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TELL MY PEOPLE THAT I LOVE THEM AND THAT THEY MUST CONTINUE THE STRUGGLE

Theme: Making posters in South Africa: Shattering the silence


Call Number: 2616
Identifier: AL2446_2616
Title: TELL MY PEOPLE THAT I LOVE THEM AND THAT THEY MUST CONTINUE THE STRUGGLE
Date: 06 April 1976
Description: Black silhouette of person holding AK-47. Quote in white text. "TELL MY PEOPLE THAT I LOVE THEM AND THAT THEY MUST CONTINUE THE STRUGGLE" by Solomon Mahlangu
Source: MEDU ART ENSEMBLE
Language: English
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Comments

Poster done by Medu Art Ensemble in Gaborone, in April 1982; artwork by Judy Seidman; quote from Solomon Mahlangu, taken from his last words before execution by hanging on 6 April 1979; the full reported words are: "My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the struggle." While this poster was mandated, designed and silkscreeen by the Medu collective, there was a decision not to include "Medu Art Ensemble" as the producing body, as it was felt that open advocacy of armed activities / MK could jeopardise Medu's standing as a legally recognised art-making structure in Botswana, as well make Medu a target for anti-ANC and MK military action.

This poster was one of those distorted by Brett Murray in an effort to suggest that the ANC was corrupt and had sold out the struggle; in this case, Murray changed the words to read "Tell my people that I love them and that they must continue the struggle for Chevas Regal, Merc's and kick-backs" - and attributed that quote to Solomon Mahlangu (as in the original poster); moreover, Murray sold copies of his "rip-off" for personal profit, without attribution or acknowledgement of the original. Many of us feel that whatever Murray's intentions, the result is an insult to a freedom fighter who paid the ultimate price, and a slur upon the beliefs and sacrifices made by so many in the liberation struggle. This should, perhaps, open a debate around appropriation and mis-use of cultural symbols -- not to demand banning of any person's artistic comment, but rather to argue that an artist has a duty to consider the implications and messaging embodied in a "reworking" of culture, especially where these may be damaging and even hurtful.
Judy Seidman

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