Exploring the stories subjected upon a brand label through this cumulative video and photo project
aunt jemima is an advertising icon...
Trying to trace back the origins of the famed Aunt Jemima appears as a lost exhibition. If trying to identify her as a person one will fail. When trying to place her on to a certain time slot, one will fail again. Aunt Jemima wasn’t merely an advertising creation. She wasn’t thought of on a whim. She was the intentional creation, the embodied figure of dark thoughts. She became the result of racist ideology throughout the centuries. Transformed from a costume worn by white males in humor through blackface and then personified again through real life black women working the kitchen, Aunt Jemima became a reflection if not reiteration of all these copied life forms.
James Baldwin keen fully aware through her creation, noted a similarity with her to the branded Uncle Tom rice. He approaches both forms not as human formed labels, but as man and woman: “we better ask whence they sprang, how they lived? Into what limbo have they vanished?” Notes of a Native Son
Aunt Jemima, an advertising icon, a black spokeswoman
Jemima was modernized to fit the Civil Rights Movement, along with the Black Power movement and still today. Her appearance was meant to look as justified, as fitting to the time as her face was accepted and mass-produced along the numerous bottles of homemade syrup.
What is interesting to note is the stillness in her positioning. Aunt Jemima is static, her body does not move. Advertised as a buoyantly smiling character, her face is still and her smile is frozen. She holds no animation, she is a still image, neither speaking nor in waking.
She remains solely as a symbol of recognition. In the advertising world is acclaimed solely as trade dress, brand equity. The argument being to stick with what made their brand known, allow people to easily recognize the syrup. Her face must remain not due to moral or historical significance, but only to ensure consumers know this is the same homemade syrup taste they have been enjoying. But despite monetary concerns, is Aunt Jemima JUST a face kept for brand recognition?
Is there an ulterior motive?
Must she forever remain an imprint for Quaker Oats syrup?
Continuing this investigation in more photography and film to come...