Do satirical depictions of European colonialism cross the line?

South African regulators recently ruled that colonisation is “not open for humorous exploitation”.

South African regulators recently ruled that colonisation is “not open for humorous exploitation”. This comes following the banning of a television advert that showed a black man discovering a foreign land and naming it “Europe”.

In the advert for Chicken Licken, a South African restaurant chain known for its dynamic advertisements, a spoof story is depicted in which a man sails overseas from South Africa in 1650 in search of adventure and eventually reaches the shore where he meets local white people dressed in three-pointed hats and waistcoats.

“Hola MaNgamla (Hello white folk). I like this place, I think I will call it… Europe,” the man says, sticking his spear into the ground.

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Photo: video screenshot

The Advertising Regulatory Board ruled that the commercial “trivialises an issue that is… upsetting for many South African people.”

“Turning the usual colonisation story around might be perceived as having a certain element of humour. The reality though is that colonisation of Africa and her people was traumatic,” it said.

“The legacy of colonisation, which is a sensitive and divisive topic, is one that is not open for humorous exploitation.”

It added that Africans did not leave voluntarily due to colonisation and often starved to death enroute suffering inhuman conditions.

While these are fair and factual statements, another perspective is that such an advert could be useful for starting a conversation about a sensitive topic that is known to be difficult for people to raise. Moreover, by reframing the narrative of colonialism it offers a way for South Africans to explore their history beyond the narrative of oppression.

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It also raises the question of who should dictate how the history of a certain group of people should be or re-interpreted.

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