As I have witnessed during my stay in Ghana, as well as my home country, stories in the media are often presented the wrong way. Although there is technically no right way to tell a story, there are some guidelines that one needs to take in order to display the topic in a way that does not offend anyone. Ed Madison’s “Media and Social Change. Student Guidebook” and Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write about Africa” explain, in different ways, how to tell a story, and are readings that prove that people depict Africa in such a way that does not match up with how it actually is. It is clear that there needs to be a line between morally right and morally wrong when constructing a story.
I did not know what to expect prior to arriving in Ghana, mainly because my only exposure to what it was like was from movies, TV shows, documentaries, and the news. When I got here, my head was spinning with confusion. I never once had seen Africa in this way, mainly because it was not what was televised or portrayed through the media. For my group’s multimedia project, we chose to write a story on how Ghanaian’s perceive the U.S., and through interviews I found that they were getting their knowledge about my country the same way I was getting information about theirs: through the media.
“How to Write about Africa” is a satirical article and should not be taken literally. However, the sad part is that many people do believe these things. The author does a good job using satire to show the many stereotypes that exist when talking about the continent of Africa. The beginning mentions to “never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won a Nobel Prize. An Ak-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.” This excerpt shows that people out in the world can be hatful, however by displaying these crazy viewpoints it can help us change the reader’s perceptions of Africa.
Social Media: The Good and the Bad
Social media also plays a huge role, as people my age are constantly posting pictures and videos when they visit foreign countries, and many times they are posting pictures without the consent of the person in the photo. I am not saying that you should not have the right to post content from your experiences abroad, however there needs to be a common courtesy between the two subjects. Thus, if you do decide to take a picture or video of someone, make sure to ask them first, and then show them your content afterwards.
I am guilty of taking open pictures of people during the beginning of the trip, and although I was trying to take pictures of the scene rather than just one individual, the people in Ghana do not know that. Through my time here, my storytelling and process of getting content has evolved, and I think that lot of it comes from understanding my surroundings and being here for almost a month.
“Media and Social Change. Student Guidebook” states that, ”passive activities, stories about the past, stories that present issues of access (such as stories that involve young children or stories that might jeopardize one’s personal safety) are all bad places to start when you’re looking for a video story.” This shows that before going off to get content, you need to either think about how this will portray that country, or if you are writing a story it is better to begin brainstorming ideas for contextual analysis.
Madison, Ed (2016, 2017). Media and Social Change. Student Guidebook.
Wainaina, Binyavanga. “How to Write about Africa,” by Wainaina. See: http://www.granta.com/Archive/92/How-to-Write-about-Africa/Page-1.