The Whitenessby Andy Davis / 19.05.2010
KAK. These days, you only find racially complex advertising like this in rural areas, like the town of Bizana between Flagstaff and Port Edward in the Transkei. The whole ad revolves around the concept of “whiteness” as something to be aspired to. It hearkens back to the era of skin lightening cream and the same kind of racially offensive advertising found in magazines like Drum back in the 1950s and 60s, that promote this concept of “whiteness”, while casting African-ness as something antiquated and abhorrent. The fact that Surf is a washing powder that supposedly makes your clothes white is secondary to the idea that “whiteness” represents all that good shit like wealth and sophistication, and is something desirable. Big brands like Surf spend a lot of time researching what messages will sell their products to rural audiences. So advertising like this act as a social barometer. I guess the question we need to ask is do they entrench these ideas or simply reflect them.