News / Africa

Controversy Surrounds Commercializing of Mandela's Image

Green casual shoes and a red beaded necklace on show at a fashion range launch, inspired by South African President Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday in Johannesburg, June 29, 2012.
Green casual shoes and a red beaded necklace on show at a fashion range launch, inspired by South African President Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday in Johannesburg, June 29, 2012.
JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela turns 94 on Wednesday, July 18.  Despite being retired from public life, a recent study shows that the South African national hero is the second most well-known brand in the world, just behind Coca-Cola. Loved by everyone, the former president is bankable, and controlling the commercialization of his image is an everyday struggle.

46664 fashion line

Green, red, striped... the new collection of the 46664 fashion line does resemble the style of shirts worn by Nelson Mandela.  The brand was launched last year, and is named after Mandela's prisoner number when he was incarcerated at Robben Island. But the brand's CEO, Wayne Bebb, says he is not exploiting the fame of South Africa’s first black president.

"We are not allowed to commercialize Nelson Mandela," he said. "We do not use his image in any of our clothing. You will see very, very rarely any image of him in our marketing campaign."

Indeed, Mandela's face does not appear on the clothes. Instead, the brand logo shows Mandela's hand.  At that is apparently okay with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory - the organization is in charge of controlling the commercialization of Nelson Mandela's image.

Foundation spokesperson Sello Hatang says the task is enormous with everything from unauthorized clocks, T-shirts, mugs, and even a fast food chain.

"I think the last one was... I think it was calendars that populated the whole thing with Madiba's [a title of respect derived from his Xhosa clan name] image," said Hatang. "So that was the one that we've stopped. Commercialization is something that exists and is something that we try to work hard for people to understand that Mr. Mandela himself felt that discomfort with it."

Related photo gallery

  • Nelson Mandela smiles for photographers at his home in Johannesburg September 22, 2005.
  • Nelson Mandela and his then wife, Winnie, salute well-wishers as he leaves Victor Verster prison on Feb. 11, 1990.
  • This undated photograph shows Nelson Mandela and his former wife, Winnie.
  • South African State President Frederik Willem de Klerk and Deputy President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela prior to talks, Cape Town, May 2, 1990.
  • Nelson Mandela, is seen as he gives the black power salute to 120,000 ANC supporters in Soweto's Soccer City stadium, Feb. 13, 1990.
  • Then-African National Congress President Nelson Mandela salutes the crowd in Galeshewe Stadium near Kimberley, South Africa, Feb. 25, 1994.
  • Nelson Mandela and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II ride in a carriage outside Buckingham Palace on the first day of a state visit to Britain, July 9, 1996.
  • President Nelson Mandela and Britain's Prince Charles shake hands alongside members of the Spice Girls, Nov. 1, 1997.
  • Former U.S President Bill Clinton and former South African President Nelson Mandela speak during a Gala night in Westminster Hall, London, July 2, 2003.
  • Oscar winning South African actress Charlize Theron weeps at her meeting with former South African President Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, March 11,2004.
  • Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel, wave to the audience during a Live 8 concert in Johannesburg, July 2, 2005.
  • Nelson Mandela jokes with youngsters as they celebrate his 89th birthday at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in Johannesburg, July 24, 2007.
  • Former South African president Nelson Mandela, center, followed by his grandson Mandla Mandela, rear right, arrives at the ceremony in Mvezo, South Africa, April 16, 2007.
  • Nelson Mandela waves to the media as he arrives outside 10 Downing Street, London, August 28, 2007.
  • Nelson Mandela waves as he arrives to attend the 2010 World Cup football final Netherlands vs. Spain on July 11, 2010 at Soccer City stadium in Soweto.
  • Nelson Mandela poses for a photograph after receiving a torch to celebrate the African National Congress' centenary in his home village Qunu, May 30, 2012.

Protecting Mandela's image

From letters to lawyers, the foundation has an array of legal means to protect the Mandela name. But Hatang says the organization also relies heavily on the public.

"In most instances, it's members of the public that express their horror whenever a company wants to abuse Madiba's image. So we rely heavily on members of the public fighting it. There is also a need for us to not only focus on the man, but on his legacy," said Hatang.

For advertiser Jeremy Sampson, CEO of the brand consultancy agency Interbrand Sampson, it's a fairly new phenomenon to have a person becoming a brand.

"I think it's only quite recently that people have thought of other people as being brands," he said. "A brand is basically about adding value, bringing an aura to something. In the case of Nelson Mandela, he's got trademarks on his name, is that Mandela, or Nelson Mandela, perhaps on his face, because it's almost becoming as well known as Che Guevara or someone like that.  And for that reason, I think you have to get lawyers involved, trademarks insurers, managing the whole process."

Managing that process and knowing where to draw the line can be tricky.

Financing charity

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory does endorse various products related to the former president. Some of them have sparked controversy. A few years ago, 46664 - Mandela's HIV prevention organization - partnered with luxurious brand Mont-Blanc to produce an expensive bangle tagged with the famous prison number. Critics said such a luxury item was not in keeping with Mandela's modesty.

But the Centre notes that a sizeable percentage of the revenues from endorsed products go to charity and causes important to the former president.   And not every initiative associated with the Mandela brand is for profit; some are for activism - including Mandela Day - celebrated every year on his birthday July 18.  

Hatang says the day is meant to encourage South Africans and all people to get involved in community service and walk in Mandela's footsteps.

"We then remind people that there is a mechanism where you express your admiration for the man, to express your love for the man," said Hatang. "As the slogan says this year: that you must take action, inspire change. You can then do a Mandela day not just on his birthday, but do it every day."

Mandela Day will also be the day the 46664 clothing line will go international. The brand will be launched in North America, and soon in Europe as well as in other African countries such as Namibia and Mozambique.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More