I truly had no expectations when going to Ghana. I had no idea what it would be like. All I knew was that people said the poverty would overwhelm me. And all I wanted was to take a few “deeply moving” portraits of old ladies and children sitting in the mud.

However, when I got there, I was surprised to learn that people in Ghana are camera shy. And by camera shy, I mean they hate photographers. Why? Because nearly every photographer that swings by Africa portrays a depressed, needy, and dark continent. The exact opposite is true.

Africa is not like the commercials. You always see those gut-wrenching images of mud houses and starving babies on TV, but that is NOT Africa.  Yes, the poverty is very real. The mud houses are very real. But there is a richness of joy and culture that spills from the pores of every Ghanaian.

This trip was a paradigm shift for me. There seems to be a mindset in western culture which views Africa as a “strange beetle to be examined under a microscope”(W.E.B DuBois). A mindset which views African tradition as barbaric. It is a mindset saturated with the lie that only one’s own culture is civilized and good. Coming to Ghana shattered that mindset.

Africa is joy. It is rich in tradition and culture. The continent is seeped with adventure, life, and beauty. It is filled with sincere love and hospitality.

The world has so much to learn from Africa. Despite being underdeveloped through colonization and the slave trade, Africa has flourished and blossomed. The continent does not need pity. It needs people to come and experience its life.

I found such treasures in every part of Ghana. I found an easy-going culture that reminds me of my own Colombian culture. I found a deep love for tradition and for family. I found adventure in every nook and cranny.

I didn’t get the portrait I wanted. But, what old lady wants a camera up in her face anyway?

Going to Africa was like coming home.

I hope at least one of these photos convey that.

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Posted by:Crystal Anne Downs

I am a professional photographer and unprofessional sociologist pursuing creative outlets that lead to beauty, social justice, and peace in this world.

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