Sex runs the world. What else could explain the utter misrepresentation of
African Yoruba gods in these photos?
Here is my favorite :
n African Yoruba god in pink spandex. Pink!
This kind of representation, though well meaning, calls for serious concern. A concern I call: The Dilution of African Cultures.
Diffusion of matter is a concept that illustrates the dilution of a culture. For instance, perfume puffed at one end of a room can be perceived at the other end of the room due to diffusion. The matter that makes up the perfume spreads to even out it’s concentration. If the matter is of a reactive kind it changes itself and the environment in which it is spreading. In a similar way, cultures spread. As the entities that make up culture continue to interact, changes occur.
The burgers we eat, the jeans we wear and the Beyonce songs we sing are products of cultural reactions.
The dilution of a culture is not necessarily a bad thing. A read of The Global me suggests that no culture is immune to dilution. And Harari’s Sapiens proposes that the consequences of this dilution are irrelevant since the world is morphing into a global empire. But these arguments don’t silence the sadness that comes from losing something one considers sacred. Especially when the loss comes as a result misrepresentation.
A friend of mine called the collection of photos a bout of creativity. Needless to say he hid his growing boner from view as he appreciated what the creators “left to the imagination” in the photos. I retorted with this:
“Creativity is only applaudable when you use the right elements to make the ‘new’ thing you are trying to create. That may be incorrect, there are no “right” elements when it comes to creativity.
But, let’s say you want to make soup. Egusi soup. You would agree no one will consider the use of Cocoyam leaves, to replace the Ugu or Bitter leaves commonly used, as innovative. Useless, of course, you as the innovator finds a way to make it work. Blend the ingredients in such a way that it tastes good and it does little harm to the eater’s mouth and the rest of the eater’s digestive tract.
Now consider using eastern and western influence to represent something African. And using sex to forward your end.
It’s creative. But you didn’t make it work. So, the harm it does will continue to permeate and cause whatever havoc it can. Regardless of how creative you were trying to be or how pure your motives were.
My point is this: If u must represent something, represent it well”.
The propagation of these photos should cause little concern. However, the dangers inherent in misrepresentation has played out before in history. Chimamanda quotes John Locke’s representation of African people as: “beasts who have no houses […] people without heads, having their mouth and eyes in their breasts.” Also, Andrew Battell , as told by his account of Imbangala in Angola, represents African homosexuals as “[…] beastly in their living, for they have men in women’s apparel, whom they keep among their wives”. These may seem like extreme cases. They do, however, shine the danger inherent in misrepresentation and the consequences it can unfold.
Sex. Culture. Art. These are powerful tools. It’s important to keep mind that when we use them, we do so in a way that reproduces authenticity. In that way, we preserve the gems in our lives subject to inevitable dilution.
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