Progress and Primitivism
How the Non-Western people are represented in the Print-Media ?
Heartbreak on the Seregenti, National Geographic, February 2006
I chose an article about the Maasai people living in northern Tanzania. This article, published in February 2006, recounts the story of this pastoral society and all the challenges they face, like how they survive with the wildlife,struggle with the government, try to give an education to their children and use tourism as a resource to help the community.
In this assignement, by analyzing both pictures and text and using other sources, I will try to give a representation of these people by the western world, and then will focus on progress among Maasai.
Is their world so different from the one we, as ‘modern people’, live in ?First of all, the article mainly describes the animal life of the region, which is ‘justifiably famous’ in this part of Africa : elephants, lions, hyenas, black rhinos, zebras, wildebeests and other animals we usually only find in America in zoos. All of them cohabit in this area of national parks and reserves, on the fronteer with Kenya. As the article says, hunting is the activity that bringsin more money than anything else, unfortunately it was forbidden : they now live thanks to cattles, and some of them perform illegal activities, such as poaching. We can see on page 3 a woman with her child arrested by antipoaching rangers.
Living one year out of two in hunger and drought, their resources are scarce, especially water. And yet, they have to be able to provide anything for theirtourists. Indeed, tourism is an important part of their wealth. As we can see on page 6, they greet people from rich countries in impressive lodges with swimming pools and all the amenities they could never afford themselves to have (‘health spas, tennis courts, yoga room,...’). Taking care of this ‘world-class resource’ allows them to help their community: tourists coming massively to Tanzanialooking for exotism brings in money -especially when they have to pay $1,500 a night- but still, Maasai people see it as an ‘invasion’ (cf. Page 2). In fact, those Western explorers use their resources. They ogle this people almost as an attraction, as if they were animals, paying them as they take pictures. Thus, the Maasai people know that the more savage and ‘different’ they will look, the moremoney they will earn. As someone explains in the article, they want to ‘squeeze as much money out of them as [they] can’ (Page 7).
We see page 14, the meeting of two worlds : on the right, the Maasai people, with their traditional outfits, jewelry, spears,...on the left, the perfect modern person : a cap, a pair of sunglasses, blue jeans, a watch, a camera in his hand and above all a white t-shirtwith a picture of ‘Tintin in the Congo’ on his back. This is like a mise en abyme, as if we were still in the period of colonization, with white people conquering Africa’s lands...
This links up with Lutz and Collins’ classification of non-Western people :
First of all, they are seen as exotic : in half of the images, they wear large dresses made with red fabric and all look the same (examplepage 11). Moreover, as a type of mutilation we also have in contemporary world, they have earrings : we can see page 13 a big hole in the woman’s ear surely the result of a previous jewel.
Page 11, we have the description of one of their ritual, which is the ‘friendship dance’, meaning the transition of status, from warriors to elders, only accomplished by men. On page 4, we have the image of aconference, with the elders dressed in their traditional ‘shuka’.
As a part of an idealized world, we can see smiles on people’s faces on the picture page 9, full of colors, along with page 7. Nevertheless, page 11, as we take a look at the man facing the camera, we can see an expression of anxiety, while men behind him are walking like warriors. All of them represent a certain kind of virility....
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