Magazine article New African

Neocolonialism and De-Jungling "Jungle Gold"

Magazine article New African

Neocolonialism and De-Jungling "Jungle Gold"

Article excerpt

The television programme "Jungle Gold" is imperialist nonsense that perpetuates the "dark continent" narrative. For Ghanaians, watching as their gold is mined by outsiders and their environment polluted, it should be a wake-up call to fight back, argues an outraged Nana T. Baffour-Awuah

Recently, I watched an episode of "Jungle Gold" for the first time--and the last time; it was despicable. I was outraged and appalled, and I barely got through half an episode.

"Jungle Gold" is an American reality television show on the Discovery Channel and available on DSTV. The channel's website describes the premise of the second series as follows: "Scott and George [American men] are back in Ghana in search of new territory to strike it rich ... having been robbed at gunpoint during their last stay in Ghana, they are placing everything on the line to try and find gold ... The daily drama is intense as they battle the muddy jungle, desperate illegal miners, and angry neighbours."

Sounds like a couple of smart, ballsy guys on an exciting treasure hunt, right? Wrong. What this show is, in fact, is a blatant display of modern-day imperialist nonsense helmed by western media and a duo of neocolonialist buffoons. I won't get into how disgusting and disappointing it is that it is Discovery Channel that transmits the travesty--my father, a diehard Discovery Channel fan, is turning in his grave. But I will get into why this is ridiculous, and what it has to do with Ghana's sociopolitical state.

Everything about the show's production--right down to its name, "Jungle Gold"--portrays Scott and George as bright, gutsy white men braving this treacherous land of dimwitted, sometimes dangerous natives. It's the typical colonialist/dark-continent narrative. On their quest, our intrepid duo pay the poor, hungry locals way above the minimum wage to risk their lives in dangerous mining practices--accompanied by rousing theme music and anthropological-study-style narration, no doubt.

Of course, the show's producers do not find it consequential enough to focus on the effects of surface mining on local populations and workers. The lack of environmental sustainability, serious health risks for workers, damage to water resources, and shaky legal footing of foreigners engaging in small-scale mining are not sufficiently addressed. Yes, our heroes are not heroes at all--quite the opposite. Oh, and let's not forget that the one time that a local farmer dares to challenge them, he is beaten and choked into submission. Discovery Channel have placed a clip of this incident on YouTube, entitled "Hostility in the Jungle", presenting the farmer as an illegitimate hostile force standing in the way of our American heroes.

From a literary perspective, this is a brilliant demonstration of how exquisite story-shaping can craft a hero out of anything and anyone. But there is so much else wrong here--ethically, politically and socio-economically.

Fortunately, as the series shows, this Ghanaian jaunt did not end well for George and Scott. The Ghanaian government announces that they wanted to arrest them and try them for illegal mining. The American miners and the Discovery Channel film crew have to flee the country to avoid arrest.

However, despite the success of the Americans eventually being chased out of the country, it is heartbreaking that some Ghanaians collaborated with their nonsense. …

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