Vanity Fair Covers Africa

5 Jun 2007
Bono is Guest Editor of the new edition of Vanity Fair which comes in 20 different covers featuring everyone from Muhammad Ali to Oprah Winfrey. All you need to know and Bono's editorial here.

Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and guest editor Bono have published a special Africa issue featuring 20 covers shot by Annie Leibovitz including Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Warren Buffett, George W. Bush, Don Cheadle, George Clooney, Bill and Melinda Gates, Djimon Hounsou, Iman, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Barack Obama, Brad Pitt, Queen Rania of Jordan, Condoleezza Rice, Chris Rock, Desmond Tutu and Oprah Winfrey. Oh, and Bono of course.

"We went after this publication's extraordinary photographers and storytellers because we needed help in describing the continent of Africa as an opportunity, as an adventure, not a burden." explained Bono. "We wanted to draw attention not only to the crises of Darfur and of AIDS, but also to the potential and optimism across these 53 diverse countries."

Photographer Leibovitz describes the covers as "a kind of visual chain letter, spreading the message from person to person to person".

"Bono is not only passionate about Africa,"adds Carter, "He is also incredibly well-informed. And who didn't admire what he had done with his fortune and fame: marshaling the forces available to someone in his position in a serious crusade for debt cancellation and for eradication of H.I.V./AIDS in Africa."

A series of related initiatives to benefit the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on (Red)'s behalf are also associated with this issue. Vanity Fair will donate on behalf of (Red) $5 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for every subscription purchased on-line in June.

Vanity Fair and (Red) have also launched a compilation of West African music curated by Grammy-Award-winning African musician Youssou N'Dour. The album goes on sale today at iTunes--100% of the sales price will be contributed to the Global Fund. All parties involved with the album have waived their profits, so 100 percent of the $8.99 sales price will be contributed to the Global Fund.

To order a particular cover of Vanity Fair's Africa issue, go to, and click on the link to

And to get a flavour of the contribution of the 20 cover stars of the new edition, Vanity Fair contributing editor Lisa Robinson, spoke with many of them about their involvement with Africa:

Iman: "My Africa is rich in human resources and dignity," says the Somalia-born global ambassador of Keep a Child Alive. "I get insulted when I see only images of our dying, our wars, our Darfur, our AIDS victims ... not our doctors, our nurses, our teachers... Africa must find its own saviors: the salvation of Africa is in the hands of African women." Everyone should be involved, she says: " We need everyone from Angelina to Aunt Gina."

Maya Angelou: "The dignity of the African people simply will not be dismissed with 100 years of colonialism and the years of having slavery as the main export. You have to stand up for the fellow who's been knocked down. I am filled with gratitude for those who say, 'I identify with those people because they are human beings, and nothing human can be alien to me.' That's a powerful statement and a powerful thing to do."

Muhammad Ali: "Each visit [to Africa] has proven to be a rare opportunity to discover just how magnificent and culturally rich the African people are. It is true, Africa has endured famine, drought, and the AIDS epidemic, but what is more important is that the people have endured ... with dignity and hope. It is their hope and mine that this rich and magnificent land will one day be restored to the majesty of its ancestors."

Alicia Keys: "When you go to Africa there is a spirit that is very resilient, and it's a very inspiring thing to be around; it definitely gives me a sense of purpose, something to work for."

Djimon Hounsou: "The goal of the African people is to become self-sufficient," otherwise "sometimes it does feel like the white man's burden. Some of the efforts need to be implemented by Africans who do good for the continent. Then people can see that their own people can really make a difference. We are not looking for a handout."

Oprah Winfrey: "Education is freedom; it's the only way out. Despite the poverty and despair many of these young African children face every day, they have a fierce determination to get an education. I want to help give them the chance they deserve."

Barack Obama: "I can still remember my first trip to Africa, two decades ago, when my sister's Volkswagen Beetle broke down," Obama tells Robinson. "While that first trip was about discovering my past, my recent trip was about Africa's future. And it filled me with hope...."

George Clooney: "I wanted to take all the attention I was getting and do something positive with it," Clooney says of his visit to Darfur and the documentary he made. "The more time you spend with the people in the camps, who are holding on by a whisper and still believe that their lives will be better, the more you believe that anything is possible."

Bono: "This is an emergency--normal rules don't apply. There are no easy good or bad guys. Do you think an African mother cares if the drugs keeping her child alive are thanks to an iPod or a church plate? Or a Democrat or a Republican? I don't think that mother gives a damn about where that 20-cent pill comes from, so why should we? It can lead to some uncomfortable bedfellows, but sometimes less sleep means you are more awake."

Jay-Z: "I come from the Marcy projects, in Brooklyn, which is considered a tough place to grow up, but [visiting Africa showed me] how good we have it. The rappers who say, 'We're from the 'hood,' take it from me, you're not from the 'hood. You haven't seen people with no access to water. It really puts things in perspective."

Chris Rock: Rock helped launch (Red) last year and writes about his first trip to Africa for this issue. "I didn't know what to say to Nelson Mandela besides 'it's an honor to meet you.' It's not like we had a lot in common. He was 90, I was 40. He's South African, I'm American. He's a scholar; I'm a high-school dropout. He went to prison for 27 years. I worked at Red Lobster for 8 months."

Warren Buffett: "The Gateses have set out to try and figure out how they can help the most human lives in the world. So when I can get some people who are ungodly bright, energetic, putting their own money into it ... to work for me for nothing, it's not a bad deal."

Bill and Melinda Gates: "I'm optimistic," says Bill, "that people's thinking will evolve on the question of health inequity--that people will finally accept that the death of a child in the developing world is just as tragic and worthy of our attention as the death of a child in the rich world." Melinda adds: "I believe the connection happens when you see people as neighbors and not as strangers. The people of Africa are our neighbors."

Don Cheadle: "Though the situation in Darfur today is dire, if our leaders insert themselves in a multilateral, political, and diplomatic process, I believe we can help to end the pain and suffering of literally millions of civilians."

Queen Rania: "The world is failing millions of children, especially in Africa.... Lack of access to vaccines means that the world loses over two million children every year. We can save them all. These statistics belong to the children of the developing world, the heartbreak belongs to their parents, but the responsibility belongs to us all."

Madonna: In a conversation with Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the former director of the World Health Organization's H.I.V./AIDS department, Madonna tells him, "I asked one of the children in Malawi, 'If you've got the world listening to you, if there's one thing you could say to the world, what would you say?' And he said, 'Please just help us forget that we're orphans.'"

George W. Bush: The U.S. has quadrupled aid to the continent of Africa over the last six years. In 2003, Bush pledged $15 billion to fight AIDS primarily in Africa, and in 2005 pledged a $1.2 billion initiative to fight malaria in the 15 African countries hardest hit by the disease.

Brad Pitt: In 2005 Pitt helped launch the One Campaign to Make Poverty History. He is also a founder of Not on Our Watch, an organization that will use prominent names and faces to help raise awareness for global humanitarian crises, starting in the Darfur region. He speaks with Archbishop Desmond Tutu for this issue.

Condoleezza Rice: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been President Bush's right hand in efforts to increase aid to Africa. She was an instigator of PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), and as a result the United States is supporting almost one million people on lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment on the continent. Dr. Rice was also a founder of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, whose goal is to tackle global poverty and corruption.

Desmond Tutu: Tutu has devoted his life to working for human rights. Currently he is establishing the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town to "promote sustainable peace and values-based leadership throughout the world."


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