Posts Tagged ‘citizenship’
What to make of Nando’s latest “banned” advert
- Published on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 07:50
- The Editor
- 0 Comments
I am writing this from Cape Town, where it took me a while to load the 53 second video of the latest Nando’s ad (above) on Youtube, so I am not sure how “it is going viral” here. (Though viral here also means 300,000 people viewed it on online.) For those who don’t know, Nando’s is the South African fast food chicken chain taking on a “global” footprint–well as far as I know in the UK, US (in Washington D.C)., Australia, Dubai and a few African countries. As for the ad, Nando’s claims it is a comment on xenophobia. For those who have or can’t watch it online, it opens with scenes of black undocumented migrants crossing the country’s border while a voice over says, “You know what’s wrong with South Africa? It’s all you foreigners.” It then cuts in quick succession to a series of stereotypes and references to Chinese (yes, offloading good), Indians (Oriental Plaza, I think), Kenyans (in running gear), Afrikaners (yes, farmer with dog in front seat and black workers in the back), Zulus, Tswanas, and Sothos, among others, all disappearing in puffs of smoke. The only person who survives the puff of smoke effect is “a traditional Khoisan man” who, using expletives, says he’s not going anywhere because “you found us here.”
The public broadcaster, SABC, then announced it wouldn’t show the ad on its channels, and now satellite operator DStv as well as terrestrial channel ETV have done the same thing. This played well into Nando’s marketing strategy. Its ads thrives on political controversy. The result would be people talking about them and more sales of peri peri chicken. This is chicken nationalism. It does not help that South Africans–remember the country where the media acts like they’re writing/reporting from Somalia and North Korea as political researcher Steven Friedman puts it so well–are now obsessed with saying everything is being banned. So of course when the SABC–synonymous with the ANC “dictatorship” in the media and the suburbs, clumsily announced its decision (its spokesman said the SABC was concerned “that the public might interpret [the ad] differently”), the papers insinuated that it was a “political” decision and that the ad was “banned.” Nando’s CEO went on about “freedom of expression” and “censorship.” (He wasn’t saying anything about how happy he was about the whole thing blowing up.) Of course you can still watch it online. But what about the ad itself? The reporting here on the content of the ad has been very poor–to put it mildly.
I actually find the ad unfunny and problematic. It basically endorses, on the one hand, the white right-wing parliamentarian Pieter Mulder’s willful denial of South Africa’s violent history especially on land dispossession (and with aspects of the sunny politics of the Democratic Alliance) and on the other hand it bolsters the similarly ahistorical and ethnocentric claims of coloured nationalists who are all “Khoisan” now (that category in itself is a 20th century construction since the two–Khoi and San–that make up “Khoisan” are separate, distinct peoples). In the end this is about Nando’s wanting attention and it got it. Nando’s wants to sell chicken and it pretends that it has good “politics,” though we know that politics goes only so far.
I then ask around the AIAC “office” for comments. Here’s an edited version of the conversation.
Melissa Levin: I totally agree with you. That’s how I read it too. That we are all ‘colonizers’ and the fight was one between groups of land invaders. In addition, it persists in buoying the nonsense about cultural identity, diversity, multiple groups making up the South African fabric–no majorities and minorities, blacks and whites, but Xhosas, Afrikaners, etcetera. “We are all minorities now.” The contest over the meaning and content of public life is quite brutal it seems.
Daniel Magaziner: Unfunny and problematic is putting it kindly. The ad traffics in the long disproved ‘empty-land’ thesis on the early 20th century, which held that South Africa’s current residents–whether white or black–were conquerors, who had displaced the subcontinent’s legitimate inhabitants. If both whites and blacks were conquerors, than what right could Africans possibly have to cry foul at land dispossession and segregation? Bantu-speakers (the ad’s fast disappearing array of Zulus, Tswanas, Sothos, etcetera) had simply lost the great game of imperial conquest to the whites. Boo hoo. Let’s not even dwell on how the ad’s comparison between Kenya and Lesotho, Cameroon and ‘Zululand’ traffics in apartheid era claims that Bantu-speakers’ legitimate homes were in the Bantustans (including those supposedly pure ethnic enclaves beyond South Africa’s ‘white’ borders), just as whites were legitimate in their white republic. And the stereotypes, oh, the stereotypes. Although I enjoyed the running Kenyans, I found the the Boer in the bakkie with the dog in front and the workers in the back a little too real. Nando’s chicken is delicious; its historiography and social criticism less so.
