Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

The image of the post-colonial ‘man’ is stereotypical humbug

Mayihlome Tshwete is the face of Rémy Martin. It is plastered arrogantly on a billboard in Rosebank, Johannesburg (you can’t miss it when you drive down Bolton Road).

The kind of masculinity advertised by the campaign – “You only get one life. Live them” – features young men like Tshwete as the “product” of the slash generation. This is “a multidimensional existence, which is no longer a life path but a lifestyle … these individuals live a life between slashes – work / play /hobby / desires”.

The choice of Tshwete shouldn’t surprise us given his position as the spokesperson for Malusi Gigaba’s home affairs ministry, as well as being the son of ANC stalwart Steve Tshwete. He is the new ANC generation – the face of the future.

The “One life / Live them” campaign was first launched in the United States in October with Jeremy Renner (actor/musician/producer/renovator) as the face of the brand. In South Africa the campaign features young black men.

There’s nothing original about this – men are the main subject and target of the campaign. The gendered nature of advertising alcohol has always puzzled me because of the way masculinity is positioned and femininity is almost invisible because women couldn’t possibly be cognac drinkers. The industry would have us believe that drinking cognac is a man’s domain.

And not any kind of man: he is educated, middle class, well spoken, articulate, good-looking, wealthy or climbing the white slopes of success in the hallowed halls of the corporate industry. The cognac-drinking man is heterosexual, suit-wearing and often has a beautiful woman at his side, confirming his success.

They discuss politics, socialism and activism while drinking cognac that costs what some households can only dream of earning in a month. For young poor people who are accosted by these images in an economic and political climate that renders their own aspirations void, success seems to be only for the few who are well educated and well connected.

This image is not limited to South Africa; it can be seen in pop culture. Jidenna’s song Classic Man is an iteration of another image of what success looks like for young black men. The song was followed by #classicman on Twitter as well as, a grooming service for men based in the United Kingdom.

Tshwete would have us believe “he considers himself an idealist and activist for change” but his activity has us believe otherwise. Posing as a Rémy Martin man plays on the image of the post-colonial man, which mimics the earlier image of success – the English gentleman.

The post-colonial society is imaginatively bankrupt. In the South African context, this campaign feeds the “black diamond” obsession that focuses on the success of a few black people at the expense of the poor and unemployed.

Athambile Masola is a teacher in Johannesburg. This edited post was published on

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

‘The children cannot cope any more’: Suicide in Calvinia highlights...

How Covid-19 has intensified the physical and emotional burdens placed on children’s shoulders.

Capitec Bank flies high above Viceroy’s arrow

The bank took a knock after being labelled a loan shark by the short seller, but this has not stymied its growth

More top stories

Council wants Hawks, SIU probe into BAT’s Zimbabwe scandal

The cigarette maker has been accused of giving up to $500 000 in bribes and spying on competitors

How Alpha Condé overthrew Alpha Condé

Since the coup d’état, Guinea’s head of state has been in the custody of the military officers. But it was the president who was the primary architect of his own downfall

‘The Making of Mount Edgecombe’: A view of history from...

Indian indentured labourers’ lives are celebrated in a new book, Sugar Mill Barracks: The Making of Mount Edgecombe

Case of men arrested with 19 rhino horns is postponed

Alleged rhino kingpin and a Mpumalanga businessman appeared in court on charges of the illegal possession and selling of rhino horns

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…