Magazine article New Internationalist

Where the Streets Have No Shame

Magazine article New Internationalist

Where the Streets Have No Shame

Article excerpt

On a dark and rather blustery night two of my friends were out in the capital, Port Louis, pasting up the usual big-format letter-press posters announcing a coming public political meeting to be held in the vicinity. Navy-blue ink on off-white newsprint. 'Grand Meeting', the posters announced (all meetings being 'grand'). While they were busy slapping on the home-made flour-glue, ready to stick up a poster on to the wooden-slatted wall of an ancient building on a side road, an old man's voice came from inside to break the silence: 'Are you folks pasting up posters out there?' After a short, guilty silence, one friend replied: 'Yes, yes we are.' He put his glue brush down in the dark, out of respect. 'For what party?' the voice asked. When they replied, he said: 'Go ahead!' Then the voice continued: 'When you've finished with that one, could you paste another one just here, a bit lower and further to your left?' He tapped on the inside of the wall next to his bed to indicate the place. 'Terrible draught coming in!'

In Mauritius, posters have always been an important medium for direct communication with people. They get pasted up in bus-stops, on electric pylons, on rubbish drums, on walls of nondescript buildings, on palings around building sites. You can judge the mood of the country at a glance. You are informed by them. You are invited by them. You are included by them. And the experts at pasting them up make an art of choosing strategic places, so that at the expense of only 50 posters, thousands of people can get the message from a club, association, union, political party, or a benevolent organization.

Most posters, just like the ones my friends were pasting up, are printed on the same few very old letterpresses still in action. They announce petanque tournaments in housing estates or five-a-side football fixtures in villages; a film in a big cinema house or blood donations needed at such-and-such a place on Sunday; religious celebrations of all denominations; fasts, processions, public forums on key topics of the day, fancy-fairs, hip-hop concerts, and of course the next important political meetings at a particular street corner. Other posters are hand-painted slogans - everything from 'We want price controls back! …

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