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Pictures of Our Ugliness! (My Story)

Make sure you take lots of interesting pictures. That was what my boss requested of me when I sought his permission for a leave of absence to attend my sister’s wedding in Ghana. It seemed like an innocent request, so I gladly obliged. I was going to take pictures anyway, he didn’t really have to ask. Two days before my departure, however, my boss repeated his request, this time with exact descriptions of what he expected to see – pot-holes, pot-bellied children, mud huts and village people. This was the Africa he knew. This was the Africa he had seen and heard about in the news. This was the Africa he saw when he looked at me, his capable assistant. If I was surprised and offended, I did not show it. After all, he was paying my salary; and he could not possibly mean those things in all seriousness.

Nevertheless, four days later, I found myself taking pictures of the very nature of which my boss requested. I saw the beauty right before my eyes in this place I called home, and yet there I was snapping away in shameless betrayal at every uncovered drain that spewed rubbish. In a part of the city where I accompanied my sister to get her dress hemmed, I found myself taking pictures of slum children. They were my boss’s exact description, and they gladly posed for my lenses. It was not all bad, however. I also found time to take pictures of much of our beauty, including the church where my sister got married, and the beautiful hotel garden where she held her reception.

A few days before my departure to the United States, we were going through the pictures when my mother asked, “Why are there so many pictures of “our ugliness?” I felt unquestionable shame. This was my home, and I had taken pictures that would help feed my boss’s ignorance of a country he knew nothing about. I was enforcing a stereotype I knew he must have of me too, and by feeding this stereotype I was degrading myself, and the country I love.

Those pictures never made it across the ocean.

Back at the office, I proudly showed off the pictures of my beautiful country. I was also inspired by this experience to educate people like my boss. I started Afrikan Goddess Online, a publication for African women. The publication focuses on our beauty, not our ugliness.

Comments

Jan K Askin's picture

What is beautiful?

Dear African Goddess,

There are potholes in every country, including the United States. There is poverty in every country including the United States. There are people - women - who choose to focus on the beauty in their surroundings in all countries. Perhaps most beautiful of all, is your beautiful spirit that chose to stand up to prejudice and misconception and bring back pictures of beauty from the place you call home.

Thank you for writing this illuminating story.

Your sister,

Jan

Jan Askin

Frances Faulkner's picture

Taking time

Afrikan Goddess,

This story is very real to me - I think many people come to "conclusions" about how they would like to behave in a given situation after much thought and enough time to allow their convictions to ripen. You took the final brave step of really standing by those convictions and then even going on to start a publication --!! In this way, you provide a wonderful example for all of us. We learn so much from each other. Thanks for being a leader.

Frances

afrikangoddess's picture

Thank You Frances!

I appreciate your support. I am still glad that I took the initiative to educate and fight against the negative stereotypes of my boss - which has fanned out into a widely-known publication. It gives me so much joy and satisfaction.

afrikangoddess's picture

Jan, What Can I Say?

But thank you! Yes, there are negatives and positives in every society and we should always choose to focus on the positive, not neglecting the negative, however. I am really glad I decided to stand up for what is right.

sallysmithr's picture

Good for you!

There are so many stereotypes out there and I think what you did was amazing! I'm sure your sister's wedding was beautiful! I think your publication is also a great idea because there are many people that can't travel that far and would love to see the pictures you have taken!

Thanks so much for sharing!

Sally Smith

afrikangoddess's picture

Thanks Sally!

Yes, my sister's wedding was absolutely beautiful. I still can't believe her wedding planner pulled it off with such short notice. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for the encouragement. I hope you stop by the publication and check it out. It is released monthly.

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