Calling Africa a country is a bit old fashioned and ignorant, but it's still the topic of many heated discussions. Most recently: the need of an African Vogue, and David LaChapelle’s exhibition “The Rape of Africa”.
Tongue-in–the-cheek woman’s magazine Jezebel, quotes Tanzanian ex model and fashion blogger Rosemary Kokuhilwa: “I actually love the idea of having "Vogue Africa" for the whole continent. Maybe in some way this will help bring us together as one fashionably (think Pan -Africanism)”.
The topic is intensely debated, “ConnieMortadella” writes: “Except for the low-circulation Vogue Latinoamerica, most editions of Vogue are country-specific. It would make more sense to have a Vogue South Africa or a Vogue Nigeria than a pan-African Vogue, specially given the multiplicity of ethnic groups, languages and cultures throughout the continent.”
“Pickrd.AL” criticizes the need for luxury in the poor continent: "Are you kidding me?? in a continent ripped with poverty, starvation, rape, abuse and a multitide of issues that we cannot fathom, we're actually rooting for a fashion magazine as a symbol of triumph over these issues? There are much more critical things to achieve than touting some fashion magazine."
Photographer and film maker David LaChappelle exactly pictures this criticism. His photograph "The Rape of Africa" (At the Robiland and Voena gallery in London) is a modern interpretation of Sandro Botticelli’s "Venus and Mars". The renaissance painting shows the god of war and the goddess of love after an amourous encounter, and has quite a peaceful interpretation: love conquers war. LaChapelle’s version shows Mars as a warlord surrounded by child soldiers and Venus (Naomi Campbell) representing Africa. The kitchy colours seem to shout : “Rapers and looters destroy the continent!”
On the BBC, LaChapelle explains that it is not “Just a political picture of Africa”. “Through our need of security, we are basically degrading mother Africa, representing mother earth." On the Africa-is-a-country-blog, Sonja Uwimana criticizes the way how western artists and celebrities victimize Africa for the sake of their own image: “David LaChapelle somehow doesn’t seem to be the right person for this job. Of course, “this job” is routinely taken up by many North American and Europeans artists, celebrities, and the like. All one needs to do to stay relevant is say something “meaningful” about Africa.”
Both the potential African Vogue and The Rape of Africa visually generalize the continent. Which image creates a better image for Africa? Or is the generalization itself the worst publicity you can get?
Photo: courtesy David LaChapelle