Cape Town – Channel O's (DStv 320) Youth Day's interpretation of an iconic South African struggle era photo has been slammed as "incredibly insensitive" and "disgusting".
The Channel O music channel provided by M-Net to MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform, took the iconic "Soweto Uprising" photograph taken by Sam Mzima of Mbuyisa Makhubo running through the streets of Soweto holding the body of the 13-year old Hector Pieterson alongside a traumatised 17-year old sister Antoinette Pieterson.
The photo reimagined it as if apartheid never happened.
The Cape Town agency Black River FC came up with the idea to redo the iconic struggle image for the TV channel – now with happy youth laughing and smiling as opposed to the haunting black-and-white image.
Photographer Nganga Dlanga took the new photo for Black River FC's advert in which the lifeless body of Hector Pietersen has been replaced by a graduation gown.
The advert has been described as "appalling" over how it is commercialising and diminishing a painful memory of South Africa's past.
Now without any of the blood or visceral trauma on the faces of the original image's subjects, it comes complete with a schmaltzy tag-line: "Live the dream the youth of '76 died for".
Cape Town essayist T.O. Molefe wrote that the gratuitous and superficial Channel O marketing campaign perverts "history to sell young people false dreams and avert their eyes from the real" issues.
"Four decades later we still don't know where Mbuyisa is. Papering over a person whose whereabouts are still unknown, whose family is still clinging to the hope that he might still be alive, is an appalling way to remember the past and live the present ethically."
"I wonder Mbuyisa's family will say to yet another abuse of his image?" writes T.O. Molefe.
"Shameful and disgusting mockery of history," said Nobesuthu Cele on Twitter over Channel O's ad, a sentiment echoed by many on the social media network.
"We gloss over our history so much and turn crucial details and events into mere campaigns too often. To some it's like some scripted story," said Flo Masebe.
The ad has also received praise from celebrities and users on social media:
That ChannelO ad is doing exactly what it was meant to. Getting the youth to remember and discuss the true meaning behind Youth day.— OARABILE MAHOLE (@JayCubed_SA) June 15, 2015
Photographer, Nganga Dlanga, took to Twitter to thank his supporters:
Thank you to everyone that's loving the ad and sees what we were trying to achieve with it, there's too many to thank individually ??— Don Gorgeous Ngang (@BabyDlanga) June 15, 2015