Why Did Melania Trump’s Trip To Africa Seem Like The Special Edition of The Colonizer’s Handbook?
When it was announced that First Lady Melania Trump would embark on a solo trip to “Africa,” it was hard not to indulge in an extended session of major eye rolling — based on the usually annoying way in which the media methodically and lazily reduces the enormously vast and diverse continent of Africa — into a gigantic monolith.
The First Lady was scheduled to visit only 4 out of the 54 countries on the map, and the choices of Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt aren’t coincidental. As a Nigerian, I’m well aware of the reasons why Melania was advised to avoid venturing into the shittiest “shithole” territories.
The natives are presently risking their lives to make the exodus out of territories that are sinking under the infamy of polluted oil rigs, and the bribery and corruption that allows world powers to criminalize African leaders in order to secure steady supply of indispensable resources.
The highly-touted tour of “Africa” was interestingly timed during a period of national duress, as the drama playing out with the confirmation of Kavanaugh, and the deep division it’s causing, has reached critical heights — particularly with women protesting for the dignity of survivors of abuse — and the protection of reproductive rights.
During her final stop in Egypt, with the majestic backdrop of the famed pyramids adding to the dramatics of an outfit that resembles something out of a bad remake of the awful eighties movie Jewel of the Nile — Melania graciously gave the press her undivided attention by confirming her support for Kavanaugh, while casually recognizing the sacrifice of his accuser — as if that would scrub away her betrayal.
After offering her woefully incoherent summation of our national crisis, the First Lady was challenged about her interesting choice of attire, specifically “the hat” she sported during her safari trek — that insultingly evoked the nagging vibes of colonialism.
Her reply was delivered with slight irritation, as she emphasized the successful run she had in Africa, and expressed her disappointment over how her ambitious initiatives are overshadowed by the media’s weird obsession with what she wears.
That’s quite the ironic statement coming from a woman who prefers to be utterly useless and cowardly silent during the key moments in her husband’s toxic administration. Instead of speaking up and against the caging of migrant children — the First Lady decided to loudly demonstrate her temperament by donning a jacket with a callous message as she traveled to a migrant camp.
And with the splashy display of her latest lookbook, inspired by her getaway to Africa, it’s quite obvious that Melania Trump actually does invest the time and energy — dreaming up the perfect pieces to accompany the fantasy themes of her host countries.
After surveying the strategically arranged pairs of khaki trousers, military-style shirt-jackets, and “the white pith helmet,” with the required addition of tall safari-style boots — there’s no way to avoid the tense conversation that centers around the misguided attempt by the First Lady to represent America under the nostalgic umbrella of colonialism.
Unlike her clueless and disrespectful successor, Michelle Obama, was able to honorably represent our country when she had the pleasure of visiting the continent during her time as First Lady. And as expected, her presentation was gorgeously appropriate, as she settled for ensembles that were vibrantly festive, to match the celebratory spirit that greeted her arrival.
Unfortunately, we are currently saddled with a regime, that’s headed by a leader who once tweeted his avid support for White South African farmers, who are being unfairly cheated out of their access to land that was acquired by the evils of apartheid.
So naturally, his partner-in-crime would carry that mentality of White supremacy with her, as she deposits herself in selected countries that carry the romanticism of an Africa that has been eternally damned to destructive and self-indulgent narratives.
Melania Trump was supposedly on the saintly quest of sharing the messaging behind her ill-fated “Be Best” campaign to the lucky children located in the prime spots that are “civilized enough” to receive the privileged White lady who cares so deeply about their “health”and “well-being.”
But whether or not her mission was accomplished remains a mystery, and quite frankly nobody really gives a fuck about those details, because as usual — her controversial wardrobe provided ample distraction. And needless to say, her tastes in fashion when it comes to the travel itinerary to former colonial territories, tragically borrowed from the damning rhetoric that has kept old and new Hollywood — profitably afloat.
It’s obvious that the research that went into planning Melania’s activities for her African adventure centered around studying the detrimental language of supremacy in the form of classically iconic films — that seemed to serve as the instructional manual for how to embody the special edition of the colonizer’s handbook.
