It may be time for Mother Jones to update its Celebrity Map of Africa

UPDATED: Airports in some African countries can’t keep up with entertainers (and celebrities) either visiting for big pay days (that’s the case especially for rappers and R&B stars, and Kim K), to rehabilitate their images via PR junkets, make appearances in nightclubs, or to connect with themselves. You can create a template it seems for these kinds of visits: “When INSERT NAME HERE visited INSERT AFRICAN COUNTRY HERE.” We’ve engaged in a parlor game of sorts about this behavior on our Facebook page re the comings and goings of some of these visitors, copied at the end of this post.* But there’s more, especially when it comes to those high profile visitors bend on saving Africans or with a sense of superiority: Celebrities and entertainers from mid-level and smaller countries–from countries like Sweden, Turkey, Thailand and South Korea; oh, and China–want in. It seems they’re traveling to Africa mostly for “humanitarian” reasons and to feel better about themselves. They often have epiphanies while there about their personal, emotional state. Two of my students at The New School–Lilian Jahani and Senay Imre–have been documenting this development on a tumblr blog, Stars Love Africa — started last year.

They document, among others, the exploits of Turkish singer, Seren Serengil (that’s her in the picture above as well in the next picture below), who traveled to Tanzania in 2011. As Senay reminded me, Turkish media dubbed Seren the “Princess in Africa.” She in turn described Tanzania as “300 years behind Turkey,” wanted to adopt a baby, complimented the locals for wearing clothes, and said she was taking her cue from Euro-American celebrities: “Our celebrities generally go to Miami or the Maldives, but American and British rich people go to these places, these are not places that most of our celebrities want to go to.”

Then there’s Taiwanese celebrities Eddie Peng and Amber Kuo, who traveled to Kenya last year to help feed orphans. Amber Kuo was particularly moved by the experience: “I didn’t have a faith, but after returning from Kenya, whenever I have a meal, I would first think about the significance of the food in front of me.”

The Korean singer, Lee Hyori, traveled to Ethiopia on a humanitarian mission:

The Korean version of the Onion had some fun at her expense.

Finally, they also write about the visits by Scandinavian royalty and celebrities to a number of African countries. Read that and more here.

It may be time for Mother Jones to update its Celebrity Map of Africa.

* Not everyone goes to Africa for the same reasons or to save or feel sorry for Africans. But here’s a partial list. There’s Jay Z (here, here and here), Chris Brown (and Rihanna) went to Côte d’Ivoire to attend a music awards show (he was very well paid by organizers which angered local bloggers); Brown also went to Ghana where he goaded local police; Bono was in the Sahara; Deakin of Animal Collective went to Mali; Degrassi (!) was in Ghana; so was One Direction (they cried); Erykah Badu went to Kenya; the Real Housewives of Atlanta visited South Africa; Rick Ross went to Nigeria, South Africa and Gabon (Jay Z’s favorite destination); and Emma Thompson and her adopted Rwandan son (all color-coordinated) were in Liberia. Okay my head is about to explode.

Further Reading

No more caricatures

Engaging seriously with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s life could help us understand how South Africa got where it is and where it’s going.