Using locations in Africa as backdrops to sell clothes and bags is nothing new – especially bags and clothes that certain class of travellers and outdoorsy people like to call “gear”. As in “stuff necessary to show you’re ready for hardship.” Sometimes, though, the mythology referenced, re-ignited, and re-iterated in newly romaticised packaging is so…well, moronic that we have to do yet another post on the same old-same-old. And Louis Vuitton’s new campaign gets AIAC’s Out of Africa Fashion Campaign award for this quarter’s mash up of Discovery Channel fodder, Hemingway’s “Snows of Kilimanjaro”, Lawrence of Arabia, Out of Africa, and the opening scenes from The English Patient.
Nelson Mandela presents a complex, complicated, even contradictory set of public images that have been cycled and recycled in ways that allow many stakeholders to appropriate and mobilise his legacy. Of course corporate entities do not have a responsibility to uphold civic values; but that does not mean we cannot engage in a case-by-case scrutiny of how – and in what ways – these mediated projects seek to pay heed to the core values and ideals Nelson Mandela stood for, when they pay tribute to him. As an example, I want to look at one popular, well-intentioned and well-received South African corporate sponsored tribute dedicated by the South African retail chain, Woolworths. This tribute is framed as a flash-mob of singers from the Soweto Gospel Choir singing the struggle anthem Asimbonanga inside a Woolworths store.