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Africa Clichés, Part LXXVIII

The blog Africa is a Country reacts to the NYT Magazine’s Coverage of John “Save Darfur” Prendergast. The best summary is from former NYT Reporter Howard French’s Twitter feed: “Bwana Saves Africa, Part 3,276.”

The same blog had a post yesterday on cringe-inducing attempts to have a supermodel portray an “Africa” theme at a certain fashion show. It reminded me of crude Hollywood portrayals of Africa when I was a child.  And no, I’m not showing you the picture.

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  1. Lure D. Lou wrote:

    It doesn’t help to be so snide. The world of aid is a big tent with clowns in all places under the big-top. I used to really like this blog but frankly it is wearing thin, especially with pointless pieces like this. Prendergast is at least out there doing something rather than sitting around being a wise-ass.
    Fine, you think he’s shallow…but where is your depth or the evidence of your impact? I work in Africa too…no one I know has ever heard of Bwana Easterly…not the case in the coffee shops around the Village.

    Posted December 5, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Permalink
  2. CB wrote:

    Lure D. Lou,

    What’s the problem you ask? See that guy in the background holding the petrol containers? That guy never makes the text of the article. And there are probably hundreds like him who actually carry out Prendergast’s work. But do they ever get the coverage? No. For every Bwana (not just in Africa but all over the world), there are 100 in-country people who the dedication to improving their country, but when it gets written up, it’s always the Bwana. That is what people are objecting to.

    Just a few weeks ago, Kristof published a piece on a Nepalese orphanage whose initial funding came from a young American girl. A noble effort and noble work she does. But where in the story are the Nepalese who she needs, has to have working with her, to make it happen?

    It’s the constant elisions of foreign people that rankles. Take it easy on Dr. Easterly. He’s spent 20, 30-plus years studying and working in Africa. He’s earned his skepticism.

    Posted December 6, 2010 at 2:39 am | Permalink
  3. It does help to be snide…..the amusement contributes to overall happiness of aid workers the World over, which then allows them to work better.

    What Prendergrast does is push forward self-righteous policies that disregard international law and promote some idea of American exceptionalism. I think the best work Prendergrast does is provide aid workers and bloggers with humorous ammunition using his caricature antics.

    I much prefer snide over smug.

    Posted December 6, 2010 at 3:06 am | Permalink
  4. ewaffle wrote:

    The profile reads as if Prendergast pitched and sold the article to the Times and chose Daniel Bergner to write it. Predergast’s finely tuned sense of his irreplaceablity regarding human rights (or anything else) in Sudan and Bergner’s “gee whiz, you are so wonderful” attitude are a perfect match.

    The reader wants to tell them to just get a room.

    Posted December 6, 2010 at 11:30 am | Permalink
  5. John Prendergast University offers a PhD in Shameless Publicity to all aspiring activists. Financial aid is available from the American government.

    Posted December 11, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

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  1. […] (Bwana means “big boss” in Swahili and some other African languages; catchy, no?) (ht Aidwatch Blog and Africa Is a […]

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    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

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