* Disclaimer: In publishing this article Bubblegum Club is in no way supporting the appropriation of the intellectual property of others which includes designs, logos, slogans etc. This piece is merely presented as a commentary on ownership.
After studying fashion, Joburg’s Sakhile Cebekhulu spent two years building his art practice, showing his work in numerous platforms including The Turbine Art Fair, Art Africa Fair, and his work forming part of the RMB art collection. However, he could not divorce himself from his first love, and so the clothing brand SASH was created.
His brand has gained an incredible traction in its short lifetime, and one particular project has managed to unlock questions about ownership and present a familiar comical element while sharing “authentic South African stories”.
“The Idea for the Daily SASH project started a few years ago when I was studying at UJ, I used to see a lot of newspaper headlines but I [was] most intrigued by the Daily Sun ones, so I started collecting them…In 2016 I worked on templates and started writing or thinking of my own made up headlines but I just left them on my pc for the time. It wasn’t till I started SASH that I thought [about] using the concept for clothing, [and] it wasn’t [until] earlier this year [that] I solidified the idea”.
Sakhile followed the Daily Sun format, and came up with his own headlines such as ‘My hair talks to my ancestors!’, and placed them in a poster design similar to the newspaper posters seen on street lights around Johannesburg.
Sakhile mentions how initially people would read Daily SASH and Daily Sun, emphasizing the ubiquity and familiarity of the posters, and as well as adding to this parody’s intentions. Not only does it reflect on a visual and textual reference, but it manages to unpack certain concerns of young people underneath the initial response to the humour.
“…Each phrase comments on current issues I feel are facing the youth. ‘4-5 got me land’, which speaks to the current and ongoing land debate. ‘Tokoloshe helped me find Love’, which speaks to issues of love (and also uses a common element loved by the Daily Sun, the Tokoloshe). ‘My hair speaks to my ancestors’ speaks to issues of spirituality and hair”.
For the week leading up to the release of the t-shirts, Sakhile created a social media campaign where the brand would drop a “front page” of the newspaper, highlighting similar themes to the ones shared on the shirts. However, the day before SASH was meant to have a pop-up to sell the merchandise, the brand was sent a cease and desist letter by lawyers representing the Daily Sun and Media24. They were instructed to remove the content from social media due to trademark infringement, and were told that any sale of their t-shirts would allow for a high court ruling against SASH.
“The letter being sent to us at 5pm demanding that we reply by 6pm. After much consideration and strategizing we opted to carry on with the pop up but not the sale of the t-shirts, we instead decided to give the t-shirts away for free but customers would only be rewarded a free t-shirt after the purchase of a paper bag to the value of R300, thus we would not be having any financial gain on the t-shirts. This created some confusion with our customers but they soon caught on, it helped create more humour around the campaign and made our customers want them even more because they thought it was such a cool concept”.
The Daily SASH project opens up an avenue to think about ownership, assuming that knock offs or parody items not only walk on thin ice legally but the idea that they also dilute the concentrate that is the original brand.. This takes the debate set out by an oldie to a new level – Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, in which he critiques how copies or the reproduction of an original work results in the loss of the ‘aura’. This highlights the ease with which anything can be recreated, and how the line between inspiration or referencing and direct duplication can be quite thin.
Photography: Kgomotso Neto
Styling and accessories: Buhle Mbongwa