Basia Lewandowska Cummings (@mishearance): It’s strange that they portray the ‘Khoisan’ guy at the end in some with a kind of hip hop style aggressive cool. Why make him swear? I suppose the only interesting thing the advert throws up, other than a brilliant array of stereotypes, some dubious looking chicken and a poke at xenophobia, is: whose place is it now to question social realities like xenophobia?
It’s interesting why Nando’s feel they can/should comment on it, and think that it’s a lucrative means of advertising their product. And if advertising will increasingly become a place to address these concerns, can we predict that it will continue to fall into such crude, stereotypical, de-contextualised ‘advert-myths’ like this one? Also, with a range of only 2 apparently ‘diverse’ styles of chicken their product isn’t even very diverse. 2 types of chicken is still only–using their own analogy–just black and white.
Herman Wasserman (@hwasser): I think there are various issues here that have become conflated in the somewhat predictable public outcry against ‘censorship’.
For one, there is the feeble attempt at humour that falls flat. I also find the ad unfunny–as a joke, the ad does not quite gel, perhaps because it takes itself too seriously. Then there is the ideology–problematic to say the least. The ad flattens out history, denies any possibility of asymmetrical distribution of visibility among competing cultural identities, and ignores the relationship between ethnicity and political and economic power. “We are all just foreigners here,” it tries to say, “so don’t come and make any claims to restitution or redress. If those people in Alexandra could just learn to laugh at themselves, they wouldn’t have gone and burnt immigrants alive.” But the lack of humour and problematic ideology aside, I do think the refusal to screen it was misguided. The SABC’s claim that it had ‘xenophobic undertones’ missed the point. It was meant to look like xenophobia, not hidden away underneath, but so exaggerated that the very possibility of xenophobia becomes impossible. By refusing to screen it, the TV channels bought into the current discourse about ‘media freedom under attack’ and lent gravitas to an ad that wouldn’t have attracted half the attention it has if it were allowed to disappear among the many other mediocre ads on television.
Mikko Kapanen (@mikmikko): Nando’s has always presented a moral conundrum to me: I like their vegetarian burger, but find their advertising very off-putting and this advert is perfectly in line with their TV advertising strategy. It has got practically no connection to the product they are selling, millions of Rands [the local currency] have been thrown into its production and it’s offensive. I am not even one of those people who are looking around for things to be offended by, but this just is. Just like probably every advert by Nando’s I have ever seen. I think textually these visuals have been analysed spot on here by others (empty-land etc.), but purely from a production point of view, I’d say that even in general this is a very typical South African TV advert. The advertising industry–having observed it in action especially in Cape Town–is very detached from the majority of South Africans, but they are too proud, stubborn or just unaware to admit it. I remember a friend who is an industry insider telling me how his white supervisor had told him with no irony or regret that in advertising “white is aspirational” and as a logical consequence of that they didn’t have to understand the Black cultures of South Africa while coming up with adverts to them. Many industry people also focus so hard on trying to win the TV Laurie (advertising award) meanwhile most radio adverts are pretty terrible regardless of the relative efficiency of that medium. No other country I have ever lived in has had such abundance of locally produced expensive looking TV adverts that effortfully try to connect the product and its potential consumers–and Nando’s is just one of the companies that have climbed on this ox-wagon.
Brett Davidson (@brettdav): Of course I’m sure that as long as people are discussing the ad, whether positively or negatively, Nando’s is happy.
Herman Wasserman: Yes, Brett, Nando’s might even be happier with the ad being ‘censored’ and gaining credibility online than having it screened on TV. But does this whole saga not also point to a certain failure of mainstream media, commercial or public, to engage their audiences in an informative, creative and entertaining manner in debates about race, culture and power? When these issues enter media debates, it is often done in such heavy-handed manner that audiences become fatigued and then the repressed racial tensions in those dreadful comments at the bottom of online news stories that we see everyday on South African based websites.
