A South African television ad for a fried chicken restaurant has folks big mad for spoofing the history of colonialism, with an African man being the colonizer and Europeans the colonized.
Last week, the Advertising Regulatory Board yanked the controversial Chicken Licken ad, condemning the fast-food chain’s commercial as a “mockery” for entertaining the fantasy of African explorers landing in Europe first, Quartz Africa reported. Not everyone was happy with the decision, however.
The commercial tells the tale of an African prince named Big Mjohnana, or “Big John,” who sets sail in 1650 to satisfy his hunger for adventure. His voyage ends when he “discovers” Holland in 1651, one year before Dutch colonizer Jan Van Riebeeck made land in South Africa.
“Hello, white folk,” Big John says as he greets a group of Dutchmen working on a pier.
Big John later tells the workers, “I like this place. I think I will call it ‘Europe.'”
One viewer, Sandile Cele, wasn’t amused by the ad, however, and complained to the ARB that it was offensive and made light of the horrors of colonization. Members of the board ultimately agreed and moved to ban the ad.
“The commercial makes a mockery of the struggles of African people against colonization by the Europeans and the persecutions suffered in the hands of the Dutch in particular,” they wrote in their ruling.
Although the ad was meant to be humorous, board members argued that colonization was a “traumatic” event that “forced Africans to travel to Europe” against their will.
“They did not leave their countries and villages willfully,” they added. “They starved to death during those trips to Europe and arrived there under harsh and inhumane conditions.
Atrocities suffered by Africans under colonization are well documented and the legacy there of continues to exist to date. This experience can never be rewritten differently and cannot be trivialized in any manner.”
On social media, other South Africans didn’t see it that way and slammed the board and Cele for lacking a sense of humor.
“So this one faceless individual by the name “Sandile Cele” complained about #ChickenLicken ad and it was banned, just like that?” one Twitter user wrote. “Sandile, I need you to complain about petrol prices, I wanna see something!”
“I liked the #chickenlicken big john advert,” another chimed in. “I don’t think it makes a mockery of Black people’s struggles under colonialism at all but rather ridiculing [sic] the discovery of a pre-existing land and people. Help me understand guys? #bigjohn”
One man accused people of being too sensitive nowadays, writing, “That Big John advert by Chicken licken is the best ad this year. I don’t see any offence in it.”
“Nonsense!” a Facebook user opined. “You’re telling me that the fictional depiction of Black colonization threatens society that much? We constantly see movies reminding us of slavery and colonialism, but no one told Quentin Tarantino to stop producing ‘Django Unchained.’ This as was brilliant.”
Chicken Licken has since defended the ad. In a statement, the company argued that “the commercial stems to show South Africans that Chicken Licken believes this country has all the potential to conquer the world and rewrite history from an African perspective.”
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