This series is a reflection upon the elitist culture nurtured in many African countries and more an observation in exploring its roots.
Looking specifically at the use of luxury vehicles by African presidents shortly after independence (Nyerere, Mandela & Nkruma), I aim to critique the symbolistic gestures and subconscious conditioning the luxury automotive industry has perpetuated in our governments.
“In November 1965, the British government handed over the keys of the classic Rolls Royce Phantom V. Nyerere is said to have been using this timeless elegance, renowned for its spacious inside, to give a taste of stylish driving to distinguished State House guests and ambassadors.”
This article is taken from a local Tanzanian newspaper. It seems however much of a socialist Nyerere was, he too still enjoyed “stylish driving”. A somewhat contradiction of the agenda he championed, Nyerere was the owner of various luxury vehicles. I am also suspicious of this particular exchange with the handing over of the keys of the Phantom from the British government. The action in itself possesses various metaphors urging me to reflect again on the trade offs made during the independence struggles.
Other presidents I depicted are Mandela known endearingly as “Madiba” as well as Kwame Nkruma, nicknamed “Showboy”. Mandela’s custom made red Mercedes was a moment in history that gave the factory workers who put the vehicle together a sense of purpose and victory. Despite the fact that the luxury car industry is a symbol of the great economic divide that exists within our nations – and a psychological tie we have to western validation. Nkrumah’s Cadillac does not carry great historical significance (although it was the Vehicle he was driven in as Prime Minister) but circles me back to the question of why leaders are entitled to luxury vehicles on state money?
Motorcades, roadblocks and the likes continue to widen the gap ( and reachability) between the government and non-government; between rich and poor. These images are merely a contemplative point, a stop sign into what our governments and leaders truly believe in comparison to their actions and public philosophies.