Adverts: a window on the world

Adverts have always presented iconic images that reflect current values, priorities and aspirations. They offer a window on the world of commerce, business and consumption. Idealised and often imagined for sure, but nevertheless revealing of changing cultures of consumptions and associated social imaginaries. Indeed there are vast literatures in cultural studies, anthropology and geography that discuss such issues.

Recently I came across a fascinating archive of Rhodesian adverts, collected as part of one the slightly bizarre Rhodesian memorabilia sites that are scattered across the Internet (this one was ‘Rhodesia Remembered’ where I found ‘The Story of Triangle’ linked in an earlier blog). The advert archive offers a window onto white Rhodesian life from the 1930s to the 70s. Travel by plane, new ‘modern’ cars, food stuffs from England, and land for farming and mining all feature. A few examples are below. Representing a vision of modern life in Africa, the images are telling. This was an elite life, with firm links to the old country.

advert2 advert4 advert3 advert1

What then of today? A quick look through the classified pages in the major newspapers and websites offers a very different picture. While the aspirational lifestyle adverts are still there, most are about daily life and business. Selling or hiring trucks, offering land for building, providing services for farming and so on, as well as a whole array of farm products, finance services etc.

For some reason I am on a e-mail list from Matebeland that, in addition to offering training courses in horticulture, pig rearing and the like, also is used for advertising. Here are the three most recent in my inbox, focusing on irrigation systems, day old chicks and potato production.

GREEN-HOUSE CONSTRUCTION COST. BSC IRRIGATION SYSTEMS, is in business of constructing standard gum pole green-house structures at the following cost: $10.45 per square metre this cost includes (fix and supply) with the following materials: gum poles treated and untreated greenhouse plastics 200 or 250um (micron) drip irrigation set-up ( infield) general items: nails, bolts and nuts, trellissing wire for tomatoe crop labour construction and drip irrigation installation. Logistics discount can be agreed between farmer and BSC irrigation Systems depending with the green-house structure size>the above cost does not include inputs: fertilizers, seed, chemicals, day to day labour cost. plse call,,,,

Broiler day old chicks  (Ross and Cobb 500) for sale, $75 cash, $85 half down and $95 $20 down. 38 000 chicks available tomorrow, 20 000 available Friday. Women Poultry Farmers. Get in touch with me on….

Sack Potato Production Training Workshop (Bulawayo)-ZCFU (Zimbabwe Commercial farmers Union) in conjunction with Gem Agriculture Consultancy Services. Training Venue: ZCFU Offices, Adjacent to NUST Sports Fields/ Opposite Khumalo suburb. Investment: $20 to cover meals/ refreshment, training manual and certification. Funding opportunities for the crop will be also availed, including an update on input supply status in the region.

This is far from a systematic sample, but indicative I think of the way small-scale commercial farming is taking off in Zimbabwe. Email lists, facebook and twitter are used to get in touch with people; multiple websites are available for adverts; small private companies and consultancies are popping up, with links with more formal organisations like farmer unions. And everyone it seems needs irrigation equipment and the ubiquitous one-tonne truck, hence my nominations of these for appearing on any new currency.

These adverts are a far cry from those appearing in the Rhodesiana archive, but offer an equally illuminating view of a very different world.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland


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3 responses to “Adverts: a window on the world

  1. am

    I found a useful earlier edition of Manson’s garden book. At the back after the lists on growing instructions for veg, flowers, etc., was a section with recommendations for plot holders. I do think something similar could be printed and made available for sale and circulated. It even contained architects diagrams for the layout of plots of different sizes. Quite interesting really.
    The travelling salesman is no more which is perhaps due to regulations. But town based businesses could make something by sending man in a van technology round the rural areas with products for sale. OK do this for certain large buyers; Bakers Inn do it for bread but nothing much for agriculture. Order by sms and deliver next day in the area is the usual thing. One advantage is that it comes at town price and there is no delivery charge.
    A more general point is what I call the usual and the unusual. Plenty of the usual products are available for sale but little of the unusual. If someone wanted to grow Lucerne then it is difficult to see where the seed could be bought. I suppose it is supply and demand but I also think that it is lack of knowledge. Also, the agribusiness companies are not dynamic enough. Hence increased knowledge base would create demand for unusual products and introduce more diversification into the national product line of agricultural produce. Someone grew brussels sprouts one winter and his friends liked the leaves as a change from choumollier. In fact he was raided by a well used tactic. What is that plant there? Are the leaves any good? Thanks, I’ll let you know. Hello, the leaves were very nice. Can I try some more.

  2. martin

    Dear Ian
    Thank you the very insightful and detailed articles. may you also assist with contact details for BSC Irrigation Systems, I would want to have a greenhouse constructed.

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