South Africa has banned a tongue-in-cheek commercial that imagines Africans colonizing Europe

Remapping history.
Remapping history.
Image: Chicken Licken
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South African advertising agencies have used reincarnation, Africans in space and the Guptas to stand out in the competitive fried chicken market, but reverse colonization was a step too far.

Following a complaint from a member of the public, South Africa’s Advertising Regulatory Board last week banned (pdf) a Chicken Licken advertisement that played with the fantasy of African explorers landing in Europe first.

In 1650, Big Mjohnana, a prince, sets off on a seafaring adventure to satisfy his hunger for adventure. It culminates in Big John, as he’s known in English, discovering Holland in 1652, a year before Dutch colonizer Jan Van Riebeeck landed in South Africa.

“The commercial makes a mockery of the struggles of African people against colonization by the Europeans and the persecutions suffered in the hands of the Dutch in particular,” the ruling read.

While the advert is clearly meant to be humorous, colonization was “traumatic,” and “forced” Africans to travel to Europe, the board said, referring to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. On social media, South Africans criticized the board and the complainant for lacking a sense of a humor.

Chicken Licken said the aim of the ad was “to show South Africans that Chicken Licken believes this country has all the potential to conquer the world and rewrite history from an African perspective.”

Chicken Licken Big John advert banned for colonialism spoof
The Legend of Big John.
Image: Chicken Licken

It was exactly the tongue-in-cheek advertising that consumers had come to expect from the brand, Chicken Licken said.  The fast food chain clearly had great ambitions for Big John, producing an interactive online campaign complete with a map and journal entries.

On Day 231 on his voyage, Big John writes in purposely misplaced contemporary slang: “Today I landed on a foreign land where the people speaka weird language and hold their maps upside-down. But they’re friendly yazi (you know). I like them and this place. I’ve decided to call it Eu-rope. I think it has potential shem.”

Like Big John, the advert has also gone around the world, with the ban making headlines in India and the United Kingdom and of course, YouTube.