Another Case of Lazy Creatives

Society & Culture | By Lerato Maloka, Social Activist | 21 November 2014
PHOTO: © Ryan Chokureva

Madness is trending around the world, from planes disappearing to Ebola epidemic and now this…#WearADoek Campaign!

The South Afrikan department of arts and culture have created the “wear a doek” campaign, urging all South Afrikan women to wear a doek on Fridays and upload their selfie in solidarity for women’s month last August. Doek is colloquial for head wrap, the beautiful head scarf richly connected to Afrikan history since the 1700s.  Slave women featured in a 1707 painting created by a Danish painter, Dirk Valkenburg wearing head wraps, however, it is believed that Afrikan cultures have been using head wraps before the days of slavery, for men to show off their wealth and the level of their social status and for women to flaunt their prosperity and spirituality.

In the South Afrikan context, doeks have also been synonymous with apartheid, maids being made to wear doeks by their white employees. Some ethnic cultures require wives to wear doeks as a sign of respect or as feminists would put it, as a sign of subservience to their husbands. I love head wraps, I wear one to bed every night and any other day as a fashion and neo-political statement. I associate my colourful crown with femininity, black consciousness and regality.

The feminist in me desperately wants to completely shred this ill-conceived campaign for the obvious patriarchal stereotypes. However my contention is with the ‘creative’ team that brainstormed around this concept and confidently rolled it out. I’m assuming the department of arts and culture tendered out the services to a creative agency, as per state norm. I will overlook the hand that approved the roll out of the campaign, we all know the short-comings of our Afrikan politicians. How on earth does a creative person present a feeble half-hearted national campaign for such a significant month?

I am perplexed that people sat together, brainstormed for a few weeks and rested upon this colossal failed attempt at copying the “bring back our girls” campaign. Evident the laziness that has over taken the creative industry, we have become so engulfed in making money that we’ve forgotten what made the advertising industry thrive – thinking, creativity and solutions, which this campaign lacks in all these aspects. 

#Bring Back Our Girls - although the girls have not been recovered, the campaign was successful in fulfilling its intention of arousing awareness and forcing action by the Nigerian government. The call to action and its display revealed the power of social media used prudently, a simple idea well executed. #Wear A Doek on the other hand flounders on many levels. Firstly, how does wearing a doek on Fridays and uploading a selfie help the plight of women? How is that supposedly showing support for women? What of the issue that doeks are still seen as archaic and not appropriate for the refined woman in the boardroom? The campaign does not address that at all – we are simply required to wear our head wrap on four Fridays in August and take a selfie. How simplistic! What about white people and men – where do they fit in this doek situation? A white woman, in response to the campaign was quoted saying, “As a white woman I would be very scared to put on a doek lest I be called racist. Very fine line between being seen as to identifying with a domestic worker and making fun of one.”

The lazy creative people overlooked the holistic implication of rolling out this campaign, completely ignoring the ‘target audience analysis’ profiling. Perhaps the target audience was black women and men only – so much for a national campaign intended at all South Afrikans! I would have preferred to see more education and information on the history of head wraps, its significance to our Afrikan heritage.  The political and historical symbolisms of a head wrap were ignored, let alone the racial disparity.  I would have preferred a solutions based campaign, one that looks at the challenges faced by women in the creative industry. A campaign that considered celebrating women in the arts, one that presented an opportunity to engage all sexes and races. A campaign that had people in mind, and cared less about scoring likes on social media.

I am tired of lazy creatives giving other painstaking creative people a bad name.  The concept and execution does nothing for women or showcase how progressive the department of arts and culture is. It paints a gloomy picture of Afrikan creative skill.  This campaign has left me screaming “Bring back solutions based creatives!”