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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora