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  • Pernille Bærendtsen

Cargo Cult, Diaspora and Graffitti?

I've just read a text about the Tanzanian diaspora where the author uses the concept of "cargo cult" to analyse the relationship between the diaspora, the Tanzanian state and the international development community. Making sense. Cargo cult is a sidetrack - for me - but it's hard to resist not to look further into. Typical cargo cult activities include "the setting up of mock airstrips, airports, airplanes, offices, and dining rooms, as well as the fetishization and attempted construction of Western goods, such as radios made of coconuts and straw".


It made me think of all the recent helicopter constructions and the graffitti I have photographed in Tanzania, and of a previous interaction with Wachata Crew, who document the first graffiti in Tanzania, i.e. here:


"The youth along the coastal towns of Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Mtwara and Zanzibar started to “storeaway” in ships that came in and left the country, and some, riskly made it to Europe and the West. Through photographs and letters sent back home to relatives and friends who still held the dream of becoming seamen or just storing away for the sake of making it to Europe, escaping the hardships in the late 1970s to early 1980s when the Tanzanian economy was in bad shape right after the Tanzania-Uganda war that sent dictator Idi Amin Dada into exile, youth started tagging their real names and nicknames on city walls using charcoal which was available in any homestead and was easy to use in ‘leaving a mark’. This new artform was given the name “chata”, a Swahili slang term for graffiti."


I may be completely off, but I do wonder if this type of early graffiti also can be linked to both diaspora, cargo cult and what cargo cult represents in terms of the belief that a more technologically advanced society will deliver goods?


More on cargo cults here.

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