Polonialism: At the Colony Shop (after Fischli & Weiss) 2021 Photo by Garth Meyer
Ink-jet print on Hahnemühle 100 x 71,3 cm
Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was fond of saying ‘Zimbabwe will never be a colony again’. As a result the joke ‘Zimbabwe will never eat polony again’ started doing the rounds. Inspired by this wordplay I created this scene based on a photograph (At the Carpet Shop, 1979) by the Swiss artists Fischli and Weiss.
In 1979 the Swiss artist team Fischli and Weiss began their long collaboration with the “Wurstserie,” composed of photographs documenting fanciful scenes featuring sausages and other meat products. Here an assortment of cold cuts become piles of rugs, while a trio of gherkins become discerning customers in a “carpet shop.” In playing with their food in this imaginative way, Fischli and Weiss produced a scene that is wonderfully silly and cleverly irreverent in its gleeful transgression of one of the cardinal rules of childhood.
My version shows gherkin customers considering a slice of meat representing the colonial powers dividing up Africa. Scattered around them are slices of polony shaped like countries in southern Africa.
South Africans and Zimbabweans refer to bologna exclusively as polony, although polony is typically made using highly processed meat. These processed meat products are typically an artificially bright pink colour, and are foods for low-income people due to their low cost.