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Why the Hue and Cry over Vanessa Nakate’s Image Crop Out is Valid

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By Onuwa Lucky Joseph

It does look like some systematic pattern where black people are not just consigned to the background but erased altogether. That’s the powerful symbolism of Vanessa Nakate’s story. Though denied by AP, it is what it is, and might we say, what it always has been.

Vanessa Nakate, first right in original picture, below. Published photo, above.

The saviour complex adopted wholesale by lots of not quite reflective black people is an unwholesome brew that perpetuates self-loathing and a feeling of powerlessness in the wake of challenges. And so, when actual effort is made by natives and locals, (read, Blacks), it is rarely media captured. However, negative undertakings by ‘Black Natives’ takes excessive media acreage internationally as well as in the local media.

Okay, just in case you can’t make head or tale of this rant. It’s about the young Ugandan climate activist who went to Davos (Jan 21st – 24th) alongside Greta Thunberg, Isabelle Axelsson, Luisa Neubauer and Loukina Tille. We, over here at BusinessDay Corporate Social Impact (CSI), had joined in championing the embryonic activism of Greta as something refreshing the world needed to prick its conscience. The future of the world, we had argued, and this is also the foundational logic of the young lady’s activism, is too serious to be left in the hands of ageing white males (overwhelmingly) who see the world only in terms of profit and loss statements while its long term health is not considered an issue of significance.

So the girls (all girls, by the way; where are the boys! Where are the boys?!), set out for Davos to make their case. And Vanessa, an integral part of the team was left out altogether in the media representations that came out thereafter. Her image was cropped out of the group photo and her eloquent take on the issue was not captured in the earlier reports done by AP.

Yes, AP has come out to apologise and talk about ‘soul-searching’ within the organisation, as well as expanded diversity training, etc.. But the only reason we are taking about this matter is because Vanessa Nakate would not be stilled. It’s not for nothing that she is an activist. She immediately flagged the issue and followed up with a strong media campaign which drew support from thousands including her ‘leader’ Greta who chimed in with a strong solidarity message.

The issue of Nakate’s image crop out is no less significant than the climate change issue. If we must remake the world or improve it, addressing both matters is one that must be done. Africa, though the least involved in the human activities that activate climate change is projected to bear the brunt of the weather pattern change as droughts and floods take turn to ravage the continent. The world cannot therefore allow for the African perspective to be muffled. The world cannot afford to keep seeing the world’s salvation only in Teutonic representations. Every colour in the spectrum pushing for the salvation of mankind ought to be acknowledged.

It is important. And that’s what Nakate is teaching all of us.

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