Lily Saint (@lollipopsantos): The manner by which people are eliminated (by a puff of smoke) is pure euphemism. Meant, I suppose, to recall various moments in South African history when different groups featured in the ad were targets and victims of brute violence, would the ad still have any claim to humor if people were shot dead by bullets instead of lamely evaporated into clouds of smoke? While there is certainly offense to be taken in the stereotypes and exclusions in this ad, the real problem as others have pointed out, is the erasure of actual histories of violence that continue to plague the present. By making light of these the ad wants to make consumerism the only identity that can unify people–the pun on “real South Africans love diversity” of course evokes national, ethnic and racial diversity, but more ominously speaks to the rhetoric of “choice” allowing us all to think we are free agents while keeping us spoon-fed capitalism.
Melissa Levin: On Brett’s earlier point. He is spot on. There is something important to be said about the multiple ways in which public space is increasingly privatized. Whether it is football teams that are owned by big business rather than supporters, or public parks that are sponsored by private companies, whether it is the roll-back of basic state services that are doled out to the well-connected or whatever. In this case it is a business that sells its product by both defining and giving meaning to the issues of the day. So public space is increasingly occupied by corporate soundbites. At the apparent end of history, social issues are addressed through buying a bag to end hunger, for instance, or eating ‘anti-xenophobic’ chicken. I cannot help myself but to carry on yelling about this and giving the chicken people more air-time, because I am all for the post-Nazi adage that suggests that the imperative of humanity is to be at home nowhere. That way, we make no claims above another. I am against the trite evocation of this theme that reinforces the politics of difference and the political imperative of being nice. The dominant exposition of the idea of culture transfers an idea of a categorical, immutable, static identity from the notion of race which we must no longer have an appetite for. But the claims are similar. Someone else has spoken of this process of trading race for culture as being neo-racist.
Kathryn Mathers: This discussion keeps making me think back to those SAB (the now multinational South African Breweries) adverts from the 1980s [and through the 1990s], you know, the perfect embodiments of South African cosmopolitan masculinity both black and white getting together in a bar for beer? I am pretty sure it was the 80s because I remember discussions about how they were filmed when black and white couldn’t drink in the same bar and how technology was used to paste together two separate but equal (sic) scenes. (There are also the post-apartheid versions like the Klippies “eish/met ys” romance.) I have always found those advertisements confusing since they were certainly utopic if you believed in a nonracial South Africa but they could not have been simply aspirational since it seemed pretty clear that the majority of potential SAB drinkers did not aspire to a nonracial South Africa. This discussion is making me wonder how these two advertisements are part of a long tradition in South African media that has less to do with erasure of violence past and present than with its displacement. By shifting the terms of racism/xenophobia rather than trying to erase them, which would be near to impossible, it makes it much easier to live with, making viewers/participants doubly implicated ultimately not just for the violence but for trying to hide it in plain site. I argue that this is a gesture typical of romanticized images of Africa in the US where the white savior is made possible not by the erasure of Africans but by their relegation to a backdrop or by the kind of move that Disney’s Animal Kingdom makes, which is not to ignore the social/political challenges of the continent but to bring one of the less disturbing ones forward, big game poaching, even in the context of an amusement park. Nando’s does not try to suggest that South Africans are not xenophobic–rather they show how everybody is xenophobic but we can still laugh about it so it doesn’t really matter, thereby displacing the problem without denying it, and making it even more invisible than erasure would or could.
Tom Devriendt (@telamigo): The male voice-over is the “Voice of Reason,” holding the moral high ground: “This is your history. History is not how you live it.” Reason trumps experience. The advertising genius trumps the consumer. But a stereotypical hypocrite is hard to visualize in a one-second shot. So the soutpiel, not for the first time, is let off the hook. There’s no time for self-criticism in the ad world.
Herman Wasserman: Good point, Tom. Perhaps this points to the invisibility of white South African English normativity and supposed ideological neutrality.
