Fresh take on roast chicken
Freshlyground have worked with Zapiro’s ZA News to create their new music video, a tongue-in-cheek political comment on our northern neighbour’s great dictator
ZA News has collaborated with local Afro-pop band Freshlyground to create a music video of a track from their fourth album, Radio Africa, starring a puppet caricature of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
The track, Chicken to Change, was written as a kind of open letter to Mugabe, calling for him to recognise that his lengthy stint in power needs to come to a long-overdue end.
“I remember a time when you were noble, a conqueror, a supernova,” sings Zolani Mahola, decked out in 1980s gear in a farm barn.
The music video, which was first screened on the Trevor Noah Show on Wednesday evening, was made by ZA News, a project created by controversial cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro and director Thierry Cassuto.
The video begins with Mugabe being sworn in as president yet again, after 30 years in office.
The creators pulled no punches about their dismay and irritation with Mugabe—as he pledges allegiance to his country, other puppet characters roll their eyes and shake their heads in disbelief.
“There are no risks of legal repercussions,” says Nazeera Hartley, ZA News production manager. “We’ve checked it out. Except that Freshlyground have a gig coming up in Zimbabwe. The worst is that they’d need to cancel.”
The video plays on the title of the song—puppets of chickens make regular appearances and Mugabe himself finally explodes into a chicken while reading a copy of Bob’s Times as he’s being driven to his inauguration ceremony in a limousine.
While in the car he does the royal wave with the windows closed, opening them only a stitch when confronted by people on the street selling, of course, chickens.
“When I wrote and directed the video, I designed Mugabe as an aloof character, always distanced from the land and the people around him, always seeing things through tinted windows,” Cassuto says.
“We’d wanted to do a Mugabe project for a while, so when Freshlyground approached us to make a video, we suggested using Chicken to Change.” It’s an appropriate metaphor—the rooster is the symbol of Zanu-PF, the party Mugabe has led since the mid-1970s.
But the video is not all dark and sinister. Also making appearances are puppets of former president Nelson Mandela, who thrashes Archbishop Desmond Tutu at dominoes.
“The message was that two of our greatest heroes decided to retire—they knew when to let others take over, which Bob hasn’t realised. They knew when to move away from the spotlight,” says Cassuto.
Then there’s President Jacob Zuma, sans showerhead, in a shebeen surrounded by a group of women. “Zuma is a party animal and he likes to dance,” says Cassuto. “He’s right where he belongs—at the bar, with the ladies. There’s one lady there with a stern look on her face. That’s one of his wives.”
Zuma’s actions in the video seem to have a deeper meaning—the subtext seems to suggest that, while big things are going on in the rest of Africa, Zuma is idling his time away with frivolities—and, of course, women.
The same could be said for Mandela and Tutu playing games while their voices should be heard in a state that has lost its moral compass.
But, as Cassuto says: “You can read into it what you want. It’s not an essay, it’s a music video.”
Cassuto says it took six weeks to make the Mugabe puppet, a process that began with Shapiro’s design. “It was a fantastic experience to take ZA News to another level,” says Cassuto. “It shows the flexibility we have with puppets. It’s a world-class video.”
It’s also a blatantly naughty video with a direct political message, poking fun at Mugabe, the man so many people love to hate.
The video will be screened by e.tv on The Showbiz Report at 7.30pm on September 4. It can also be viewed at www.zanews.co.za.