Humans of New York: Is HONY’s portrayal of Nigeria, poverty porn or reality?

The portrayal of Nigerians by Brandon Stanton of Humans o New York highlights how much poverty is entrenched in everyday life in Nigeria

Nigerians have a tendency to attack foreigners who remind them of how poor the country is.

Brandon Stanton, the curator of emotional human experiences on Instagram was recently in Lagos as part of his African trip.

The man behind the famous Humans of New York (HONY) Instagram account also visited our neighbours in Accra and the capital city of Cairo.

Stanton’s documentation of everyday life in Nigeria has garnered quite some vocal response from Nigeria’s online community.

 

 

There are those of the opinion that Stanton’s curation of the Nigerian experience is nothing short of poverty porn as a white man from a capitalist nation that paints an African country as a 3rd world nation riddled with poverty.

On the other hand, there are those that believe that Stanton’s work is an accurate and blunt portrayal of life in Nigeria. According to these set of people, HONY just placed a mirror on what it means to live in Nigeria.

 

The truth is that Stanton is not the architect of deep poverty that is embedded in the most populous black nation on earth. He is just an observer. People who are offended by his narrative are not aware of what is going on in the country or simply refuse to deal with stark reality. They are escapists, which has become the favourite past time of Nigerians not wanting to deal with reality.

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This is why humour, comedy movies and fast-food Afrobeats music are popular in Nigeria. They help a lot of Nigerians hide from the reality of the situation at hand.

Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world and the reality of this hasn’t dawned on the thin middle class in Nigeria. There are more poor people in our country than anywhere in the world. This means it is more likely for an inquisitive foreigner to speak with a poor person than a billionaire who lives in the insanely expensive Banana Island.

 

Apart from this extremely slim chance of bumping into a member of Nigeria’s less than 1% elite, documenting the lives of Nigeria’s rich and powerful as the singular Nigerian experience would be inaccurate and a gross distortion of facts.

The facts are these, apart from being the poverty capital of the world, 13.2 million children are out of school, the highest in the world. Nigeria also ranks the lowest in reducing the inequality gap between its rich and poor. These are cold, hard facts that we close our eyes to. And there is an explanation for this.

Our cultural DNA is ambitious, grand, sometimes excessive and opulent. There is no strain reserved for the reality of daily hardship. That’s why some Pentecostal Christians in Nigeria would rather say ‘I’m rich” rather than “I’m broke”. The confession of not having resources is a shock to our DNA of abundance.

HONY woke us up from the matrix of unnecessarily expensive wedding ceremonies and poor financial habits to show us the poverty capital we live in. And trust me the last things Nigerians want to see is poverty at least from a foreigner.

A lot of Nigerians know things are hard but when this statement of fact comes from an individual who is not a citizen our odd patriotic defence mechanism kicks in. We know we are poor but we don’t want the world to see us that way.

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This episode reminds me of when Rick Ross shot the alternate video for his single ‘Hold Me Back’ in 2012.

The Maybach Music don was slaughtered on Twitter by Nigerians for branding Nigeria as a country rife in poverty. He was criticized for exploiting the reality of poverty in Nigeria.

 

To me, it was and will always be a senseless accusation. Rick Ross and Brandon Stanton did not place poverty props and curated them. They only showcased the reality of the average man and woman in Nigeria. It’s not poverty porn but poverty reality.

Nigeria is a poor country and we can’t hide this fact with Christian-speak. There are millions of people in this country that can’t afford a plate of rice daily.

The thin middle class who have cocooned themselves in the fallacy of social media and don’t want to deal with the reality of things.

Our real DNA is poverty.

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