Glossy magazine Vanity Fair has commissioned U2 singer Bono has the editor of a special issue on Africa. The issue features celebrity photos by Annie Leibowitz, coverage of the Kwani Kenyan literary festival, Bill Clinton's tribute to Nelson Mandela and an essay on genetics by Spencer Wells. It's easy to be cynical about celebrity causes, but it's worth looking at what they have to say.
From Bono's editorial, two points emerge.
First, the message of humanism:
Africa is the proving ground for whether or not we really believe in equality
This Africa is a theatre for the demonstrating values of compassion and efficacy. Bono's editorial is filled with philanthropic brands like RED, DATA, the One Campaign and Edun. He promotes the benefits of corporations to make a difference in the world.
The second is a little more rock'n roll:
We needed help in describing the continent of Africa as an opportunity, as an adventure, not a burden.
After all, this is a glossy magazine, and readers expect to find sources of pleasure not guilt. So there are many photos of Westerners enjoying the exotic scenes that Africa provides.
With these two points, Bono evokes an Africa that we can assist without changing any of our own values. It is an Africa that does not seem to have a voice of its own. It is an Africa that we have little to learn from, other than affirming our own system.
But perhaps that's unfair. Time to read the articles...