Pappa in Afrika

The satirical use of the Tintin character is especially poignant. Kannemeyer has used a Tintin-like figure to portray himself before, most notably in his silent comic of the white Afrikaans boy running, 1974.

In doing so he pays ambivalent homage to Hergé, his morally tainted comic artist hero, and to Tintin, the hero of his naive white and privileged childhood.

He also immediately engages with the ongoing postcolonial discourse in which Tintin in the Congo (1931), in particular, is rightly condemned as excruciatingly paternalistic.

In Kannemeyer’s work, and especially in his latest offerings, Tintin becomes a white African trapped in his own incriminating skin — he is depicted either as a white liberal who cannot escape his colonial past regardless of his personal political convictions, or as an oblivious little psycho on safari exemplifying the mindless destruction and racist attitudes typical of white imperialism in Africa.

By employing various stereotypes associated with Tintin in the Congo and other pulp fiction, Kannemeyer reminds us that the rhetoric that equates white with superior, literate and civilised, and black with savage and dumb has been around for a long time.

He also implies that these unsophisticated prejudices and archetypes still underlie and contaminate our collective consciousness regarding race: as soon as things go wrong, the young democracy falters or people panic, the thin veil of rainbow rhetoric vanishes and the old beliefs rear their heads. — An edited extract from Danie Marais’ postscript to Pappa in Afrika

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