It must be Africa

For the next month we'll be bombarded with commercials riffing of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. There'll be lots of "African" themes.

The head offices of ING (Photo:

Earlier today I saw this TV commercial on a feed from a Dutch TV channel (cable is a wonderful thing) during a friendly match between the national teams of Ghana and the Netherlands. (Both teams have qualified for the World Cup in South Africa).

The commercial is for ING Bank, official sponsor of the Dutch national team.  Whether by design or not, the the logos of ING and the national team have something in common: an orange and white lion. In the ad, a jeep – get it – adorned with the logo and two flags (the national flag and that of the football association) leaves Amsterdam to drive through the Sahara (not sure how they crossed the Sahara) before the car and its inhabitants (who we never see) spent a lot of time being filmed in rural East Africa among Masai (or is it Samburu?).

There’s no dialogue, but the hook of Hugh Masekela’s jaunty “Don’t go losing baby” plays on repeat. You can’t go wrong with Masekela as the musical accompaniment.  Most of the images of people are of black Africans. Until they get to South Africa. They arrive in Cape Town, where they are finally joined by mostly, white Dutch fans in their usual ridiculous outfits accompanying the jeep through the streets of Cape Town. We don’t want to read to much into it, but it is interesting that the first time you see white people in the ad is in when they get to Cape Town, one of the whitest and most racially segregated of all South Africa’s cities.

In between, we see the glimpses of the stars of the Dutch – Robben, Van Persie,  the De Boer brothers, etcetera – defending, attacking, taking shots on goal, scoring and celebrating.  I want to just enjoy the ad, but the combination of smiling black children, Africa outside South Africa as “premodern,” the animal themes (they couldn’t leave the giraffes and lion climbing on the jeep out) and the Masai. as props, begins to add up. Not in a good way.

This is going to be a long summer.  Waka Waka. It must be Africa.


Further Reading

Bono did something right

You know we give Bono a lot of grief on this site, but in this commercial for ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 World Cup–bar a few disagreements here and there–he is on point. Did I …