Saturday, 4 February 2012

When kings forget their dreams


A long time ago in ancient Babylon, a king forgot his dream. He woke up one morning knowing he’d had a dream but couldn’t remember what it was. So he called the wise men, astrologers, sooth sayers and anybody with special powers to try and jog his memory. A young castrated, immigrant came to his rescue.

What happens when kings forget their dreams?
Bedroom portrait II
I have this recurring imagery of Africa. I see a fleet of Ferraris revving up and ready to hit the road hard and fast but right ahead of them are old rickety lorries that move at 2km per hour. Africa’s problem is not a lack of potential and intelligence. It is one of leadership.  Our kings sleep and wake up not remembering their dreams and so they go back to sleep some more. 

How many tyrants started off with powerful dreams but forgot them along the way and became the opposite of everything they once stood for? Many names, especially those of African leaders, come to mind. From the north to the south, from the east to the west, we can count leaders who forgot their dream along the way. Countries with soil and minerals valuable enough to feed continents have in recent years gone begging for food and shelter. I can still see images of young Zimbabweans being burnt alive in South Africa because their leadership had failed them back home.

I have seen countries that are 90% arid, barren, hot deserts become oases of beauty and grandeur. How many people have gone to Saudi Arabia and Dubai to look for greener pastures. The imagery of one finding green pastures on deserts is quite ironic in itself but it is a clear example of when kings can hold on to their dreams. Meanwhile, in rich Ghana, citizens connive with “perchers” to rob the nation dry, burying their schemes in technical financial terminology and legal lingua whilst the leadership snores away.

A few days ago, I was in Groningen for the second section of the Noorderlicht Photography Masterclass. 
Noorderlicht-2012-January-01
One morning I had to tell the wonderful Mr. Prust that for how cold his country was, they should have paid me for coming there in Winter. Of course, he ignored it as one more nonsense coming from me but I was serious. It is not okay to fly for six hours from a land that is rich in gold, diamond, oil, timber, bauxite, manganese, cocoa and a countless other minerals, into a country the size of a peanut that had to borrow some land from the sea. A cold country that only has… nothing… and be treated like a beggar at immigration. I can still see the face of the insolent young woman who sat in the Immigration booth at Schiphol.  Her attitude was very much “We don’t want you in our country”. 
View-from-Hotel-Arena
What she didn’t know was, I didn’t want to be there either. I wonder if she’d have believed me if I had told her 99% of Africans in her country would happily leave if they found greener pastures some where else. Most of them are victims of failed or failing states and would happily go back home if they hear things have improved. They have kings who don’t remember why they are kings.

When kings forget their dreams, their princes become beggars in strange lands.
When kings forget their dreams, their princesses sleep with anything that can buy them a loaf of bread.
When kings forget their dreams, their people sit on gold and beg for brass.

When kings forget their dreams… 

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