Why Lupita Nyong’o’s recent snaps of her vacation in Karachi feel like a fresh breath of air for the Pakistani tourism industry

The stark difference between Lupita Nyong’o and other white foreign travelers have documented their visit to Pakistan prove that the “white superiority” mentality exists

Mahnoor Jalal

Mahnoor Jalal

Sub-Editor
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The discussion about foreign tourism within Pakistan has always been a tricky topic to approach, because of how often its blurs the lines between wanting good recognition of our country’s scenic attractions but also loathing the consistent superior thinking of white travelers. In the past, many foreign travelers have been criticized by Pakistanis for their “white-saviorism” displayed in how they demonstrate a lack of respect for local culture or traditions and even sought out to lecture locals on how to take care of their own environment. A recent example of this has been the treatment of Erin Holland, an Australian sports presenter who recently uploaded a picture of herself wearing a black dress and the comments were immediately flooded with appreciation from Pakistani men. Several twitter users pointed this as an example of how Pakistani men are still shackled to the colonial mentality that causes them to appreciate white women for doing the same thing a brown woman would have been called “awaragard” and “vulgar” for.

Actress Ushna Shah had also previously called out foreign blogger Rosie Gabrielle for her “holier-than-thou” attitude for the way she called out local tourists for polluting Hunza. In a post uploaded on Facebook, the actress explained the presence of the “white savior mentality” brings more destruction than solution to Pakistan’s tourism issue because it allows white bloggers and travelers to get away with presenting the country they’re visiting as backward and under-developed, while they center themselves as the savior of the land but refuse to use their privilege to resolve any issue they are pointing out.

“They take photos of poverty… trash… lack of hygiene… problems and disasters. They do show the beauty of Pakistan, mind you, but that too is done in a way to make them look like the last hope for a despondent country. (I once again reiterate I am not generalizing all white tourists and vloggers). Their social media posts are about teaching us how to live our lives. They want to show us how they are the best things to happen to our country since Quaid-e-Azam. Now please go back and check the posts and captions of Shaneira and George and compare them with these white saviors, you will feel a stark difference. I have been observing it for a long time, perhaps that is why I am more hurt and riled up.”

However regardless of the endless criticism lauded towards foreign travelers and bloggers, the same contempt did not rise up when actress Lupita Nyong’o visited Karachi and documented pictures and videos of her time in exploring the city. Pictures on her Instagram page show her posing next to a truck, having tea at a dhaba or even dancing at her close friend Misha Japanwala’s wedding. In the captions, there isn’t any snarky remark on the state of poverty or pollution in the city, but rather Lupita is praising the attractions of the city which is quite different from the way foreign tourists have talked about Karachi or any other city in Pakistan.

 

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A post shared by Lupita Nyong’o (@lupitanyongo)

Pakistani twitter users have lauded Lupita Nyong’o for the picturesque image of Pakistan on her social media as well as being aware of her privilege and power to not fall to the same “holier than thou” mentality that has usually been expressed by other foreign travelers. Many have pointed out that her pictures and videos showing her time spent in Karachi did more effort to promote tourism in the city than other foreign bloggers have because of the way it is completely devoid of the “white-savior” attitude and rather the actress spends more time appreciating the beauty and the attractions of the city rather than pointing out the flaws.

The approach to foreign tourism in the past has been consistently problematic because of the ever present “white-saviorism” mentality among foreign travelers and the way it further marginalizes local people to be inferior to the white visitors. But however, Lupita’s visit is a fresh breathe of air because it proves that foreign travelers can be mindful of their privilege and respect the culture and lifestyle of the country they are visiting rather than get a free pass at doing what they please.