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LAUGH IT OFF ANNUAL (article first published : 2004-01-13)

South African Youth Culture. That is the general message portrayed in the Laugh It Off Annual. There are others too…that don’t particularly epitomize the attitudes and opinions of the youth culture in South Africa. All in all, the Laugh It Off Annual provides an arena for discussion, argument and individual judgment.

Most people would be familiar with the Laugh It Off slogan being connected with the notorious “Black Labour, White Guilt” t-shirt campaign. This is only one of the many envelopes pushed. There have been numerous publicized news statements and legal consequences for this group who claim that believe in “a necessary, healthy form of satire and social comment.”

The annual depicts some of the many brands that have fallen prey to their own prominence. Among these are Sanlam, Vodacom, Lion Match, ADT, Simba, MacDonalds and Diesel. Not to say that these brands were target for any other reason other than to cause a stir by using a play on words and some incredibly intellectual humour. But it goes further. There are brands that are directly targeted because of their monopolizing of markets, their unfair business practices and/or labour practices. There are also brands targeted for their ‘smoke and mirrors’ consumer policies. This is where Laugh It Off becomes a serious social observer.

Contributions by some of the most influential and well known South Africans (Pieter-Dirk Uys, Naomi Klein, Zapiro and TMAS - to name but a few) actually puts us all in the same boat. You realize then that you don’t have to feel so restricted every time you want to speak out about something. You realize that these people are also aware of the hardships and complexities of this country, and that everyone; young, old, rich, poor, black, white or whatever – are entitled to their opinion. The crunch comes when a statement is made by one on the other.

This said, I do believe that Laugh It Off are fully within their right to awaken a social consciousness. But I also believe that they should acknowledge the consequences, and tackle them with just as much cynicism and satire as they would anything. A bit like a modern-day Socrates, I suppose.

Ultimately, you’re left with questions…about South Africa, consumerism, racism, politics, life and plenty more. And although this is bound to have kickbacks of some sort, you gain a certain gratitude for having these issues confronted, and without having an immediate solution provided for you. You are allowed to make your own decision.

The Laugh It Off Annual is a book worth buying. It has fantastic graphic qualities. If they don’t add fuel to the fire then they will have you in stitches.

The Laugh It Off Annual is published by Double Storey Books and retails at R120.- Ruby Bernard




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