Monday, October 11, 2010

Bono & Ali & Africa & Louis Vuitton

Every since that Louis Vuitton ad with Bono and his wife Ali Hewson started showing up in my New Yorker, it's bothered me. I read the small print and noted that they're wearing their own line of clothing (49 percent of which is owned by Louis Vuitton). I know the clothing they make is sustainable, and it costs a small fortune, and I'm sure they're giving away a lot of the money they're making from the campaign and the clothing line to support a variety of projects in Africa. But still, that ad drives me up the wall. The photograph of the two of them: The golden sun, the tall African grasses, the small plane, it's all so Out of Africa, evoking an intensely romanticized image of the white adventurer/colonial (even well-meaning colonial). I don't know much about the history of the African continent as a whole or any individual country in it, but I do know that, generally speaking, the colonial experience was not a happy one for Africans themselves. Invoking the most gorgeous aspect of its most popular representations, even in service of raising money whilst selling very expensive handbags, seems ill-advised at best. The photo might be beautiful, but what it calls to mind isn't so pretty.

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