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Need a sales campaign? Look no further than Bono – and Africa

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Tim Wimborne/Reuters

(Read caption) U2 front man, Bono, poses for photographers in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge at an event to launch World Aids Day. Bono was joined the Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard as some of the city's iconic landmarks were bathed in red light to signify World Aids Day.

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The luxury brand Louis Vuitton has a new advertising campaign, promoting its line of travels bags in a print ads starring Bono and his wife Ali, who are both seen departing a small plane in the African savannah, an LV bag slung over their shoulders. The slogan of the LV campaign, “Every journey began in Africa,” echoes both a travel-writing cliche and the hoary truth that human beings did make their first journeys in Africa (home of the original humans). But the image of Bono and wife in the bush is contested. As my own wife, Chizo, from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, noticed immediately on examining the advert, Bono and wife are in the middle of nowhere, and yet there’s no one to greet them. “Why can’t there be some Africans in the picture?” Chizo asks. “Isn’t this someone’s land? Shouldn’t someone be there to say hello. At least, the people who take care of this land?”

Removing Africans out of the scene, out of the image of the “natural” African landscape, is an old trope in the exploitation of the image and reality of Africa. The real Africa is so unspoiled, according to this powerful myth, not even the Africans themselves can spoil it with their presence. If you’re wondering why Bono would permit “Africa” to be exploited so obviously, look no further than the small print of the ad, where an anonymous copywriter asserts: “Profits from the bag,” as well as Bono’s fee benefit Conservation Cotton Initiative Uganda and his own Edun line of clothing, which he markets as garments and jewelry made in Africa with African materials.

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