top of page

Taylor Swift Wants a White Africa

In my humble opinion, its a movie set. Not a real africa. I think the writer was not in the right mind set with this one. Someone's searching for racisim here.

The video for American singer Taylor Swift's new song "Wildest Dreams" has been viewed more than 10 million times in the two days since it debuted.

The video was shot in Africa and California.

This essay reflects the opinions of the authors, Viviane Rutabingwa and James Kassaga Arinaitwe.

Rutabingwa was born in Nairobi, Kenya, at the twilight of the Ugandan civil war to Ugandan parents. After completing her higher education in public health, she joined the Global Health Corps (GHC) and spent a year working as a Policy Support Officer in a maternal and child health project in rural western Uganda. In 2014, together with a team of three Ugandans and GHC Alumni, Viviane founded A Place For Books — an initiative to empower local communities by supporting village/town libraries across rural Uganda to advocate for literature.

Arinaitwe grew up in rural Uganda. He lost his parents and four siblings to infectious diseases — AIDS, cancer, measles, malaria. He was raised by his grandmother, who sent him on a300-mile bus journey when he was 11 to seek financial help from the president to cover his secondary school fees. With help from the first lady, he continued his education and went on to attend Florida State University. Since graduating, he has worked to help at-risk youth in Uganda and has been a 2012-13 Global Health Corps Fellow and a New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute as well.

In it, we see two beautiful white people falling in love while surrounded by vast expanses of beautiful African landscapes and beautiful animals — a lion, a giraffe, a zebra.

Taylor Swift is dressed as a colonial-era woman on African soil. With just a few exceptions, the cast in the video — the actors playing her boyfriend and a movie director and his staff — all appear to be white.

We are shocked to think that in 2015, Taylor Swift, her record label and her video production group would think it was OK to film a video that presents a glamorous version of the white colonial fantasy of Africa. Of course, this is not the first time that white people have romanticized colonialism: See Louis Vuitton's 2014 campaign, Ernest Hemingway's Snows of Kilimanjaro, the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia and of course Karen Blixen's memoir Out of Africa.

But it still stings.

Here are some facts for Swift and her team: Colonialism was neither romantic nor beautiful. It was exploitative and brutal. The legacy of colonialism still lives quite loudly to this day. Scholars have argued that poor economic performance, weak property rights and tribal tensions across the continent can be traced to colonial strategies. So can other woes. In a place full of devastation and lawlessness, diseases spread like wildfire, conflict breaks out and dictators grab power.

Swift's "Wildest Dreams" are a visual representation of what the Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina writes about in his Granta Magazine essay, "How to Write About Africa."

"In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don't get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn't care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular."

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page