Fri, Apr 22, 2016
‘White Barbie Savior’ is a satirical Instagram account making fun of the white Westerners who see themselves as Africa’s saviors. It uses photoshopped images accompanied with exaggerated hashtags in the captions.
When you think you have had enough of social media craze, something else pops up to prove you wrong, leaving you puzzled at people’s creativity, and then you ask yourself; “why didn’t I think of that first?”
You are not alone on this.
Two white women whose names they prefer not mentioned (as they told Quartz and The Huffington Post) have created a social media account, Instagram, to be precise, and named it ‘barbiesavior’. The satirical account details the White Savior Barbie wondering in the vast African continent taking photos with African babies, posing for photos on backdrops of Africa’s best landscapes, and taking ‘slumfies’.
It gives a detailed account of how people who have worked in development or aid organizations in Africa interact with the environment, albeit sarcastically. Most of its followers are people who in one way or another have worked in Africa.
Started a month ago, by two young ladies in their 20s, who have volunteered in East Africa, the account now has over 18,000 followers making fun of people who suffer from the ‘White Savior Complex’ (referring to white Westerners who travel to third world countries and turn the whole affair an event of self-praise).
The creators of the account told The Huffington Post via email that they were inspired by their own experiences of volunteering in the continent even though, they were not as self-praising as Barbie Savior, they admit though regrettably, to having felt like ‘saviors’.
“We were never as ‘savioresque’ as Barbie Savior, but we did things back in our White Savior days that we regret,” they said adding that it started as a joke between them to get some of these things off of their chests. “It’s hard to pinpoint the irony at times in real life... the wildly self-centered person veiled as the self-sacrificing saint.”
While there is nothing wrong with people sparing time, energy and resources to volunteer in Africa, and should be encouraged, what the creators are questioning is how such volunteers over-sentimentalize the experience of visiting Africa. How they take photos of smiling African school kids for example, and give them ‘out-of-this-world’ captions like how “happy everybody is even though they’re so poor!” Worse still is the fact that such people do not even specify what country in Africa they actually visited. (After all, Africa is one big poor country!)
“The attitude that Africa needs to be saved from itself, by Westerners, can be traced back to colonialism and slavery,” says the makers of Barbie Savior. “It’s such a simplified way to view an entire continent,” they argue.
Speaking to Quartz via email, the creators said they are not out to discourage people from saving others. On the contrary, they are just “trying to engage in a conversation about how best to help others”.
On why they want to remain anonymous, the two ladies admitted they don’t think that people want to know who is behind the idea. Also, they feel that the anonymity helps propel the account, and people resonate with the ideas presented.
Last year, another parody account, the hipster Barbie, was created by Oregon-based photographer Darby Cisneros but died after 22 weeks. The White Savior Barbie is here to stay, and if you are irritated by the account the two ladies have this for you:
“If you’re offended by the account then you’d better be offended by the real accounts who actually display this behavior in all authenticity. That is the real offense.”
Image credit: Courtesy Barbie Savior
Kajuju Murori is an enthusiastic writer with a bias towards development stories that ignite positive change among individuals in the society.
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