Kenya: Mordecai Ogada’s challenge

Mordecai Ogada, co-author of The Big Conservation Lie, has a challenge. “I challenge you to find any advertising brochure advertising safaris to Kenya that shows you black people, as clients. I challenge you.”

Ogada made his challenge during a presentation he gave at the Nature in Focus Photography Festival 2017 in Bengaluru, India.

In his presentation, Ogada shows this image from a holiday brochure:

“These advertising brochures. Very well composed images. Elephant, luxury hotel with a nice pool with a view. White people.”

He shows another slide:

“Advertising brochure again no people. And this, I know some of these places and there are villages.

But Photoshop is a wonderful thing. As you photographers definitely know, you can remove villages with Photoshop. You can remove herds of cattle. So it seems like this is old Africa, unspoilt landscape extending as far as the eye can see. Again, white people.”

And another slide:

“You see this, occasionally you see black people. But they are usually very dark complexions, they are usually not wearing a shirt, and they are just props. Yes, they are just props.

It’s the image of the noble savage. That old, old image of the noble savage. It still sells, even today.”

Ogada has another challenge, for photographers travelling to Africa:

“I’d like to challenge those of you who travel to Africa to take photographs, come back with some photographs which show us, the people interacting with that environment. Don’t come back with these beautiful shots of leopards and lions and elephants alone. Show those goats, those cattle.

People need to know that, hey there are people in Africa. And if you don’t want to see African people don’t go to Africa. You can see that animal in a zoo.”

After listening to Ogada’s presentation, I did a search on Google for images of “Kenya safari”. The results are revealing. Ogada was, if anything, playing down the scale of the problem.

There are hundreds of photographs of wildlife. Elephants, lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, zebras, giraffes, flamingoes. There are white people in jeeps. White people admiring the view with Africans as props. There are white people being served drinks by Africans.

There are no cattle. No goats. No villages. No villagers. It’s as if they didn’t exist.


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