Friday, May 4, 2012

on documentaries which blow me away

As you may have noticed, I have not blogged for ages. I have ideas but I never get 'roundtoit'!

However, this week I stumbled across something on the iplayer whilst shnaffling reheated roast dinner that I have not stopped thinking about and so want to share!

Samira Hashi is a 21-year old model in London. She was born in 1990 in Mogadishu, Somalia, and ten days after she was born her mum was forced to flee the city with five small girls as war broke out. They escaped to a refugee camp and lived there for two years, before moving to London.

The documentary showed Samira going back to Mogadishu, via Ethiopia to see her dad and Dolo Ado refugee camp.

I was completely blown away by the whole programme. The first few minutes showed Samira in London, packing and talking about her trip, and out with friends, and wide eyed and excited, and I was concerned it was going to be a bit 'fluffy', but as soon as she got to Africa, it was not in the least bit fluffy.

The first thing that struck me was the culture difference between her and her dad. Having seen a bit of African culture and noticed how different it is from my own (albeit it West African so I know it's vastly different), the clash between two people who were of the same nature, but very different nurture, was fascinating. Her dad was very what we may describe as stand-off-ish, he neither asked nor answered many questions, and he admitted he'd left her family because he wanted boys to continue the family name.

Samira's honesty with which she cried at the horrific conditions in the refugee camps was heartbreaking. Seeing her on the phone to her mum after one day of being there just sobbing 'I want to come home, it's too horrible' did not come across as at all self indulgent as it may seem reading it on the page. He reactions to the whole trip reminded me lots of Aled (from the Chris Moyles Show) when he visited Uganda. I loved the way he just had no idea what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised when he could tweet from Uganda... and was surprised when people seemed content in their lives, and shocked when he saw well-known multinational companies. I think it can be very easy for Africa-hardened westerners to monopolise the media and the information coming out of Africa; and so the language used to describe it will be the language of aid work. And it will assume prior knowledge. And it will ignore the things that we can identify with. And so it will miss engaging new people. What I think Samira and Aled had in common, is that they had no, or very little, expereince or knowledge of what it would actually be like. There was no frame of reference to start hanging their experience on; every sight, every sound, every interaction, was a totally new experience. Therefore, they both seemed to reference it back to UK experience, which the average viewer/listener can identify with. Somehow, this hit home so much more than a veteran journalist, or even Lenny Henry reporting for Comic Relief.

The other thing I was hugely impressed with was her bravery. There was discussion about the UNHCR (who she travelled with) being the top target but still she went with them, as she arrived in Mogadishu fighting was breaking out, she had to wear a helmet and a bullet proof vest and drive through town in a tank, you heard gunfire on film as she was talking. I don't think many people in the public eye would put themselves in such danger; I'm sure she could have taken a much more back seat.

So basically, watch, and learn!

As an aside; all these thoughts were really put into persepctive a day or so later when I saw the trend on twitter of the journalist who shot to infamy last month when she basically declared she was stunningly beautiful and it was a disadvantage to her. The latest article she had written took a pop at a TV academic, saying she was not attractive enough and had not taken enough time on her appearance to be infront of the cameras. I couldn't help comparing the two, and wondering who was actually behaving like the 21 year old fashion model.

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