The play on words with this title references the Shakespeare play The Tempest – in which Prospero uses magic to conjure a storm and torment the survivors of a shipwreck. The text on the painting actually reads “Term Pest.” This speaks to the term of presidency in Africa, which is five years with a limit of two terms. But often, the leadership results in an autocratic government where one person is in absolute power until death. Hence the play on words with the leader becoming a pest.
The Mickey Mouse is a cartoon character that was also used around the same time as the blackface or coon cartoons. These cartoons reference the Jim Crow era in America – laws enforcing racial segregation in the Southern United States. Other areas of the United States were affected by formal and informal policies of segregation, similar to apartheid. AT this time, certain folks were depicted non-human or used for entertainment. All these themes of superior, inferior human, not so human and all that. The stereotypes that have been placed on people where it’s still much more relevant, even today. He also uses bananas to represent an idyllic paradise of Africa, but also banana’s being a very interesting symbol that alludes to monkeys (who consume banana’s) and the fact that certain people are likened to those animals. The banana becomes weaponized, it speaks to the idea of control in the media.
Another iconic symbol is the Protea – South Africa’s National flower – that once upon a time was used as a symbol of unity in South Africa, particularly in sport. In this painting a Venus fly trap is devouring the Protea. This is a metaphor for how liberation can become the perpetrator; the opposite of what it was supposed to be.
The words ‘Beauty and the Beast’ also speak to the beautiful country that South Africa is, but it has a beast of a history. The land is as beautiful as the gold that it holds, but at the same time, it holds the remains and the blood stains of the history that we’ve been part of. So by putting two juxtaposing terms together and thinking about our “post-apartheid” and “rainbow nation” country, but in reality there are people in charge with bad intentions.