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Chicken Licken's 'reverse colonialism' ad ruled too spicy for local TV

18 December 2018 - 06:15 By Nico Gous
A screenshot from Chicken Licken’s commercial for their Big John burger.
A screenshot from Chicken Licken’s commercial for their Big John burger.
Image: YouTube/Chicken Licken SA

Chicken Licken has been ordered to pull its tongue-in-cheek commercial about colonialism after it was found to be too spicy.

That is after a ruling by the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) on Friday.

Sandile Cele complained about the fast-food restaurant’s commercial for the Big John burger. He argued that it makes a “mockery of the struggles of the African people against the colonisation by the Europeans in general, and the persecutions suffered at the hands of the Dutch in particular."

In the advert, a young man called Big Mjohnana leaves his village in 1650 on a boat to satisfy his hunger for adventure.

He has several surreal encounters along the way - including with a jaguar, a whale, a shark and a giant squid rising from the ocean behind his boat. 

Mjohnana arrives in Holland in 1651, where he finds Dutchmen at the harbour. He greets them in tsotsitaal. "Hola MaNgamla," [Hello white folk] he says, before telling them he likes the place and thinks it should be called Europe.

The ad ends with an elderly man in a Chicken Licken outlet telling fellow customers the legend of Big John before leaving the restaurant laughing.

In its ruling, the ARB argued that colonialism in Africa was “traumatic”, “cannot be trivialised in any manner” and is “not open for humorous exploitation”.

“While the commercial seeks to turn the colonisation story on its head with Big John travelling to Europe, it is well-known that many Africans were in fact forced to travel to Europe in the course of the colonisation of Africa. They did not leave their countries and villages wilfully. They starved to death during those trips to Europe and arrived there under harsh and inhumane conditions.

"Atrocities suffered by Africans under colonisation are well-documented and the legacy thereof continues to exist to date," said the ARB.

“The fact that the commercial is far-fetched and over-the-top does not nullify the potential offence.”

Chicken Licken has disagreed with the ruling, however.

“The commercial stems 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," said the company.

"Its tongue-in-cheek sense of humour is a tone that consumers have come to expect, but its communication's underlying purpose is to create a sense of pride and patriotism amongst South Africans.”