‘Beware! Product of Apartheid’: Culture Jamming Colonial ‘Blood Ties’ Through Oranges

24 Oct

During the early 1970s Outspan produced six of these orange cars for the Outspan Girls’ promotional campaigns in Europe. With their vibrant colour, three wheels and a top speed of 25 mph, the Outspan automobile was easily spotted and could not get away quickly enough from the BOA’s Inspan girls.

“To eat an orange is to travel in imagination to countries where the climate is heavenly, the sun kind, water abundant and pure, the breeze caressing, the soil light, the nights cool and restful, and man skilful, patient, careful and well organized” (Toussaint-Samat, 1994:666).

If the Dutch public ever bought into dreamy utopias (see above) associated with orange consumption, such visions would have been shattered by reading the first page of Boycott Outspan Action’s inaugural 1972 publication, Bouwstenen Voor Apartheid (Building Blocks for Apartheid).

During 1972-74 the BOA disseminated many thousands of stickers to place on oranges in Dutch supermarkets.

Bouwstenen Voor Apartheid sold over 60,000 copies in two editions and was widely read across Europe. The book opens with a quote from a poorly judged speech by John Vorster, who at that time was the South African Prime Minister:

“Every time a South African product
is bought, it is another brick in
the wall of our continued existence.”

(J.B. Vorster, speaking at an Agricultural
Show in Pretoria, reported in the
Johannesburg Star of 26/8/1972)

 “Barry Oliver Higgs’ poem paints the reaction of a black South African to the presence of  South African Outspan oranges in European stores” (du Plessis, 1972 Translated from Dutch).

Black Hands 

Black hands had picked this orange, sent express,

The juice still sparkling in the golden fruit –

While those dry fingers continents away:

Could they still pick, or had they faded out?

For, standing on a barren London street,

I thought: “Black hands have picked this fruit for me,

But a grasping hand has whipped the effort on

and white fists with steel guns guard the tree.”

So guilt lay in my hands that day, like blood,

and from the grocer´s stall the gruesome load

Of bloody, battered cheaper – by-the-dozen

Dripped bright and dying to the London road.

But no one seemed to notice, hurrying by,

The thousand corpses on the grocer´s stall;

wrapped in the lies of evening fivepence news

the English turned their faces to the wall.

And the innocent greengrocer, hands in pockets

smiling, surrounded by fruit in packets. (1972:3)

Alex La Guma (1971) Apartheid: A Collection of Writings on South African Racism by South Africans. Seven Seas Books: Berlin, 1971

The poem from Alex La Guma’s edited book on South African  racism (see above) draws on the use of somatic markers to link effective feelings of guilt and shame with blood and oranges. The suggestion is that guilt and shame is found within the orange, and the demand for the fruit actively produces the condition of suffering in South Africa. The BOA boycott of Outspan was divided into two phases; the first was an educational campaign during the orange off season winter months of 1972-73, the second was a complete boycott of Outspan conducted in the summer of 1973 (interview du Plessis, 2011). The educational part of the campaign made emotive and symbolic connections between citrus and consumption practice. As a vector for connectivity, remembrance and visibility (Jackson et al.,2009), the orange was well positioned.

Oranges were particularly ubiquitous in the Dutch market, and accounted for over eighty percent of Outspan exports to Holland (BOA, 1973). The Outspan company also used real oranges, simulacra oranges, and the vibrant properties of the colour[1] to front its  European marketing campaign focusing on health, vitality and beauty during the 1960s and 70s (du Plessis, 1972; Mather & Rowcroft, 2006).

UK Outspan Advert, 1971

Outspan Golden Harvest (Carter, 1977), the official biography of the Outspan company provides a wonderful insight to the ways in which race, gender and sexuality emerge materially through staged corporeal relationships with citrus.

Advert from the Outspan lobby. Here we can see how Outspan depicted black body and Outspan relationships. The caption for this image in Carter (1977:90) reads: “The family below are not about to eat all the oranges in front of them. They were asked to show how much they liked oranges and this smiling group picture certainly carries their message to the growers!”

