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How well do you know your brand?

 

LEGO advert from 1981 with text 'What it is is beautiful'

LEGO advert from 1981

I’ve sat down with first-time entrepreneurs in Cape Town, young creatives in Johannesburg as well as colleagues in a global non-profit. When I ask them to describe their brand, their response is usually a string of positive words like this:

“It’s innovative”
“It’s friendly, for everyone”
“It’s cool”
“It’s trustworthy”
“It says quality”
“It’s brave”

The problem with this is that one brand can’t be everything. You might Continue Reading…

Why aren’t there posters of South African TV shows?

 

 

I was browsing eBay the other night looking for posters of TV shows I liked as a kid. But I realized that what I was looking at wasn’t what I really wanted to buy: posters of South African TV shows.

I did a Google search and couldn’t find any. But why would I expect to find it for sale? The SABC wouldn’t sell merchandise of its shows and private printers wouldn’t have the high resolution images needed to make a poster.

So what’s the solution?

We get local illustrators to create new posters of iconic South African TV shows. It could be done like the posters of Cape Town landmarks that 10and5 curated last year. Each illustrator has free reign to pick their favourite local show and design a poster for it. The Minimal Movie Posters style might be a good point of reference.

The first collection could be of TV shows. After that they can do classics of other art forms such as novels and plays. I wouldn’t mind owning a People are living there, Toorberg or Siener in die suburbs poster.

What posters would you like to see?

 

 

Why Afrikaans needs vampiere and ongediertes

Vampire by Vyle

Afrikaans faces a dilemma. How can it remain relevant to a younger generation while maintaining linguistic standards?

Writers of Afrikaans teen fiction are using slang and English words in order to appeal to the youth. Purists obviously see this as a debasement of the language. It’s known as taalvermenging , a contentious issue that regularly pops up on the letters page of newspapers. Back in 2002, a 17-year-old Jackie Nagtegaal published Daar’s vis in die punch and sparked a debate that divided literature professors.  André Brink called it a rejuvenation of the language while Dan Roodt said that Afrikaans had hit an all-time low.

Part of the problem is that Afrikaans caries a historical burden. Because it is spoken by a community that supported a racist system, the language is tinged with verkramptheid. To many, Afrikaans is still associated with conservative white people even though that connotation is statistically inaccurate* . When an actor speaks an old-fashioned English dialect, he sounds sophisticated, even romantic. If he speaks formal Afrikaans , he’ll seem conservative and unfashionable.

So is it possible to side step these negative connotations? I think so.

It should be possible to get a young audience to warm to formal Afrikaans if it’s a dialect so antique that it isn’t associated with their parents and grandparents’ generation.  An interesting example of this trick is seen in HBO’s True Blood.

Bill Compton is the romantic lead in the show. He’s also a vampire that once lived as a human in mid-19th-century Louisiana and fought for the South in the Civil War. That means he’s a confederate soldier with an accent that makes you think of a front-porch-sittin’ slave owner. But all of the potentially hazardous connotations are somehow sidestepped because he’s a vampire, and chivalrous, and 160 years old.

So Radio Sonder Grense should consider creating a radio drama with a teen novel tie-in about dashing vampires and beasts set in a contemporary South African town. It shouldn’t be a Twilight knock-off, but it will need a good dose of young love and drama.

The supernatural beings are all a century old, which explains their use of old-fashioned Afrikaans. In fact, there’s the potential to base their dialect on the writing style of N.P. van Wyk Louw. He was part of the Dertigers, an innovative group of Afrikaans poets who gained notoriety in the early decades of the 20th century. Louw’s work often explored love and sensuality via supernatural imagery. Gestaltes en Diere, published in 1942, portrays dark leopards, alcoholics, sphinxes and wolves. It’s an ideal foundation for a new fantasy series.

I’ll leave you with a cool passage from “Ballade van die nagtelike ure” :

Om elfuur was jou liggaam
die honger en dors in my,
as jou skewe papier-kalot
ver deur die danssaal gly.
Om twaalfuur was jy ‘n ligte brug,
‘n hoë, gevaarlike gang
bo my klein verwildering
tussen pyn en sterwe gehang.
- N.P. van Wyk Louw 1937

* A 2002 survey revealed that of the six million South Africans who claim Afrikaans as their first language, only 42% are white  (Giliomee, 2004: 623).

Authenticity is the new exclusivity

In a recent Times Live article, Jackie May longs for the days before mass production ruined luxury goods by making it accessible to the middle class. Here’s an extract:

In a world of mass production, globalisation and conspicuous consumption, where access to a Louis Vuitton or a Prada handbag is no longer restricted to the super-rich, there is a nostalgia for what used to be defined as luxury.
[…] It’s a nostalgia for when consumption was less conspicuous and less prevalent, and excess not so wretched and hedonistic.

When was this pre-conspicuous era? She suggests the 19th century as the answer, a time when artisans created finely made wares for royalty and aristocrats. The only ones keeping this tradition alive now are the modern-day artisans who create “authentic” goods with their hands, independently fighting consumerism.

But hold on, wasn’t the term “conspicuous consumption” coined in the 19th century? Wasn’t it in that era of precious utensils and golden watches that Thorstein Veblen pointed out that the wealthy enjoyed these socially visible goods due to their price and scarcity? These days, gold and silver doesn’t cut it though. Even designer bags ain’t what they used to be. It doesn’t have the same meaning it once did, says May in the article, ever since “global corporations [sold it] to the middle market”. Is it possible, just maybe, that what’s been lost is not quality or tradition but the feeling of exclusivity?

It looks like the real annoyance here is that a luxury good like a Prada handbag no longer gives the owner the sense of distinction that it once did. It’s not that different from music snobs that complain when their favourite band goes mainstream.

So how’s a status-seeking individual supposed to get their exclusivity-fix these days? By buying handmade goods that are inevitably rare because they’re produced in small batches. So handmade axes, craft beer and artisanal bagels are now in.

If you’re into that “authentic” stuff, have a ball, but don’t pretend that it’s the antithesis of consumerism and status seeking. The search for authentic artisanal goods is an extension of conspicuous consumption, not its cure.