Good intentions, harmful expressions: Painful Porn 2.0 | opinions


“Africa is the continent of the future. In this region where most babies are born, thousands of children are in difficult and painful situations every year.”

This is how the photo exhibition I recently visited in a small town in the Catalan Pyrenees introduced to the audience. The product of cooperation between Spanish journalists and various local and international non-governmental organizations. The exhibition is titled “Indestructible: The Next Generation of Africa”. The exhibition claims to be a project about “Struggling African Childhood”, which “shows the stories of African children” As an active protagonist in their lives”.

The exhibition includes photos and stories of brides and brides in rural Uganda, Malian children whose lives are marked by “witchcraft and traditional medicine”, women in difficult situations in rural Ethiopia giving birth, and when they were carrying a rusty Kalashnikov in Moscow. Children wearing Messi T-shirts. The Democratic Republic of Congo and so on. These photos are full of lost faces, struggling farmers, blunt pains, dark backgrounds, small houses, and lots of dirt.

The photographers, journalists and NGOs who promote and fund this work undoubtedly have good intentions. They want Europeans to know the difficulties that many African children face in their daily lives and how they overcome them. But despite these obvious good intentions, how do well-planned stories and photos from 10 different countries on the African continent communicate with ordinary Europeans watching them? Asphalt has not yet reached the African continent, and the power supply is very limited. The buildings there do not pass through the second floor. Africa has no prosperous urban centers or well-equipped hospitals. All Africans live in mud houses.

Indeed, exhibitions that seem to be good things, such as the one mentioned above, aim to bring the struggle of Africans to the attention of Western audiences through emotional images and stories in which the dangers outweigh the benefits.

Such misleading attempts at “representation” can be harmful, not only because they exacerbate existing misunderstandings about life on the African continent, but also because they make Africans, especially African children, a commodity for European public consumption.

Such exhibitions also commercialized their themes without considering the issue of reciprocity. Have you ever seen a similar exhibition about “Struggling European Childhood” in the center of Europe? There are also countless white European children who are “exposed to difficult and painful situations every year”, but you will only hear these situations in news reports that are cautious or rigorous and respect children’s privacy, because their faces are always pixelated and their identities hidden.

What we have seen in the above exhibitions and in many other exhibitions is a relatively new way of commoditizing the lives of Africans and Africans in the name of representing and raising awareness. This is a direct result of the close relationship established between Western parachute journalists and the Charity Capital Foundation, which invests in the media and humanitarian organizations.

From “tragic porn” to “humanistic porn”

When I checked the photos and read the story of the “Indestructible” exhibition, I couldn’t help thinking of the 1977 simulation version of Colombian filmmakers Luis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo. “Vampire Poverty”, especially Mayolo pretends to be a scene. The filmmaker was commissioned by the German TV channel to produce a documentary about “Latin American Sufferings”, requiring street children to bathe in a fountain in central Bogata to jump into the water for dramatic effects.

“Poor Vampire” criticized a new trend that emerged in Latin America in the 1970s: local filmmakers produced sensational and decontextualized films about the “suffering” of their people and sold them to the West. This is also a condemnation of European festivals and television, which are always looking for movies about life and suffering in the global South. In the eyes of Mayolo and Ospina, these films turned the “suffering” of Latin America into a commodity that could serve as an escape valve for the system that instigated it in the first place. They coined the term “pornomiseria” (painful porn) to describe these movies and even wrote a manifesto on the issue.

Moreover, at the time, “tragic porn” was not only the film and television industry, but also the most valuable currency in charity. International humanitarian organizations are publishing photos of poverty, death and hunger to watch the world from the sofa of Westerners to raise funds.

In the early 1980s, the proliferation of images of children spread across different African countries due to wars and famines finally triggered a public debate in the West and forced international NGOs to stop using “painful pornography” as a way to raise funds. But soon, the traditionally impoverished pornographic images that dominated television, radio and newspapers through NGO advertisements and called for action for many years were made more positive by the more miserable “others” living in distant lands, but the same Replaced by misleading representatives.

In recent years, as traditional media organizations have become increasingly unable to fund foreign reports, international non-governmental organizations have begun to work closely with parachute reporters to seek information on people living in remote and hard-to-reach areas.

The Capitalist Charity Foundation has expanded its influence on European media organizations by providing funds, support and access rights to its journalists to produce projects and reports on development issues in the global South. This has led to the media’s narrative of “others” in the West being seriously affected by NGOs.

These cooperative efforts usually avoid the production of traditional impoverished pornography. They are undoubtedly humane to the representatives of Africans and other peoples in the global South, and on the surface they are positive, but they do not give their subjects agency, dignity or control. They fall into the trap of exoticism and somehow “humanize” other European countries, making them consumer goods again. Moreover, perhaps in the name of ensuring that others are always regarded as innocent and one-dimensional “victims” or “survivors” by European audiences, they politicize them and remove their stories from the broader context.

These seemingly positive, humane but completely out-of-context examples of Africans and other distant European countries have appeared in the media: reports of child trafficking in African countries call into question the existing inequality and the traditional structure of European colonialism. Crimes; Stories about refugee girls being educated because of European donations, but did not mention the reasons for their displacement; Interviews with indigenous women’s rights activists in Latin America, their anti-capitalist consciousness disappeared from the narrative

All the creepy stories are designed to raise awareness, but they also produce other stories that are not politicized-after being thoroughly cleaned up, European audiences can easily eat them, hoping to be satisfied with themselves and humanity as a whole. These representatives seem to be promoting humanism and even cosmopolitanism, but in fact, they deliberately eliminate historical differences to cover up the power imbalance between the representatives and the representatives and their audiences. In the traditional sense, this may not be “painful porn”, but it is undoubtedly a form of “humanitarian porn.”

Those who make these statements frequently may have good or even noble intentions. However, these news reports, development projects and exhibitions not only risked turning their themes into commodities consumed by European audiences, but also conceal the true source of their suffering and maintain harmful colonial dynamics.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.





Source link