This Video Shows EVERYTHING That’s Wrong With Voluntourism

by Patty Affriol

Pussycat Dolls pairs up with Christians and makes the most offensive, culturally insensitive video ever.

Five white women created a music video, “I’m bringing Missions Back”—a horrific rendition of Justin Timberlake’s “I’m Bringing Sexy Back,” that has caused international backlash. The young volunteers, dressed in Gomesi, the traditional and highly revered Ugandan long dress, sway their hips and dance in a way that belongs in a night club—NOT in a video about being a missionary.

The video was released on October 14th by Luket Ministries, an Oklahoma missionary group working in Jinja, eastern Uganda. The group transformed “Sexy Back” to describe the joyous life as a missionary, singing “I’m bringing missions back…I’m out to serve God, it’s my pact.” The women whip their hair back and forth, eat traditional Ugandan snack seductively, and slash grass with machetes.

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Even worse, the women use Ugandan babies as props in the video!

The video came with a disclaimer that it was meant to “make people laugh, not to offend.” But who is laughing? Clearly, not Ugandans. The outrage from the community was swift and loud, sending a clear message: it’s not okay to mock the everyday hardships that Ugandan people, particularly women, face. The volunteers sexily fetch water in the video and bounce Ugandan babies on their backs. It makes a superficial display of the long hours women have to travel to find clean water and laughs at the difficulty of carrying children on their backs while doing household chores and manual labor.

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The video also joked “no mosquitoes were harmed during the making of this video”—an insect that kills 100,000 Ugandans every year. Surely volunteers providing humanitarian aid, as the Luket Ministries’ website suggests, would know that, right?

If they had any knowledge of Ugandan culture, they would have known that women dressed in Gomesi would never dance in a provocative manner. One woman expressed her outrage in The Guardian, “As a Ugandan woman from the Baganda tribe, the Gomesi is part of my identity and ethnicity. It is part of our rituals during birth, marriage, funerals. It’s the nearest an item of clothing can get to being described as sacred.”

Can people please get lessons on cultural appropriation before entering other countries?

Arao Ameny, the Ugandan founder of the Association of African Journalists and Writers, questioned why people spend thousands of dollars to volunteer abroad but don’t want to dedicate their time in Harlem, Detroit, or Oakland—where black communities face mass incarceration and poverty, and “who deserve just as much help and attention as the children in Jinja or Kampala or Lira.”

Ameny issued this statement to the missionaries: “Luket Ministries needs to issue a proper apology to Ugandans everywhere. An entire country, its diverse cultures, its daily struggles of Ugandans, its food, its diverse cultural attire, is NOT for you to mock. We are not here for your entertainment. Ugandans and Africans in general, deserve and should be treated with dignity. You cannot effectively serve people while offending the same people you claim to care for. ”

Natasha Perryman, the creative director of Luket Ministries, responded contemptuously. She dismissed the criticism, “everything posted is indeed controversial these days, that the video came in a dream from God, the author of every creative thing.” 

Yet after an outpouring of negative reactions, Luket Ministries took the video down and issued a more (seemingly) genuine apology. “We respect and honor all cultures within our ministry and family. We apologize for promoting any view that would show otherwise.” But this lukewarm apology doesn’t address the deeply problematic culture of “voluntourism”—a multi-million-dollar business built on the “White Savior Complex”—the concept that white people are more able to solve Africa’s problems than the people of the community.

Voluntourism comes with a whole host of problems and repercussions that I previously discussed here. But the REAL problem with voluntourism is the fact that it’s built on a long history of “intervention”—a.k.a colonization. White people have been intervening and invading Africa for centuries; destroying communities and forcing religious doctrines. Voluntourism is replacing that sordid history; cloaked under idealism.

If you truly care and want to see a difference in our world, save the money you would spend on a plane ride and promote grassroots organizations that empower communities.

At the very least, research a culture you’re “helping”—don’t parade around in traditional garb like it’s Friday night at 2 AM. Don’t offend the people you’re helping. And lastly please, please check your privilege.

Check out the video with some awesome comments on why it’s problematic by the TMS Ruge Founder

Photos from Youtube

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