31 August 2016

The archival interns reflect: The 2016 local government elections poster war

For the observant traveler who spends their time surveying the landscape as they commute or walkabout, these past elections have been anything but bland from the beginning. The battle between the parties officially begins when the campaign starts. During the period leading up to the elections each participating party has to lay a convincing claim as to why the voters should make a mark for them on the ballot paper.

Beyond rallies and door-to-door campaigns, posters present an effective terrain for this battle where parties try to outsmart each other and win over the undecided voter. Before delving into the posters of the three most popular parties; the African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA), and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), let us consider the qualities of a good election poster.

Firstly, the poster acts as the voice and face of the party, so it needs to say everything and enough to convince voters that they are deserving of their vote. Therefore the poster needs to deliver a clear and gripping message. Secondly, when it comes to the artistic features it needs to be attractive and identifiable and the font should be large enough to be easily readable from a distance. Last but not least, the poster should leave a positive and enduring impression on the reader. Another important factor is the frequency with which the posters appear in the surrounding landscape.

Posters for the 2016 Local Government elections in MelvilleSAHA’s archival interns spent a morning after the conclusion of the local government elections collecting posters from lamp poles around Braamfontein in an attempt to add as many election posters from across the political spectrum to the SAHA Poster collection (AL2446). The poster collection already houses posters from other local government elections and earlier municipal elections from the 1980s.

While doing this, very resourcefully with a pair of clippers stuck to a mop handle (to reach those posters high up against the poles), the interns made a couple of interesting observations. It became evidently clear to them that there were some areas that did not have EFF posters - probably due to the demographic the party represents and how they want to be explicit in their representation. Another observation was the level in which the DA and ANC posters were put on lamp posts. DA posters were placed much lower on the lamp poles while the ANC posters, on the other hand, were placed much higher. This could suggest that the DA started putting up their posters early on in the campaign followed by the ANC. This, they argued, could also indicate that one party started later with their preparation or preferred to place their posters much higher so they would not get vandalized by their rivals and other people. However, this image of posters suggests that the DA beat the ANC to the game in getting their posters up first in the Melville area. 

Sadly, very few posters other than ANC and DA posters were collected for the archives.

See inventory for the SAHA Poster collection (AL2446)