This year's calendar critiques the coverage given by a major American news magazine, Time, to the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other human rights activists in Nigeria. Reading one issue of Time International (which gave more coverage to the subject than the domestic version), November 27, 1995, I was struck by the way Time covered the story. In particular:
If we take "ideology" to be the beliefs that serve to maintain present conditions, and power relations, then it is interesting to see how Time refrains from criticizing the corporations whose advertising dollars it takes to the bank each week.
It is my belief that Shell, which has extracted over $30 billion worth of oil from Nigeria since the 1950s, and the other oil companies, who together supply 90% of the revenue of the Nigerian government, have failed to advance the cause of democracy in Nigeria. And judging by Shell's huge continued investment in Nigeria, in spite of the Abachi regime, it appears that the only reservations the multinationals have about fascism is the bad publicity it tends to generate.
Turning to Time's art column on the Africa95 exhibit, I was irritated by the assertion that the West could not understand an art that was not "for art's sake." It is now clear that African artists "wielded the brushes and chisels" (Western instruments), but the idea that art could be something other than paintings or sculptures, either in Africa or anywhere else, is beyond the ken of Time's correspondent.
This collection of images and texts doesn't have the usual documentary or academic trappings of a media critique, and this is in part because of my interest in ways of knowing. It is because of this uncertainty that I've also included passages from contemporary and 18th century novels, and have presented information from various news sources and in multiple languages. For, we rely on media. Finally, it is not possible for us all to be at the scene of the crime, but justice demands that we form opinions about what has happened, and what will happen.