Almost all the people we have encountered in our journeys across the world have this love-hate relationship for the cameras, a disposition that reminds us of our commonalities despite our other glaring socioeconomic differences.
While it is relatively not cumbersome to film in most parts of West Africa, we like to zoom in on Ghana, South of the Sahara. Ghanaians are generally conservative and will often hesitate granting an interview. Pull up into a large bustling market at Madina, in the heart of Accra, Ghana; your gear held to your side. Your four-member team each carrying a box walks behind one another. You all wear a serious face, in search for ideal set-up spots. It is a busy day. Cars honk at pedestrians. Vendors scream out prices, while some pull customers aside, almost by the scruff.
As we pass, middle aged women in their forties and fifties and young men in late and early thirties selling wares will typically call out asking to be filmed. Elderly men and young ladies appear passive. Their focus is in on their products.
Say “Alright” but before you continue, they’ll scream and wave to show uneasiness, nodding in the negative. Their colleagues will mock but are equally not ready for the cameras. In that group however is the alpha male. His first question is “what TV station are you from?” while reading your body language and eye movement as much as you are reading theirs. Answer the question and volunteer further details about your needs before they ask. There you go. Voila. Let’s call him Seidu.
While filming Seidu, others, standing by their wares tell him to demand for money. Subtly, that’s an indication that they are open to be filmed. If on the other hand, your project is simply academic and without funding, be honest and say so, while emphasizing how your project will promote their cause.
It is not uncommon to find a group of individuals who have developed some resentment, usually against the government. They will say “they have come to video us several times but nothing has happened”, referring to television stations. This is clear indication of how much belief the Ghanaian has in the power of media to channel his needs and aspirations to local authorities.
In our next post, we will share our experience filming in Nigeria, the biggest economy in Africa and arguably the most vocal individuals on earth.
We know how much the Ghanaian the camera yet nurses an ingrained fear to be seen on it.