Friday, January 5, 2007

Darwin's Nightmare- an East African Tragedy

The documentary film, "Darwin's Nightmare: A Celluloid Dream Release," sheds light on the extremes of globalization and the impact it has had on Mwanza, an East African urban center. Many of the villages around the Tanzanian lakeside town are stricken by HIV-AIDS, and regularly lose their breadwinners. Young women, many of them widowed by AIDS, are forced into prostitution to support themselves and their families. The fishermen who catch Nile Perch from the lake for their livelihoods are unable to eat the same fish: it is too expensive for them. All their catch is sold to the factories that process the fish for exportation to Western Europe.

So what do the fishermen and their families eat? They eat the remains from the processing plants i.e. the rejected fish, and the parts that are unappetizing for the Western European consumers. As if that is not bad enough, it transpires that the Nile Perch are foreign to Lake Victoria, and that their introduction to the lake has created an environmental disaster. Who knows how many indigenous species have been drastically impacted by the introduction of that commercial fish? I wonder what further impact that has had on the people of the lakeside who have, for centuries, depended upon the lake for food.

Within the film, Hon. Joseph Munyao, the Kenyan Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, expresses his disappointment that those who film Africa tend to focus on the negative instead of highlighting the positive. Are politicians right in saying that Western media tends to portray sub-Saharan Africa in a negative light? Yes, they are, but it is also true that the events being filmed do happen, not just in our nations, but also in every other nation in the world. Anyone that reads the news regularly is aware of several environmental crises all over the world. Additionally, poverty in different parts of the world is often highlighted in documentaries. That includes poverty in the most powerful nation- the USA. Remember Katrina.

If a documentary film happens to highlight our actual failings, how responsible is it for us to be preoccupied with our public image? It seems to me it would be more fitting to focus on the problems highlighted by the film and to try to address them.


This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Please feel free to use my writing for non-commercial purposes and do credit my name, Rose Kahendi, as the writer.

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