Lonely Planet Writer

‘Barbie Savior’ Instagram account parodies voluntourism in Africa

A new Instagram account is using humour and one very famous doll to open a debate about the ethics and appropriateness of voluntourism.

‘Barbie Savior’ parodies the trend among some travellers to post heavily about their short-term volunteering in African countries on social media, without necessarily reflecting on the long-term impact of their work or the more complex issues facing developing communities.

One post shows Barbie adopting a ‘Lion King’ pose with an orphan, another features Barbie getting a tattoo of the “country of Africa” emblazoned on her chest. Underneath the humour, however according to the creators of the account, is a real desire to open a conversation on how best to help others while travelling and volunteering.

The two anonymous creators are both women in their 20s who have volunteered and studied abroad, including in East African nations. In an interview with the Huffington Post, they say the account is a way of parodying themselves, as much as anyone else. “We were never as ‘savioresque’ as Barbie Savior, but we did things back in our White Savior days that we regret. It’s hard to pinpoint the irony at times in real life.”

With nearly 50,000 followers in just six weeks, Savior Barbie is certainly striking a chord and is encouraging debate.