Tag Archives: posters

Propaganda Sunday

Instead of preparing for a class on Monday, I am back to my prior obsession of staring at moldy yellow posters…

Oh yes, China is verily a paradise. I totally buy it (no sarcasm intended). I am dying to visit Beijing and see for myself why it’s becoming the new centre of the world.

Li Zhenhua, 1973- The brigade’s ducks

This is an example of a painting by a peasant from the rural Huxian district. The Huxian peasant painters are propagated in China as examples of the innate genius of the people. But in reality it is alleged that these amateur artists were helped by professionals  sent to the countryside to “learn from the peasants”, which is why this comes under the classification of “propaganda.”

Here’s another one of a family “enjoying” political slogans and speeches on the village PA system. Notice the shrine to Mao.

Huang Entao (still draws posters and comics), 1972

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Get a grip, Rabbit!

Published in the Friday Times, July 9th issue

Good advice for hard times…

The words on the back of rickshaws are magical, in Punjabi they sound ribald, but once translated into Urdu or English, they instantly attain a deeper gravity. For instance, “Ajj aggay waikh, pichaay na waikh” (don’t look back, look ahead today) and when times get hard, “Lag gai te Rozi, na lagi te Roza”, (If I make money, I’ll feast, if not I’ll fast).

The point is not to sugarcoat adversity, but be sane and simple about it. On the desi front, the best advice on offer does not come from my great grandmother, from a legendary poet, or from a charismatic leader of yore, but from the rickshaw driver. He is a cultural phenomenon in his own right and wants to tell you, “Hosh Ker Kherghosh” (Get a grip, Rabbit!).

On the issue of no-nonsense common sense, the British take the cake. The British are excellent at mincing their words (stiff upper lip and all that) with an inability to match the touch-feely, self-help, motivational sloganeering of America. Thus when Brits find themselves in a tight spot, like the occasional World War, they resort to more restrained and formal modes of address as in
Winston Churchill stoutly saying;“I am an optimist. It doesn’t seem much use being anything else.”

In 1939 on the eve of war, the British government’s Ministry of Information produced three posters, with simple reassuring instructions on how to conduct life during war time. They each said blatantly “Your Freedom is in Peril”; reassuringly “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution, Will Bring Us Victory”; and nonchalantly “Keep Calm and Carry On”; all topped with the comforting seal of King George VI’s crown.

The last poster entered popular culture with the BBC calling it the greatest motivational poster of all time. The two and a half million posters with the “Keep Calm and Carry On” message would only have seen the light of day if Germany had invaded Britain. As it was, the need never arose and they were pulped, much to the delight of the Ministry of Information, except that a box went missing and was discovered in 2008 in a house in Northumbria. The discoverers, Mr and Mrs Manley, put the poster up in their bookshop and it became a national treasure. Continue reading Get a grip, Rabbit!