Images of Africa: The UK Report

Thursday 21 December 2023

van der Gaag, Nikki, and Cathy Nash. 1987. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization.

This report, a joint effort combining the research of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation and international NGOs, explores the influences on public perception surrounding the Ethiopian Famine of 1984. The report’s findings indicate that public perception of the event was largely shaped by images shared by the media and NGOs. Images seen in television coverage and in advertisements were shown to shape the public’s perception not only of the famine in Ethiopia, but Africa as a whole. Visuals shared through the media developed an image of Africa as a uniform entity, victimised, impoverished, and plagued by hardship. The report explores further how the media perpetuated orientalist views of the continent through specific types of publications. The authors also show that NGOs contributed to the sensationalising image of Africa promoted in the media, raising questions about the impacts of different types of advertisement on public perceptions and operations of NGOs themselves. As NGOs work to create peace, how can they attract funding without creating a victimising image of those they intend to serve?

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