White Wedding

UPDATED: The internets have been rightly outraged at a white couple, “Dave and Chantal,” who decided on a “colonial” (and Apartheid) theme at their wedding in South Africa complete with an all-black wait staff in red fezzes. Like it was a scene out of the film “Out of Africa.” (Turns out the happy couple asked for a recreation of the film. Serious.) The wedding was held in Mpumalanga province on the border with Mozambique. The wedding organizers got the props–which included “antique travel chests, clocks, globes and binoculars and an awesome Zebra skin”–from a “prop house” in the capital Pretoria. This kind of thing which is apparently the in-thing (i.e. sold as “tradition” and “nostalgia” by events companies and venues), would have passed unnoticed, but for the internets. The couple or their photographer felt pleased enough to post the pictures on a photography site. Then it was spotted by the American blog Jezebel (part of the Gawker empire). Once it became viral (and the couple their photographer and wedding planner were ridiculed) some of the photos (i.e. those with blacks in subservient positions or white people hamming it up in pith helmets) have been taken down. Here’s a link to the “cleaned-up” cache-page since the page has been deleted. Luckily for us screen shots of the pictures exist. And the venue still has pictures of guests in pith helmets play acting shoot outs on its website. (see some of the pictures below).


Of course, not surprisingly, some white South Africans are defending the couple. Although one commenter to the Jezebel post did write the truth: “Most white folks’ weddings in [South Africa] are colonial not by design, but by default.”

Which is why we’re surprised so few are asking–as RK points out in a comment on this post below–what makes venues like the Cow Shed (where the wedding was held and events company Pollination, think it is okay to throw colonial/Apartheid throwback weddings for white South African and European couples.

BTW, the Cow Shed has since issued a lame press statement to still defend its decision to host the party.

At least they can’t blame Julius Malema for this.

Above and below are some of the offensive photos. Then following the photos, at the bottom end of this post, see commentary from Neelika.

More from the big blogs, here and here.

Neelika Jayarwadane adds:

First, the pith helmets, the rolling amber whiskey, the monogrammed blue sweaters: it’s like a Tommy Hilfiger/ Ralph Lauren advert for Fall-wear, in the conservative chic for which these brands are known. But allow me a little snark here: who wears a blue sweater, no matter how finely monogrammed, to a proper wedding? I see it’s all very shack-chic-themed, with corrugated walls and chandeliers, but still, lovey.

Second, Hilfiger and Lauren get their imagery from the fantasia of Africa created by Hemingway and Hollywood: Baronness von Blixen, channelled by Meryl Streep in Out of Africa, to be more precise. There, one can marry that lovely hodgepodge of elements evoking a magical time when we just didn’t know to be embarrassed by our colonial selves: hunting, whiskey, fine food served on Limoges china, and most importantly, the silent, disappeared bodies of the ‘service’ – seen here in the full glory of their outlandish and out-of-place carmine fezes (a nod to East African Muslim traditions?). When modern South Africans want to revert to the safety of the good ole days, when whites were whites and servants were marked by uniforms and ridiculous headgear, apparently they turn to ’80s Hollywood for their references.



Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

  1. You don't need to go to a 'Colonial' themed wedding to have an all black servant staff in South Africa. Try Melrose Arch, Melville, Long Street, uShaka Marine World and anything in between.

  2. Haven't you understood this yet Sean, Julius Malema is excatly as bad as apartheid was if not worse. It's all happening now again, but in reverse. Isn't this the kind of stuff one must write when typing online comments or have I misunderstood all the comment segments of all SA news media sites?

    The practice here might look very extreme (although I don't really know what happens usually behind those high fences), but the mentality, I am afraid is rather standard in my experience. Shame indeed.

  3. I gotta agree with Kenichi. But still this is like a celebration of racial dominance.
    Indeed a lame response from the Cowshed.
    Can't people just say "OK , we're wrong" for once!

  4. from Cowshed: "that the theme of the wedding in question was in fact based on Sydney Pollack’s film Out of Africa and that it was not, in any reasonable interpretation of that term, a celebration of colonialism." Nice one. It's just that those colonial costumes/placements are so comforting and comfortable. I see no guest porting a red fez, taking on the role of madam's staff.

  5. I'm very curious about the couple's thought process and motivations. Mostly due to the last comment from Cowshed:
    "the waitrons who served at the function, at the couple’s request, comprised people of all race groups found in South Africa, including people of European descent."

    Why was the couple so conscious about the make-up of the staff?

  6. "… all race groups found in South Africa"

    That reads like something out of an Apartheid minister's speech notes or what you read in the comment sections of Timeslive, Business Day, etc.

  7. Like an Apartheid minister or the comments on Timeslive? That's very nearly insulting to the minister.

    By the way, does anyone else find the Cowshed's slogan: "Mpumalanga's Best Kept Secret" a little ironic now?

  8. This is a pretty biased report if you ask me, I don't agree with the red headgear, but seriously, the wedding looked pretty gorgeous! South Africa has some pretty horrible history, but its got some good history too, and i don't really see a problem with blue jackets and pith helmets, how the hell is that racist? (which is what this report is implying). I'm a young black South African and it embarrasses me to think that this nonsense is being thought of as racial.

  9. I'm with Thokozani on this one. *This* is a biased, bordering on racist, article.

    Firstly, 'Like it was a scene out of the film “Out of Africa.”'. It wasn't 'like' a scene out of the firlm it *WAS* supposed to be a scene out of the film.

    Secondly, '“Dave and Chantal,” who decided on a “colonial” (and Apartheid) theme at their wedding in South Africa complete with an all-black waiter staff in red fezes.'. They didn't decide on a colonial theme for their wedding, they choose a film as the theme. And, as you've mentioned, they asked for a mixed staff so it obviously wasn't all-black waiter staff. That's all you can see from the pictures to be sure, but you've only seen an handful of pictures which isn't enough for you to jump to your blatantly uninformed opinion.

    In the process of jumping to your own conclusion you make, and completely miss your only good point, "Although one commenter to the Jezebel post did write the truth: “Most white folks’ weddings in [South Africa] are colonial not by design, but by default.”

    How is this wedding any different? Why mount your moral high horse now as opposed to the countless other weddings or social events this could have applied to? huh?

    Kenichi, pretty much sums it up. You don't have to look very hard to see the same thing on a daily basis. Where's your moral indignation at that? Had the dumbass photographers not mentioned 'colonial' in their original post this would gone totally unnoticed (see their statement: http://welovepictures.blogspot.com/2011/07/statem

    Being racist isn't just about discrimination, it's also seeing race in everything to the point where you see it even when it's not there.

    Now, you're probably reading this thinking, 'just another white person defending the couple'. The fact that color of my skin is of any relevance to my argument is quiet telling

  10. I’m a 37 year old white South African. I could easily have been lulled into thinking this stuff was cute or ironic, if Jezebel and this site hadn’t drawn attention to it. But coming face to face with this I feel very uncomfortable indeed with that.

    Thokozani, it’s not argued that pith helmets and white colonial stylings are racist. It’s the decision to mirror the racial hierarchy of the colonial period – in which my ancestors forced yours into positions of servitude, frequently brutally. It’s the idea of being casually nostalgic for a time in which that was the status quo. And that nostalgia is particularly offensive and misplaced when we white South Africans continue to live off the fat of the land. It’s not like this is something that’s done and dusted in the past.

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