Happy Independence Day

Material Culture of Politics in Africa


This picture comes from my first visit to Zimbabwe in 1991. I was fascinated by the omnipresent President.  A friend ‘rescued’ this picture from an office where it had been abandoned, folded up and in tatters, replaced by a newer, shinier, framed portrait.  Even though it had not been respected we still felt as though we were taking liberties, and wondered if someone would object.  We were there 11 years after independence, as structural adjustment was coming in, and in the middle of the one-party state debate. Today, Zimbabwe has been independent for 34 years.  The way in which iconography and national emblems have changed – and the ways in which they have stayed the same – are fascinating. I’ve got a couple of blogs scheduled for the next week looking at this, and how groups have tried to reclaim those images.

But ‘official portraits’ are found in most African countries…

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