In defense of Bono’s Vanity Fair Africa Issue.

In other hot news, Ethan came out swinging on the post ‘Judging a magazine by its cover’, as did Sokari on ‘faking Africa and stories of vanity‘. Bankelele did a quick post on this VF issue june 6th.
I got a hold of 4 copies of Vanity Fair; yes indeed I am collecting all 20.
-Bono and Queen Rania

-Oprah and George Clooney

– Don Cheadle and Iman

-Oprah, Bill and Melinda Gates.

Of these, the only one i can dispense with is the cover of Oprah and George Clooney, sorry George, Don Cheadle and Bono are just waay too hot for me to give up. This aside, i have been reading the criticism of Bono’s work on this issue. I would urge you to go beyond the cover. Some of the content is superb, really it is, i enjoyed it. In the VF issue, I found pictures of people who were at TED Global in Arusha; if this issue had been on newsstands before June 4th when the conference started, it would have been perfect airline reading on the way there. It is still a wonderful read for the rest of the month in my opinion, and I think Bono did a great job on editing it.
Some of the people in the magazine were in TED Global Arusha, and the criticism that Bono should have included Africans on the cover, well, he hadn’t met the Cheetahs before TED Global and the editing of the Vanity fair issue. There is room for improvement as Ethan pointed out, but please allow me to be utterly shallow and point out some of the sections that might get lost in all the Bono bashing going on.

I choose to see this as an opportunity (thanks to TED bringing people together) for cover ideas like Erik Osiakwan and Bono as Ethan proposed. I would add that Andrew Dosunmu should do the photography since Annie Leibovitz had this issue how about Andrew doing a spread for Vanity fair? – Hey, do comment with which pairings would be neat. Ory Okolloh and Obama would be just wonderful wouldn’t it! She can whisper ‘Mzalendo‘ into Obama’s ear like Iman appears to Don Cheadle. (Eric Mwangi with Mrs Obama to make things even 🙂 )

Ok, back to the VF issue… I will use some pics from TED Global to illustrate that Bono did include notable Africans in the VF issue.

Update: Everyone, please start on page 84

Binyavanga Wainaina has an awesome piece on â??Generation Kenyaâ??. (Could VF hurry up and make a link available online? please?) I am tempted to pluck the last line out of the piece, but that wouldnt be good, as you need to read the whole article, every single word of it.

Binyavanga Wainaina at TEDGlobal

Photo by Mweshi

Girls, start with page 184 for a spread of the gorgeous, sexy, African filmmakers including Newton Aduaka.

Newton Aduaka by A Heavens

Photo by Andrew Heavens

Page 124, Uzodinma Iweala Acclaimed author of â??Beasts of No Nationâ??

Uzodinma Iweala

Photo by Jen Brea

Page 180, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

Photo by Andrew Heavens

Rokia Traore is mentioned on page 174 by Youssou Ndour whose playlist you can check out here.

Rokia Traore performing at TED

Picture by Soyapi

Other pages you could jump toâ?¦

Page 187, Picture of John Githongo and text by Parsalelo Kantai. (I have to inject the classic Kenyan tongue twister here. Kantai is pronounced phonetically like â??can tieâ??. So – If Kantai can tie and untie a tie why cant I tie and untie a tie like Kantai can tie and untie a tie?! 🙂 Try it!)

page 194 for the very photogenic networkers of the Africa Channel.

Guys, quickly turn to page 149 for a seductive photo of Terry Pheto the actress from Tsotsi.

Page 152 for comic relief from Chris Rock in the form of a diary from his last trip in Africa, asking Nelson Mandela whether he saw Richard Pryor when he was in Jail.

At the very least, this ought to be interesting, and serve as an alternative ‘table of contents’ to the notorious July VF Issue.

Caveat: The fact that Bono gave me a hug when in Arusha during the DATA tour of Kaloleni Primary School has absolutely nothing to do with this post. Nada, Zilchâ?¦ the fact that he kissed me on my forehead does, just a wee bit.

