews have organized. We’ll talk about the video, that one picture, and more. Sign up here!
Date: Sunday, May 20th Time: 10 am PST/ 1 pm EST / 6pm London (running for 90 minutes)
Gulu-Kitgum highway in Uganda, April 1, 2012.
When I got to Gulu last Thursday, I asked a couple of people if they had contact information for drivers I could hire. No one really did. I was very confused — how was I supposed to get from Gulu to Kitgum on a Sunday afternoon, and Palm Sunday at that?? On Saturday, I went to the Gulu bus park to see what I could suss out. When I arrived, the reason no one had contact information for drivers was very clear: there is plentiful public transport. My MO from working in Liberia – hiring drivers, planning transport in advance – just isn’t necessary here in Uganda.
I hopped on the bus yesterday afternoon. The journey was long, but not uncomfortable. The bus popped a tire and we were delayed for an hour or so, but the electric blue sky made for such great photos that I didn’t really mind.
I also write all this as a novelist and story-writer: I am sensitive to the power of narratives. When Jason Russell, narrator of the Kony 2012 video, showed his cheerful blonde toddler a photo of Joseph Kony as the embodiment of evil (a glowering dark man), and of his friend Jacob as the representative of helplessness (a sweet-faced African), I wondered how Russell’s little boy would develop a nuanced sense of the lives of others, particularly others of a different race from his own. How would that little boy come to understand that others have autonomy; that their right to life is not exclusive of a right to self-respect? In a different context, John Berger once wrote, “A singer may be innocent; never the song.”
One song we hear too often is the one in which Africa serves as a backdrop for white fantasies of conquest and heroism. From the colonial project to Out of Africa to The Constant Gardener and Kony 2012, Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected. It is a liberated space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. Many have done it under the banner of “making a difference.” To state this obvious and well-attested truth does not make me a racist or a Mau Mau. It does give me away as an “educated middle-class African,” and I plead guilty as charged.
One of the best results of the strange role I’ve played in #kony2012 has been the amazing dialogues I’ve had with other photographers and journalists who’ve worked in Northern Uganda and elsewhere about the importance of nuanced images, deep reporting, and faithful representations. Many of these kind and dedicated folks shared their images and their thoughts with me for a curated gallery for Guernica entitled Northern Uganda, Visible.
Yesterday, Ciara Leeming over at Duckrabbit linked to an audio slideshow in the Guardian about male rape that accompanies a long written feature ont he same topic. It focuses on Congolese refugees in Uganda who were raped – some in DRC and others in Uganda. The audio includes many gruesome details, a practice all too common in journalism about rape, but I do think that photographer and writer Will Storr avoids sensationalizing the stories these men have shared with him. I felt uncomfortable watching the piece — which is certainly the point. Storr doesn’t leave us with any hopeful narratives or mutterings about how strong the Congolese are. Instead, there are just these men and their families and their tenuous futures.
Yet, the written piece begins,
Of all the secrets of war, there is one that is so well kept that it exists mostly as a rumour.