Melissa Levin: To Tom and Herman, I thought the white couple in the fancy car that were referred to as Europeans are the souties? And ‘even the Afrikaner’ who disappears is clearly another category of identity.
Herman Wasserman: Melissa is right. Appropriately, the English white stereotypes in the ad are not in some ‘tribal’ gear but can fit in anywhere looking thoroughly modern as we know.
Tom Devriendt: That, or–how I read it–it is a generic reference to the tens of thousands Belgian, Dutch, German or English immigrants that have made South Africa their home over the last decade — “Bought this house in Clifton for a steal!”
Is South Africa a home for all?
- Published on Monday, 02 April 2012 12:49
- The Editor
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By Azwihangwisi Mufamadi
In commemoration of the human rights week, Rhodes University hosted a panel discussion to debate whether South Africa was a home for all.
Professor Barney Pityana, well-known human rights activist and Rector of the College of Transfiguration, chaired the discussions. He said that the South African constitution stresses the importance of social cohesion as one of the fundamental ideals. “The values that are set out in the constitution are tested by the way we relate to one another,” Barney Pityana.
Professor Francis Nyamnjoh, a social anthropologist at the University of Cape Town, pointed out that home and belonging are concepts that are constantly given meaning by the social process that human beings engage in. Belonging depends on one’s experience with a particular environment. “Legally I have a French passport but I don’t feel French at all” he said. “I don’t have South African residence or passport but I feel that I relate to people in ways that make me feel that this is home for me for the time being.”
Xenophobia was an underlying theme that ran throughout this panel discussion. Drawing on her research work with Congolese migrants in South Africa, Dr Joy Owen of the Rhodes University Anthropology Department said that the experience of migrants in South Africa is not always a positive one. “They are recipients of xenophobic attitudes and violence in the hands of the state and its citizens,” she said.
Owen also pointed out that relationships across nationalities are often forged but they are not easy to maintain because they “are constructed within a general environment that is hostile and alienating”.
Despite all these challenges relationships do exist between international men and South African women. “There are stories of friendship and love across divides. On a micro level South Africans are forging relationships with continental Africans every day,” she said.
Bishop Paul Verryn of the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg said that South Africans need to remember that the reason they are a non-discriminatory nation is so that the injustices of Apartheid never happen again. Verryn, whose church provides refuge for many Zimbabwean migrants, encouraged people to be more tolerant to other nationalities.
“Opening of our homes and our borders to Zimbabweans does not come without its difficulties,” he said. “Integration does not happen to human beings by the process of osmosis”.
Professor Pedro Tabensky, a Rhodes University philosopher, pointed out that the only solution is to bridge the inequality gap that divides South Africa and to embrace humanity. “What is required is to see humanity in the other; the foreigner, the neighbour, the worker and the entrepreneur,” he said.
Dr Sizwe Mabizela, Rhodes University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs, said that South Africa will only be a home for all when we begin to see ourselves as part of humanity rather than in isolation.
Township Tours and the human spectacle
- Published on Friday, 09 March 2012 11:33
- Mvuzo Ponono
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I wrote an article last year about a ‘township tour’ that I took part in. The piece was literally dripping with tears of emotion and sentimental guilt. I could not believe that in my fourth year at Rhodes University, after resisting so many of those guided tours into the black populace, I was roped into one.
The trip was a mandatory part of our course, we had to write about the experience, and I guess it was for the purpose of broadening our horizons. However, I believe that is the first major wrong about the situation. We had to go into people’s spaces as voyeurs, as writers, as plunderers, as seekers of material and as exploiters of chance.
Our aim and goal was never congenial, never for the purpose of reaching, touching, smelling, or seeing beyond the surface. We did not have the time to witness brick upon brick the building of a house, or a family of five, previously homeless, making the harsh environment a home. We were not the neighbour that greeted across the fence, or the passerby that looked in or the lost traveler stumbling through, or even the stray. We were lookers through the glass window. We were prying eyes in a combie, leaving a cloud of dust behind us. We were on safari, wide eyed, staring, gaping, gawking, pointing, marveling, pitying, reassured, and glad that this reality was not ours.