15 thoughts on “In defense of Bono’s Vanity Fair Africa Issue.

  1. I think you’re a mite biased on the Bono issue (see your caveat)

    As you know I’m not aU2 fan, heoverr I admire what he has done in terns of putting Africa on the forefront and getting the G8 to discuss aid, making Africa a cool talking point. Other celebs jump in-n-out of whatever the relief flavor is (Ethiopia, 9/11, Katrina etc.) . but Bono has been true (even hanging around for the rest of TED).

    I also feel that he’s willing to change and that the trade & entreprenurship issue become edge (no pun) into his focus of Africa beyond Arusha.

  2. ha ha, on the bias, i do concede…
    I do agree with you completely.  I am afraid the Bono bashing is not fair though, because on the whole, the VF issue is quite good and he did a nice job of it.

  3. hmm… between you, Sokari and Ethan I’ve been inspired to write a bit about this topic. It will be up in a day or two. I can’t promise that you’ll like it though. I am more than a little skeptical when it comes to celebs like Bono and Africa. Not so much their intentions though, more how they view us and the kinds of ideas it leads to them supporting.

  4. I listened in on Bono being interviewed on national public radio on this subject. He did acknowledge the concerns by what he termed “middle-class Africa” as to his and the media’s depiction of Africa as a charity case rather than a continent fraught with talent and opportunity for those willing to look closely. I agree with you that had he done the VF issue after Ted Global, then maybe he would have done it differently. Additionally, just because Jay Z thinks there is a problem in Africa and just because an aspiring rapper knows that Jay Z thinks there is a problem in Africa, does not in any way help the cause of Africa if the African cannot be counted upon to solve his own problems – which we are. I wish these media houses would showcase the abundance of talent that is in Africa.

    BTW, what’s so hot about Don Cheadle? 🙂

  5. @kwasi, i do look forward to your post! No need to worry about my sensitivity on the subject…bring it on 🙂

    @magaidi, valid points there my brother, i died laughing when i read on Jay -Z “Youâ??d be surprised – Jay-Z is surprisingly knowledgeable about erosion-resistant ground cover.”. I would love to see him rap about that. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?!
    Heh, on Don Cheadle, i suspect my suggestion is to ask Baby Girl… I would attempt to say its the quiet intensity he exudes or the brilliant acting, but i am not entirely sure…I just know he is hot (can the girls reading this blog help me out on this?!)

    @JKE 🙂 ROFL! – Maybe i am taking this whole thing waay too lightly? But then again, conversations should be fun…or else we might start sounding like Hippos at HippoCon..blah blah blah blah 🙂

  6. Concerning Magaidi’s wish, I do agree, African talent definitely needs to be showcased. Until you mentioned Andrew Dosunmu, I had absolutely no idea of his existence. Thing is, if the Western Media will not highlight us, what’s stopping us from doing it ourselves?

  7. I’m really glad the rest of the issue is better than the table on contents seems to indicate. As I tried to indicate in the title of my post, it was the packaging that pissed me off – I’m glad to know that the substance isn’t as America and celeb-centric as the covers and TOC seemed to indicate…

  8. egm, Was talking with mweshi.com about this, he will be working on an pan african magazine that hopes to highlight people like Andrew. Will keep you posted!

    Ethan, i am still reading it…do let me know what you think of the content…there is a long piece by Sebastian Junger and one by Christopher Hitchens.

  9. I look forward to that article. And once again, more gracias for mentioning mweshi.com… just skimmed through his place (first time doing so) and found he has some of the same interests as I do! At this rate I might never leave this cyber-place!

  10. Loved the way you broke down of the issue. I too was somewhat pleased with the final product. Taking into account that Vanity Fair is not really targeted towards us progressive Africans, the issue covered more bases than I thought it would. Much of the content is redundant for many of us, however, it does serve as a good enough resource for the American public. Now we all have another bit of ammunition in changing how the American public sees us.

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