Vanessa Nakate, a 23-year-old Ugandan climate activist, was one of the many activists who took part in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland but pictures told a different story.
Nakate was present alongside teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg during a new conference as reported by the Associated Press on Friday ahead of a scheduled protest in Swiss town. However, she was initially cropped out of photos showing her in attendance.
Nakate was upset to learn that Associated Press new agency that featured only Thunberg, Luisa Neubauer, Isabelle Axelsson, and Loukina Tille.
Everyone saying that I should position myself in the middle is wrong!
Does an African activist have to stand in the middle just because of fear of being cropped out?
It shouldn't be like this! pic.twitter.com/PR544GIv7g
— Vanessa Nakate (@vanessa_vash) January 25, 2020
AP later updated the photo to include Nakate after she tweeted the story with criticism.
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According to Buzzfeed, in an exchange of private messages with Buzzfeed News, she was “heartbroken.” The cropping only echoes the visibility to white climate activists, an argument that was discussed in an opinion piece with The Guardian in October 2019.
Writer Chika Unigwe pointed out the media’s deliberate oversight of many activists of color who are active in their causes and the “white savior” narrative.
“This tendency of the media to present Thunberg as the one who calls, and the others existing only to heed her call, is problematic, especially for those black and brown activists who media invisibility leads to invisibility to organisations whose help they could greatly benefit from.”
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“I cried because it was so sad not just that it was racist. I was sad because of the people from Africa,” Nakate told Buzzfeed. “It showed how we are valued. It hurt me a lot. It is the worst thing I have ever seen in my life.”
The activist posted an emotional 10-minute video about her experience at the summit as well as her reaction to the cropping. Thunberg, tweeted in support of Nakate, expressing her gratitude and how she’s “the last one who would deserve that.” Axelsson also tweeted her criticism towards AP.
I’m so sorry they did this to you… you are the last one who would deserve that! We are all so grateful for what you are doing and we all send love and support!!❤️❤️💖💖💖hope to see you soon again!!
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) January 24, 2020
We did a press conference today wrapping up the week at #WEF2020
It has come to my attention that more than one article has cut @vanessa_vash out of the photos. That is unacceptable, her voice is just as, if not more, valuable than ours in a place like this. #ClimateJustice pic.twitter.com/8kjkNVgVhU
— Isabelle Axelsson🌍 (@isabelle_ax) January 24, 2020
“There was no ill intent. AP routinely publishes photos as they come in and when we received additional images from the field, we updated the story. AP has published a number of images of Vanessa Nakate,” a spokesperson from the AP said.