Sunday, 28 September 2014

"Vote for me, vote for God"


Since it so happens that searching for the presidential candidates in the upcoming Tunesian elections may bring you to this blog, let us do a poster on that very topic. Willis has of course been long ready, and so has Yahia Boulahia.

His poster has been waiting in a drawer for the opportunty since January 2012. In fact Yahia Boulahia was created as a character for that very purpose. So, without further ado: 




"The vote that will open the doors of Paradise for you
Yahia Boulahia: From the light towards the dark"
- His sponsors are of the highest order.


Photo: Imperial War Museum.

Yahia is an Islamist without a doubting bone in his body. His face is full on and not a hint of a shadow to add layers to his personality. On the contrary the rays emanate from him in his certainty of embodying the light itself. And the rage, always the rage of the Islamist. His only focus is to command us to do as he tells us. This is his usual way of addressing the world, but there is something about the poster which tends towards another famous one.

This one by Alfred Leete, first published on the cover of the magazine London Opinon on September 5, 1914. Featuring Kitchener the Secretary of State for War and copied ever since to a degree that it is invariably used derogatively today, when someone is speaking by way of command, pretending to make a moral appeal. Such as Yahia Boulahia.

The Leete-poster has an interesting angle to it right now, when seeing the two together. The thing is, only three copies of the Leete-poster are still in existence.

Was it really so widely distributed? Were we all tricked into believing that we have seen photos, actual proof of its existence? Two books with each their version of the question have been published within the past months and many will follow. Much of the debate is on the precision of data to be known, such as that the poster was not printed by the official propaganda machine for one, but a private undertaking. The unfolding of the arguments are worthy of a crime novel.

But the thing is: We can never know for certain. We were not there ourselves and if we were, chance had it that we might have been too little observant or made too much of what we saw.


The debate takes up the ever-interesting question on the impact of the image. I remember reading how the poster had worked itself sufficiently under the skin of the volunteer George Coppard, who marched past Kitchener in February 1915 and realized that the latter was "nothing like the dark handsome posters of him which were displayed all over the country". So, it was out there... And maybe the debate is first and foremost an indication that we have yet to get to grips analytically with the life of art on paper. 


For one thing there was paper everywhere back then. Those were the days where the cartoonists were living the wet dream of their art running to and fro with rolls of papers under one arm (as Valdemar was known to do in Copenhagen). They worked for all the publishing houses, advertising companies, news papers, magazines and the printers' shops. Each of the companies launched more than the one product, producing cards, leaflets, pamphlets and we could go on. The one piece of paper was cheap in costs and may have vanished as soon as it was produced, but they kept coming and the advertisers and cartoonists working in unison kept experimenting with a talent for perceiving what would work.

So can a poster make a difference? Has a poster indeed any such power to catapult a measly Islamist into power to bring his country into peril?



Yahia Boulahia, September 23, 2014.


He himself is as always of no doubt. The dreamy and yet determined outlook of Shepard Fairey's Obama poster has been transformed into a full-frontal menacing answer. Now in total darkness.


The posters shown are courtesy of Yahia Boulahia and his cartoonist and must not be reproduced without their permission.


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