Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Irony and iconography

Finished Zoo City by Lauren Beukes yesterday. A book chocked full of ideas, imagination and astute observations. I could have pulled any number of passages out, but I liked this one about how the political is neutralised into a brand.

The Biko Bar is to Stephen Biko as crappy t-shirt design is to Che Guevara. His portrait stares down from various cheeky interpretations. A hand-painted bardber-shop sign with a line up of Bikos in profile modelling different hair-styles and headgear; a chiskop, a mullet, a makarapa mining helmet. Steve stares out with that trademark mix of determination and wistful heroism from the centre of a PAC-style Africa made of bold rays of sunlight. Steve, with a lion's mane, is the focal point of a crest of struggle symbols, power fists, soccer balls and a cursive "The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." My academic dad would have hated it. Reduced by irony and iconography to a brand.

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