We held starving babies and made weird ‘aawh’ noises that sounded strange the minute they escaped the lips. We took pictures of wry smiles and understandings that we were uselessness personified. We stayed as long as we had to knowing that plenty awaited us on the other side. We hated ourselves for crossing the divide. We hated ourselves for being ourselves and loved ourselves for being ourselves and not them. The ‘other’ from across town, the ‘others’ from the hilltop where the sun squats half the day looked through us.
We noticed the lack of trees, and quiet, and plenty, and the abundance of scarcity. Soon it was time to go and it was not soon enough. We waved; it was awkward. They waved, a little embarrassed and amused that we had come all the way.
In retrospect I guess the trip was a success. Some people probably never went back to the township; the tour was their first time. To them black locations are an experience, one they won’t have again, and one that makes for good story at a dinner party.
Is it useful? It’s sometimes necessary to force people to go, to make them leave the comfort of campus and see how wider Grahamstown lives. I have no qualms with the principle of the tour. My problem is that if we look at it, it’s a space that needs to be scrutinised and evaluated. We need to assess the way that it is done and see if there aren’t better ways, more useful ways we can introduce different cultures, classes and races to each other.
The current model threatens being a zoo-like experience; the better-off going to view the human animal. Hopefully with the help anthropological studies conducted Dr Joy Owen (Lecturer in Anthropology at Rhodes University), theory will formalize these ramblings of a destabalised mind.
Community Media, Social Media or Traditional Media – which holds the greatest avenue for citizen participation in South Africa’s democratic and political processes
- Published on Tuesday, 06 March 2012 06:21
- The Editor
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This week the Mellon Media and Citizenship project invited lecturers from the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University to participate in a recorded discussion on the potential for different media to play a role in democratic processes within the local and national context. Prof Anthea Garman (Writing & Editing lecturer) chaired the discussion which included: Jeanne Du Toit (Radio lecturer), Jude Mathurine (New media lecturer) and Rod Amner (Writing & Editing lecturer). Below is a short excerpt of the discussion (you can listen to it or read the transcription).
“Anthea: The blog for “Media and Citizenship: Between Marginalisation and Participation” gives us the opportunity to think about the relationship between media and democracy, and citizens and participation, and agency and accountability; all those sorts of things. And I suppose when we just operate as journalists or often as media scholars we think that that’s a simple relationship that those things relate to each other and that if you have good and wonderful media that is informational and promotional of democracy that you will automatically get a citizenry that can articulate not only what they want out of their democracy but they can also act in ways that can enhance that democracy. And I think that maybe some of the disillusion or the pessimism that we experience in South Africa seventeen years into our democracy is that we don’t quite see things working out the way we had planned. You know, free up the media; you know, make us all able to say and do what we want to do and that would allow us somehow to have a flourishing, vibrant, robust democracy. And now we see that we have this weird patchwork of stuff; and it’s not just a patchwork in the world around us, it’s also a patchwork in our media. We often look around us and see things not working in the way they were planned: community media’s not quite working in the way it was planned; traditional media has taken all sorts of directions that we didn’t see coming and we’ve had a rise of social media in a way that is different from the patterns that it has taken in different parts of the world. So I’m going to open up and ask you: what are your immediate thoughts about this situation? Rod do you want to perhaps start?
Rod: Ja well I suppose though one of the key points is the question of activity, you know, of participation, of there being a genuine interaction and engagement. And we were looking at traditional media, social media, community media and which of these avenues provides the best possible route to activating the sort of democracy that we want. And I’m not so sure that it’s so much a question of ‘either/or’ or even making a choice, or even for me it’s more about mind-sets. It’s about the practice of journalism, it’s about what goes on in the heads of journalists wherever they’re located whether they’re primarily in community media, in traditional media or in social media I think that this kind of media can be done in any number of media institutions and it’s really about the kind of commitment to a particular brand of democracy as well. It’s about shifting away from a representative model, imagining a more deliberative and participatory democracy. And in fact that requires pro-activity; and pro-activity requires a set of idea, and practices and ways of doing things and understandings that perhaps we haven’t had the chance to cultivate properly yet in our journalists/other media workers wherever they might be located.
