Design and Violence


Thembinkosi Goniwe, 2000

Race determination in everyday objects

In this photograph, first shown as a billboard in Cape Town, South Africa in 2000 as part of the public art festival Returning the Gaze, the artist Thembinkosi Goniwe depicts himself and his painting lecturer both wearing the same ubiquitous Band-Aid plaster on their cheek. On his lecturer’s white face the ‘flesh-coloured’ plaster blends in, while on the artist’s dark skin, it stands out starkly. The work captures the violence inherent in ordinary designed objects, and highlights the assumptions embedded in them about what constitutes the normal and the deviant, and who is catered to by our everyday products. The flesh-coloured Band-Aid refers both to the superficial violence of a scraped knee or surface wound, and the deep-rooted historical violence of racism.