I have a very good friend called Barry Malone, who is very good at drawing my attention to the ridiculous and the odd. Every time his twitter feed (@malonebarry) contains a *shudder* or an “Erm…” I look at the link. Barry is someone with a good eye for * shudders*, being, as he says on his Twitter profile, a Reuters journalist who specialises in covering Africa and Mena.
Recently Barry posted two tweets that I found particularly interesting:
1. “In which an Italian fashion journalist gives Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan policy advice *shudder* http://www.vogue.it/en/uomo-vogue/people/2012/05/goodluck-jonathan (h/t @timcocks)”
2. “Erm... "It became clear that (the Assad regime's) priorities and values were completely at odds with those of Vogue"http://n.pr/LVARxP”
Barry is a very dapper man, but not necessarily a fashionista, so when his “erms” and “shudders” are about fashion I find them particularly intriguing.
I appreciate the intention behind the Vogue Italia feature with Goodluck Jonathan. “Our idea to dedicate a whole issue to Africa, but with a positive slant in order to convey an image of the continent that’s not all famine and death, but that is full of potential for growth and expansion toward new development initiatives”.
Now the *Shudder*… unfortunately the whole article reads as a lecture. Franca Souzani expresses in the opening paragraph that the group from Vogue has just landed, and then throughout the piece lectures the President with titbits like – “You have amazing potential – just look at what happened in Brazil, or at how many European and American companies make their goods in China. Why can’t all this be done in Nigeria?” and “Why not build an African Rodeo Drive in Lagos or Abuja, with boutiques carrying both imported and Nigerian goods?”
The extent of the Presidents reflections in the piece are contained almost exclusively as interpretations of emotion such as “The President looks at his ministers with a satisfied smile and appears to agree with what I said.” For more interpretation on the piece, simply read the comments at the bottom of the feature.
I encourage Vogue and their efforts at rebranding Africa, though the emphasis should be on helping Africa, to rebrand Africa (perhaps a guest editorial edition by an African who reflected the aspirations of the magazine would have been a better way of doing this… Note: Not Bono).
Unfortunately the piece simply reinforced a major problem with lots of well intentioned development efforts. White man flies in, meets important person, provides generic advice from a ‘knowing’ position (I am sure they haven’t thought about building nice boutiques in Nigeria) and leaves. At Danaqa we know, communities and designers don’t need advice, they need access to market.
Now the second tweet - about the Assad regime. I don’t think this really needs comment, but I do think there is a link between the two; if expensive PRs tell you that a country just needs some help with its image, think twice about saying yes. You may end up looking silly.
For the rest of June and July 2012 we are offering a discount to the readers of our blog of 20%. Simply buy a product online and enter ‘SummerSaleBlog’ into the coupon box during the check out process.