MullenLowe and Save the Children Address Xenophobia in South Africa

20 February 2023


MullenLowe South Africa and Save the Children launched a video campaign that highlights the ongoing prevalence of xenophobia in South Africa. The advertisement shows two sets of migrant parents testing their respective children on different words in Zulu. The tone is initially light and cheerful but quickly takes a turn when the kids are asked to pronounce one consequential word: indololwane.

Indololwane, a Zulu word that translates to “elbow,” has been referred to as the 21st century “pencil test.” The pencil test was a discriminatory tactic used during Apartheid where a pencil was lodged into a person’s hair to determine their race – if the pencil stayed put, the person was labeled Black. Similarly, those who fail to properly recite and pronounce “indololwane” are labeled as migrants, putting them in great danger.

While the “indololwane test” was initially implemented in the 1990’s, it has made several resurgences in the last few decades as incidents of xenophobic violence have been on the rise. Notable conflicts threatening immigrant families and children have occurred from 2008 through 2015, and as recently as September 2022.

The campaign conveys a simple yet powerful message that highlights the fear and frustration coming from parents, and confusion among children. The video ends with a call to action from Save the Children asking for support in order to protect the lives of migrant children.