When art becomes a weapon of destruction

By Drum Digital
09 July 2014

For years adverts have impacted society as a basis by which people can critique themselves in a humorous or thought provoking way.

But a controversial advert depicting a black child as a dog has caused a stir before it was quickly removed from YouTube.

If you haven’t seen the advert commissioned by Feed a Child South Africa, well it depicts a black boy, sheepishly following a white woman in her lavish suburban home.

At different intervals, she periodically puts a piece of food into his mouth.

In one scene, the child is patted on the head and licks food off her fingers like a puppy would from its owner endearingly.

In the final scene, the woman is having a decadent dinner on her polished dining room table, the boy, seated awkwardly on the floor gaping at her with big hungry eyes until she feeds him from under the table.

The tag line: “The average domestic dog eats better than millions of children.”

Perhaps the makers of this advert were trying to coerce white South Africans into feeling guilty about loving their dogs more, so than they care to feed hungry children, does it successfully do so?

The answer would be no. Instead the advert stereotypes white South Africans as being heartless consumers who spend more money on their lavish lifestyles, rather than take interest in the needs of disadvantaged blacks.

Surely, no one would believe that a child would be desperate enough for food as to lick it off someone’s fingers.

Nor would they believe that white South Africans are so heartless.

This advert does not take into account white South Africans who run NGO’s and advocacy groups that have taken a stance against poverty.

There are some who volunteer their time and share their resources and money to tackle the plight of vulnerable and poor children in our country.

This advert also disregards church communities who dedicate some of their time and finances to act as an intervention in the ongoing struggle of combating poverty in black communities.

And by disregarding the efforts of blacks to tackle the issue of poverty, the advert suggest that coming up with a solution is exclusively a white burden.

In an article by the Cape Argus posted on online news source, African Identity, Feed SA director Candice Etberg is quoted defending the advert suggesting that it is a wake-up call to South Africans.

“This is a great advert that highlights what is actually going on. The average dog does eat better than most children in this country. People are ignoring the message here – and it’s that we need to get together and start feeding children,” she said.

What this advert suggests is that there are South Africans out there who comfortably see black South Africans as spectacle by which they can project their racist beliefs.

-By Ayanda Sitole

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