We can’t downplay the immense contributions that the film industry has historically made when it comes to endorsing and encouraging the nostalgic tendencies — that grace the era when White privilege was the weaponry of choice for European invaders — who greedily made mince meat out of targeted locations.
Watching Out of Africa as a youngster doesn’t compare to the adult experience, and how unbearable it is to realize how Hollywood perfected the elevation of characters — caught up in the romanticism of the “White savior complex” — against the backdrop of primitive surroundings and the Black-skinned natives who are gathered to do their bidding.
The 1985 epic romantic drama, starring Meryl Streep, playing the real-life wealthy Danish Karen Blixen, and actor Robert Redford — showcased lovers blissfully surviving the wilds of British East Africa. The critically-acclaimed film garnered Streep one of many Oscar nominations, for Best Actress, and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
And many years earlier, we were blessed with The African Queen (1951), featuring Katherine Hepburn in the role of a British methodist missionary, who unexpectedly falls for a ruggedly foul-mouthed boat captain, played by Humphrey Bogart. The two budding lovers navigate the hostile waters of the Ulanga River in German East Africa — in an effort to exact revenge on behalf of a village that succumbed to the attacks from White invaders.
Bogart scored his one and only Best Actor Oscar, and the film was later anointed for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1994. The Library of Congress also recognized it as “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
Another critics darling — 1959’s Mogambo, described as a “Technicolor adventure/romantic drama film”, also benefited from the authenticity of the “remote African outpost” setting — that hosted the “adventurous” pursuits of the main White characters played by the magnificent trio: Clark Gable, Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner.
The film basically focuses on the love triangle that forms in the midst of “gorilla country,” and despite the imminent dangers of their uncivilized environment, they manage to “rough it out” by concentrating on the sexual tension that manifests from the urgency of their primal association to the imposing jungle.
The film was considered “a massive hit” when it was released, and garnered a plethora of nominations during award season, but thankfully no wins.
The list of films that fall into similar genre of White characters in combat-inspired costumes that are meant to protect them from the unpredictable elements of Africa’s brutish climate — is impressive enough to prove how much White people enjoy being entertained with the endorsement of their shallow and biased impressions of a continent — that represents how their forced entry was undoubtedly warranted.
And the best part, are the wardrobe choices for these colonial-themed gems, and how they’ve been absorbed by those who don’t give a damn about the awful truth of an era that rendered former colonies — indefinitely incapacitated.
Singer Taylor Swift wasn’t even born when most of these movies were conceived, but she had enough access to the stereotyped blueprint to film the music video for her 2015 hit single “Wildest Dreams.”
Swift and director Joseph Kahn, received plenty of backlash for the depiction of a gorgeous White heroine dressed in colonial-inspired wardrobe, that eerily matched the template of Streep’s ensemble in Out of Africa, who is enjoying a fantastical love affair with a handsome White guy — against the backdrop of “beautiful African landscapes and beautiful animals — a lion, a giraffe, a zebra.”
Based on my observation as a Nigerian who grew up in Nigeria, it’s infuriating to be constantly reminded of how much White people adore their culture of global supremacy and systematic terrorism, that amassed terrific emotional and physical harm to the Black population, in ways that will forever — torment.
And that’s why Melania Trump’s recent homage to that criminally abusive time period, as illustrated in her offensively-constructed costumed garb — only helps to keep this over-wrought and underwhelming narrative — alive and well.
It’s certainly not shocking to imagine that a privileged White woman — married to a wealthy racist who bullied his way to the presidency — would ignorantly parade herself in the company of Africans with colonial history — dressed in attire that awakens the ghosts of a tumultous past — that still dreadfully reverberates.
The epicenter of Whiteness seems to vibrate with the privilege of never having to round up any ounce of consideration, empathy or the adherence to a level of decorum for those they deem inferior.
White women only show up for active duty, when the messiness of our existence hits too close to home and gives them permission to declare war in the form of a protest that was already mandated for the Black Lives that still don’t Matter.
And now their First Lady has succeeded in showing the world what it means to be a White American in Black Africa — and when it comes to this movie — the reviews are rightfully cruel.
Her performance grade is a proper “F.”