Anthea: So primarily you are saying, 1) journalists need to have a different mind-set and 2) it doesn’t matter where they are located. So that’s the kind of idea, that let the traditional print media go increasingly commercialised in the market; give community media this giant job of getting the bulk of the population involved and engaged with the media; and then let the kids have the social media, is just the wrong approach. It’s not the right way to parcel up the media.
Rod: Ja. And I think a newspaper like The Daily Disptach for example, sure, it’s traditional media, but it’s not necessarily elite media. It has credibility amongst a wide sector of the population of the Eastern Cape, it is some kind of a beacon. It still has those traditional watch-dog type roles but it’s gone beyond that. It’s actually managed to cultivate in same places at some points in its history more deliberative spaces, it has perhaps not been terribly sophisticated about it [using] social media. But the idea that it’s an elite medium – I mean for me, it’s a community newspaper.
Anthea: Ok, Jeanne. What are your thoughts on this.
Jeanne: Um, well what strikes me is that I think those distinctions that we are talking about between traditional print and community media and social media I mean they are really constructions in themselves aren’t they. I mean what do we mean when we say traditional media really depends on the context in which we are working it’s different in different spaces and it’s meant different things at different times. And it also has to do with the kind of resources that are available for those traditions and models to draw on and what’s happening at that moment in the political space that surrounds it. How you were describing it earlier with the kids playing with social media and the social responsibility being taken over by community media and traditional media being commercialised. I mean, what strikes me is that maybe one should then talk about a transformation of the whole landscape, that one does not stick with older ways of thinking of those spaces. I really think that one of the biggest tragedies in this country is what happened in the 1980s when there was such a fantastically interesting space for alternative media in traditional print as well as in alternative print and a lot of that has just been lost because the resources were just not ploughed into it in the long term in South Africa. So if one is going to invest in a particular way of doing media in terms of actual money and infrastructure then you’re going to start being able to talk about opportunity for that means. I mean if you look in the Grahamstown today and there’s two community radio stations here neither of which are really claiming that space for development media in the full and it has to do with how they’re prioritised in this town, both by us as the school of journalism and more broadly by the local community as spaces to claim for development and democratisation.
Anthea: Jude, do you want to join us?
Jude: At the end of the day, whether or not you’re using it for journalism, or the citizens themselves are using it as a platform for expression and mobilisation, these media, regardless of whether you say it’s this one or that one or that one, it’s about the use to which they’re effectively put by the traditional media and increasingly by the citizens themselves. Obviously one of the factors that factor into this equation if you’re looking at aspects around mainstreaming and marginalisation, is issues to which the ordinary citizen has access to media. Mobile is now being touted as the new saviour much in the same way as community was well over two decades ago and I think we’re going to end up still having the same levels of some wonderful examples that we’ll see in the mobile and new media space. But we’re certainly entering a new epoch where all these media and how are part of an incredibly interesting information ecosystem. If one looks at for example the utilisation of media by citizens themselves for purposes of political mobilisation during the so-called Arab-spring and Arab uprising, there’s been a lot written about the significance and importance of mobile media and social media. But perhaps less importance is actually given to the significance also of traditional and community media in those uprising. If one particularly takes a look at things like levels of access at the time, levels of online access, you’d particularly notice that there were some voices that were included as part of that group and some that excluded. And I think that’s an important part of the question to look at. The other is, to what degree the traditional media harnessed for example, and community harnessed social media tools and technology to take those messages and re-disseminate them so that network messages between groups became mass messages and that in itself was on the profound drivers of change on the ground. Alone, social media would probably have done very little on the Egyptian state, but you can see that an agglomeration of new media including social media, traditional and citizen media can have profound effects. But it is the use to which they are put.
Anthea: Ja. I think I’m going to draw this to a close. It’s part of an on-going series of conversations. Thank-you very much for giving us your thoughts and time. Jude Mathurine from the New Media Laboratory; Jeanne DuToit from the Radio Section of the School of Journalism and Media Studies; Rod Amner who teaches writing and editing and I’m Anthea Garman, also in the writing and editing section of the school of Journalism and Media Studies.”