The above is the only image, and indeed allusion, to black consumers of Outspan oranges in the official biography. Throughout the volume, the construction of racial identities is otherwise predictably tied to the producer/consumer dichotomy. There are three important points to note with the photograph: firstly, blackness is feminised, infantised and characterized by matriarchal care; secondly, the ‘family’ are smiling through the pleasure of eating the oranges, portraying an innocent and safe ‘blackness’ appreciative of the paternal care of Outspan; thirdly, the oranges are sucked and scraped with  teeth in half segments by the children, a sticky and messy way of eating oranges which is suggestive of nature over culture, and differs from from the Outspan suggestion for a masculinized white consumption of oranges (see below).

White body-orange relationships. Citrus Exchange advert 1971, Image courtesy of Carter, 1977. Behind the nineteen white body-orange juice scenarios including ‘Lovers Breakfast Part II’ (part one is left to the imagination), ‘Riviera Breakfasts’,  ‘Hangover’ and ‘Safari’ breakfasts, there is the singular voice of an undeniably white heterosexual masculinity. Orange juice is drunk in leisure, before work, during exploration, as part of a diet, as an alcohol mixer and antidote to excessive alcohol consumption, with ‘blondes’, between sex and watching TV.

Jamming Colonial ‘Blood Ties’ Through Oranges

Oranges were consumed by people of all classes and religious affiliation in Holland. Dutch society consisted of many interdependent social worlds where class structure was cut vertically by several zuilen – columns of self-sustaining religious units (Grundy,1972; Moberg,1961). Oranges had “tangible and concrete properties” (DuPlessis, 2009) with material and symbolic affects that people from “lowest threshold upwards” (Ibid., 1972) could experience.

Oranges are peeled, segmented, squeezed and grated, all forms of preparation that the BOA linked though metaphor to the subjugation of the apartheid labourer. These socio-material properties (Slocum, 2008) were used to parody the ‘blood- ties’ between Holland and apartheid South Africa.

Oranges and the colour orange cut a swathe across Dutch and South African society. Orange was the national colour of the Netherlands, the name of the house of its royal family, and a moniker for the nineteenth century Boer Republic (Orange Free State). The orange tree became the symbol of a unionised South Africa between Boer and British as was illustrated by their paired sixpence stamp which remained in issue for twenty years.

6d Orange ‘Union’ Pair, 1927.

[1] Walters et. al. (1984) demonstrate that the long-wave spectral properties of the colour orange are more likely to create psychological reactions of arousal, playfulness and excitement than the short-wave colours like blue and green.

Futher reading

Achterhuis H, Grundy K, Hultman T, Kramer R, Morton D, du Plessis E (1975) Apartheid in Exportverpakking. Rotterdam: BOA

Cartwright A (1977) Outspan Golden Harvest. A History of the South African Citrus Industry. Pretoria: The Citrus Exchange

du Plessis, E (1972) Outspan: Bouwstenen voor Apartheid. Rotterdam: BOA

Grundy, K (1974) Dutch Policy toward South Africa, Kroniek van Afrika. Leiden:Afrika Studie-Centrum

Jackson P, Ward N, Russell P (2009) Moral Economies of Food and geographies of responsibility. Trans Inst Br Geogr 34: 12-24

Mather C, Rowcroft C (2004) “Citrus, Apartheid, and the struggle to (re)present Outspan oranges” in Reimer & Hughes (eds.), Geographies of Commodity Chains. Routledge: London, pp 156-171

Moberg, D (1961) Social Differentiation in the Netherlands. Social Forces. 39,4: 333-337

Mol, AM (2008) I eat an apple. On theorizing subjectivities. Subjectivity  22, 28–37

Slocum, R (2008) Thinking race through corporeal feminist theory: divisions and intimacies at the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market, Social & Cultural Geography, 9: 8, 849 — 869

3 Responses to “‘Beware! Product of Apartheid’: Culture Jamming Colonial ‘Blood Ties’ Through Oranges”

  1. hughcrosfield October 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Reblogged this on Landscape Surgery and commented:

    Hugh Crosfield on the importance of oranges to anti-apartheid activism

  2. hatfulofhistory November 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    Hello Hugh, I just found your blog (via the Nonstop Against Apartheid blog) and found the material you have uncovered, as well as your writing, just fascinating! As someone interested in anti-Apartheid, anti-colonialism and the politics of the anti-trafficking movement/s, this blog has some really exciting stuff.

    Keep up the good work.


  1. Social Politics and the ‘Home Front’ of Consumer Boycotts « Chomping at the Bloodied Bit - December 3, 2012

    […] I’ve argued in an earlier post, Boycott Outspan Action used this quote to highlight the importance of export trade to the South […]

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