Colonial Visual Communication Influences in Postcolonial eSwatini

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The role that visual communication plays in the maintenance of a cult of personality should not be underestimated. This is especially relevant in the case of eSwatini, the last kingdom in postcolonial Africa with an absolute monarch. This article explores the relationship between the factors that inform and build the cult of personality around King Mswati III but also questions the surprising mix of colonial and postcolonial sensibilities that create the visual communication to achieve this. The argument shows that despite the Swazi embracing of a modern, technological future, myth, tradition, and immateriality feature strongly in the national identity, represented by Mswati himself. Selected heraldic, pictorial, and commercial artefacts are used to demonstrate how the approach to this visual communication is a hybrid of colonial and postcolonial graphic influences, where the resultant message is more concerned with symbolic value than design aesthetics and brand coherency. The colonial era graphic influences are clearly insignificant to Swazis: this is superseded by the imperative to represent the stature and significance of the monarch by any means.