Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Ok so I'm super amused by a dutch (ngo?) called ghettoradio which posts videos and radio from the "ghettos" of Africa. Theres something really problematic about what they are doing, namely totally aestheticising the poverty of others, so I was surprised to enjoy them. The videos are mostly just walking around talking to people. Its just fun to watch a dakar bar owner talk about his business, or what a boy in soweto thinks about bob marley:

"Bob marley is more famous than anyone in South Africa"
Ive been catching up on a lot of 'African' movies this summer. I didnt like Bling, although it does have some interesting footage. The whole Democracy in Dakar series felt a little forced and one sided. Both felt too messagey w/o actually delving into the message - like, how exactly does the diamond industry function or feed war or interact with global markets, or what exactly are youth in dakar protesting and how does hiphop influence elections. Otherwise it becomes speak for vs. speak with, sort of what Johan is saying here, that great art is automatically less problematic. There are a few great films though, particularly Sissako's. He has an intersting style annndddd btw, If anyone is curious about Nollywood film, I recommend signing up to izognmovies. Not to sound like a commercial but they have a really broad collection of free or 99¢ english language nollywood films, not amazing streaming quality but def worth a few dollars to check out!

So back to ghettoradio, i think ghetto is just a weird term to use when talking about urban africa. Here, ghetto is a reclaimed word - ghettofabulous, etc. But i think its up to populations to use or reclaim that term. Ghetto comes from jewish ghettos, & is described as a "portion of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure." Which doesnt really work for African cities. The UN uses slum, legitly resisted by many, but fits better as according to wikipedia "other terms that are often used interchangeably with "slum" include shanty town, favela, skid row, barrio, ghetto, and "The Hood," although each of these has somewhat different meaning. ... By contrast, identification of an area as a slum is based solely on socio-economic criteria, not on racial, ethnic, or religious criteria." So i'll just go with 'informal settlements found in cities in the developing world, most which lack clean water, electricity, sanitation and other basic services.' which = ~ 50-90% of most urban populations. Thus, not a minority with its own subculture but most people in cities, whose music culture often dominates national radio.


Birdseed said...

Fair point. Although there's a definite graduation even between slums that the chart doesn't take into account. I used to live in Dar es-Salaam, Tanzania where (what the UN defines as) the slums were safe working-class neighbourhoods with some city planning and concrete houses, of a very simple standard but still. Nairobi, on the other hand, had the sort of nightmare slums you see in movies - ramshackle corrugated-iron huts, garbage lining the street, run by drug gangs. (And as for Lilongwe, where all the urban population of Botswana basically lives) those would have to be some of the most orderly, neat and clean "slums" I've ever seen.

I would still argue that in most of these countries, especially the ones with large income differences like Brazil or Kenya, it occasionally makes sense to talk of a ghettoization of some kind. Although obviously not just along ethnic lines.

Birdseed said...

Sorry, Gaborone, not Lilongwe. In my defense, Ive only ever been there once, when I was fifteen.

Creator: Rachel Emmet said...

yeah, youre right. my grandfather lives outside Nairobi and its pretty nuts. (& I admit my knowledge of Africa gets pretty 101 below the Congo/Kenya) I'm sure there are some circumstances where 'ghetto' makes sense, obvi its bogus to lump the continent any which way, and when you get to cities in brazil or south america its a whole other story.

I still think the language most people use to describe urban Africa is pretty off base, and that often the 'ghetto' kids think they're repping doesn't really exist.. at least not in the way they might think it does?

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