Heineken: Cultural Appropriation To Sell Beer
Heineken has apologized for appropriating the “Roxbury Love” mural from a Boston neighborhood in a series of beer ads which began appearing in Roxbury and Dorchester liquor stores already in 2016.
A huge spray-painted mural — featuring a geometric pattern of yellow, green, pink and brown stripes, the words “Roxbury Love” and Nelson Mandela’s face — has been on Warren Street in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston since 2014.
The original mural had been created in 2014 by Deme5 (a.k.a. Richard Gomez) and Thomas “Kwest” Burns depicts the face of former South African president Nelson Mandela at its center. The Heineken marketing campaign appropriated the mural’s color scheme and slogan but replaced Mandela’s face for a Heineken bottle.
Heineken, the world’s second largest beer producer, had not asked for permission to use the art.
Beacon of hope becomes beacon of Big Alcohol
The mural was originally created as part of the city’s “Pop Up! Dudley Connections” program in 2014 and was inspired by Mandela’s visit to Roxbury, Boston in 1990.
I felt like the community needed to remember that there’s a lot of love still here,” said Gomez, speaking with WBUR
It’s a simple yet powerful sentiment. It speaks to being neighborly,” said Roxbury activist Jamarhl Crawford, in the interviews with WBUR.
The artists were shocked to find their art co-opted by a multinational corporation intend on selling beer, not spreading a message of hope and community. Crawford explains that he accidentally found one painted Heineken ad at local liquor store.
The offense is so egregious to remove the iconic picture of what is known as a global hero and figure. Remove that. And we’re going to put in a bottle of Heineken?
That’s very bodacious and very arrogant,” said Crawford, per WBUR.
And even for for the corporate world it goes beyond the pale.”
Burns and Gomez believe Heineken’s ads are in line with a long history in the U.S. of big companies appropriating black and other cultures for profit, from rock ‘n’ roll to hip-hop fashion.
Crawford said he contacted Heineken about removing the ads, and compensating the artists, but the company stopped responding months ago.
The image is hijacked, reproduced and manipulated to now basically deface the the original intent,” the artists explain.
Let’s take out Mandela, let’s take out all the revolution, let’s take out all the humanitarian, let’s take out all the anti-apartheid, let’s take out everything that gave it a cultural and historical significance, let’s take all that out and replace it with a beer.”