Comic Relief to end ‘white saviour’ celebrity trips to Africa
Charity’s appeal videos described by critics as ‘poverty porn’ and ‘devoid of dignity’
Comic Relief has said it will stop sending celebrities to Africa following claims that famous stars were acting as “white saviours”.
The charity, best known for its Red Nose Day fundraising events, has also announced it will no longer portray the continent using images of starving or critically ill children, and will instead promote stories of ordinary life captured by local filmmakers and photographers.
Lenny Henry, the comedian who co-founded Comic Relief in 1985, said: “A lot has changed over Comic Relief’s 35 years, and so the way we raise money and talk about the issues we are here to tackle, and the people we are here to support, must change as well.”
Comic Relief videos are “typically filmed on the ground in disadvantaged African countries with celebrities, who are often white, usually seen meeting local children to highlight poverty”, Metro says.
But the format has become increasingly controversial, with Labour MP David Lammy last year criticising an appeal in which broadcaster Stacey Dooley travelled to Uganda.
After Dooley posted a photo of herself holding a black child with the caption “obsessed”, Lammy hit back, saying “the world does not need any more white saviours”. Lammy added that the picture evoked “a colonial image of a white, beautiful heroine holding a black child, with no agency, no parents in sight”.
In 2017, Ed Sheeran’s campaign video also came under fire and was branded “poverty porn” by an aid watchdog after the singer-songwriter was filmed paying for a young boy’s housing in Liberia, The Guardian says.
The same year, after an appeal fronted by Tom Hardy contained graphic images of starving and sick Yemeni children, chief executive of Comic Relief Liz Warner admitted that the organisation had lost its creative touch and needed to be “edgy again”.