Screenshot: YouTube

Norway - A spoof music video urging Africans to send radiators to “poor” freezing Norwegians has gone viral by poking fun at charity fundraisers’ tendency to dwell on negative stereotypes.

In Africa for Norway, smiling Africans in T-shirts donate heaters for Scandinavians seen trudging through a blizzard in heavy coats, as a chorus in the background sings in the style of the 1985 US charity group Band Aid for the mock Radi-Aid campaign.

The video challenges standard clichés by turning the tables on the “dark continent” and one of the richest countries in the world.

“The perception of Africa is very incomplete,” said Erik Schreiner Evans, head of the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (known as the SAIH) that created the video.

“The large majority of people think of catastrophes, famine and extreme poverty, and are unaware of the positive strides being made on the continent.

“It’s always the same old thing: starving children, oppressed women and crazy men with guns,” he lamented.

Founded in 1961 to oppose apartheid, the student organisation, which now promotes education in Africa, is annoyed by the “simplistic” images presented by the media and even NGOs.

“The media wants strong emotions, journalists are working against the clock and aid organisations want donations.

“All of this contributes to an escalation of shocking images and stifles any attempt to paint a more nuanced, positive picture,” Schreiner Evans said.

Both in its content and its title, Africa for Norway parodies the We are the World music video made in 1985 by the USA for Africa collective spearheaded by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie.

“People don’t ignore starving people, so why should we ignore cold people? Frostbite kills too,” South African rapper Breezy V says in the opening scene of the Africa for Norway video.

The SAIH said that despite the music world’s good intentions and efforts to combat the 1980s Ethiopian famine, it actually ended up contributing to the misperception of a continent forever in need of humanitarian aid.

In the 1980s hit Do They Know It’s Christmas?, the group of artists who came together as Band Aid sang of Africa as a place “where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow”.

“Most of the videos that I see on TV, I look at them and I’m like ‘It’s not me! That’s not where I am! That’s not my Africa!’” said Samke Mkhize, who played one of the radiator-collecting Africans in the video.

Africa’s “structural problems are masked by simplistic texts” which “perpetuate the conception of a poor south that is failing and is a passive recipient of aid”, added Schreiner Evans.

While he urged the public to continue to donate funds, the 32-year-old said it was necessary to combat the broader problems than those raised by aid organisations and television news reports.

“We should think more about the trade policies of our countries, of their agricultural policies, about our consumer choices, which are the basis of these structural problems,” he said.

The video and its realism appears to have hit home: more than 1.4 million people have watched it in two weeks on video-sharing website YouTube, it has generated a buzz on social media and even sparked debate in the development aid sector.

And among all the positive reactions, SAIH even received a phone call from a Norwegian woman who wanted to know where she could send her radiator. – Sapa-AFP