Saturday, August 12, 2006

Into Africa

Barry Sherbeck in the ny times

AS the house lights dim for the second act of each performance of Madonna’s “Confessions” tour, the singer, wearing a crown of thorns, begins her 1986 anthem, “Live to Tell,” while her body hangs in mock crucifixion on a cross glittering with the mirrored tiles of a disco ball.

Madonna has been riffing on crucifix imagery for two decades. What hauls the entire tableau vivant into the present are the images flickering behind her on screens: close-ups of African children, staring with mournful eyes, superimposed over crackling flames and a running ticker, which tallies at 12 million the number of children orphaned by AIDS in Africa.

That Madonna should suddenly be casting an ice-blue eye toward Africa should hardly be surprising. After all, she has always known how to spot a trend. [...]

Those newly interested in the continent have been motivated by different atrocities. For some it has been the genocide in Darfur; for others, AIDS orphans. But regardless of anyone’s specific interest, most people consistently describe being attracted by what they see as a clarity — both political and moral — in Africa’s problems.

“I ask myself, ‘Why Africa?’ Why am I not motivated by Iran or something,” said Genevieve Parker, a 17-year-old student at the Potomac School in McLean, Va., who just returned from a summer trip to Ethiopia where she helped install pipes for an irrigation system. “It’s just because I don’t understand what’s going on: who are the good people, who are the bad?”

In Africa, Ms. Parker said: “there are a lot of problems, but you can group them in together. I can organize Africa in my head, in terms of poverty, droughts, even governments.’’
(read more)

COMMENT TO COME - Gwyneth Paltrow is part of a campaign to help African children.