Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Looking in the mirror

Rachel in Goma ponders who takes whose picture:
several foreign army men (Indians? Bangladeshis?) come up to us and ask to take a photo with us. Us in our beach gear. As if we are all three of us Britney Spears? ... “Creepy,” says S. "Yeah, creepy," I say.
Also today: A white man I know is swimming in Lake Kivu with his two little boys, two and four years old. Several foreign army men call and wave and ask him to get out. Ask him to bring the boys out. So that they, the army men, can take photos of themselves next to his little children.

The man does not move from the four feet of lake that he is standing in. The boys, with their blond hair and tiny white baby teeth, giggle & cling to him. They are oblivious, splashing in the water.

Creepy, right?

Because then, there’s also this: So many acquaintances of mine travel to so many villages and play with the dusty little lovely mischievous “African” children, pose with the children, take photos of the children, snap snap snap the children. They show the children the photos on their camera and the children scream with laughter and clap and the acquaintances take more photos of the children laughing. And then they post the photos on Facebook. New profile pictures! Cute big deep “African” child eyes! Curly soft brown “African” hair! Breastfeeding “African” mama cuddling her tiny “African” baby!

That’s not thought of as creepy. Those new profile pictures make my acquaintances look adventurous! exciting! mysterious! international! multicultural! COOL!

But how are those photos of “Africans in the village” any different from the photos of “white women and children on the beach”?

They’re so not.
And me? I have taken photos of the foreign army men, their olive colored hands gripping their guns, their brown waves of hair crammed under blue helmets. I've done that, a little in love with the guns and the helmets and the idea of protection and danger and adrenaline and life life life. That's a little creepy.

So maybe none of us is creepy. Or maybe we all are.

Maybe we are all just curious about each other, one another.

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