Done? Great. I have mixed feelings about the piece. My gut tells me to be annoyed, but my mind…
“My mind’s telling me noooooooo…”
My first thought was “great… the US has turned the bank on us for not giving them free and easy access to our oil.” In all honesty, this thought has not completely left my mind. My SOAS roots run deep: it’s as though I’ve been programmed to find the World Bank annoying.
My second thought was “Yet another example of negative depictions of Africans. Mtcheeeeew.” Again, old SOAS rearing its head.
Moving continents does not just result in a change in environment, sunshine where there was once rain. No. It has changed me.
Here, I am no longer black and British. I’m just Ghanaian. Foreign-influenced? Yes. Dadabee? Unashamedly so. A little naive? Probably. But Ghanaian. Period. My nationalism and nationality are rarely questioned here; my rights are the same as any other Ghanaian (ie. occasionally abused by the Ghana Police Service and my fellow citizens). I am not part of a racial minority.
Here, my President is black. The Captains of Industry are black. The wealthy, the poor; the young, the old; the wise, the ignorant… black. Black. Black. Black. Black… and guess what? Black (well… give or take a relative handful of mixed-race, Lebanese, white or other Ghanaians).
This changes things. The chip I had not realized I was carrying on my shoulder became visible. Stripped of purpose, it had to be set down (after all, what use are chips in the land of yam, cassava, plaintain and so many more-interesting tubers?) My defensiveness lost its edge. More importantly, romantic diaspora notions of Africa were quickly shed: this place is both beautiful and hard.
Very hard… and that’s my problem with the piece. This excerpt sums it all up for me:
“A Kenyan journalist, Kelly Mbani, asked: “Why couldn’t the country office of the World Bank in Ghana show pictures of interesting and attractive places such as Trassacco Valley, East Legon, the Accra Shopping Mall, Boti Falls, and Kakum National Park?”
Because Trassacco Valley and the Mall do not represent the reality faced by the vast majority of Ghanaians. We do not live our lives in ‘interesting and attractive‘ environments. Some do. Most don’t. It’s that simple.
I used to ask the exact same question when I was in London: why do Western media outlets never ever show cool images of Africa?
Nowadays, however, I question that.
Yes: showing all-negative images of Ghana was what my more expressive American friends might refer to as “a bitch move” on the part of the Bank. Showing exclusive images of wealth, privilege and development though? Just as bad, if you ask me. You can’t just whitewash away reality here to attract foreign investment and aid (the usefulness of which is often in question these days anyway).
Ghana is a lot of things. Cliché though it may sound, it is a bunch of contradictions. Rich and poor. Green and bare. Beautiful and ugly. Hard and soft.
Denial helps nobody.
UPDATE: Apparently the World Bank has explained and apologized for the images, MyJoyOnline reports.