Africa For Norway: The Ultimate Parody of Poverty Porn

Africa For Norway: The Ultimate Parody of Poverty Porn

Few things upset me more than poverty porn. You know those commercials, the ones with a solemn celebrity pleading for donations. They’re likely standing in front of a mud hut somewhere in rural Africa, and the camera zooms in on a small child with a distended belly sitting in the dirt. There’s probably a fly or two buzzing around his head, and if it’s this time of year, John Lennon’s ‘so this is Christmas, and what have you done’ is likely playing softly in the background.

The sense of hopelessness is overwhelming, often enough to prompt us to make a guilt-induced donation. But these ads are exploitative. They paint a singular picture of Africa as a continent in utter despair – one that will only improve through handouts from the west.

A new parody video, created by The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund, calls on Africans to save frostbitten Norwegians by donating radiators, highlighting just how obscene and exploitative poverty porn really is.

Take 2 minutes to watch the video:

The video follows the formula of fundraising bids of the past (think Band Aid and Live Aid). A rapper named Breezy V talks about the dangers of frost bite, while Norwegians are seen slipping and falling on an icy slope. There’s a call for donations (radiators in this case) and of course a jubilant choir of shinny optimistic do-gooders singing and swaying.

"In Norway kids are freezing, It’s time for us to care, There’s heat enough for Norway, If Africans would share..."

The Africa for Norway website asks the question: If every person in Africa saw this video, and it was the only information they ever got about Norway, what would think? And it’s a valid point; how many North Americans’ view of Africa—a diverse, dynamic and innovative continent—have been shaped primarily by charities pleading for donations? It’s an image of poverty, destitution, AIDS, corruption, and war. The images ignore the complexities of Africa’s development, they fail to show African-led and -driven success stories, and the touted solution of handouts most often does more harm than good.

More than anything though, I love this video because it forces us to question our perceptions of African communities and where we developed those views in the first place. What do you think? Is this an effective approach?

November 27, 2012