‘Cloudless skies’ versus ‘vitamins of the mind’:

An argumentative interrogation of the visual rhetoric of South African Panorama and Lantern cover designs (1949–1961)

  • Lizè Groenewald
Keywords: National identity, visual rhetoric, graphic design, publication design, apartheid, South Africa, photography, illustration, propaganda, education


In the wake of recent national independence movements, renewed interest in the complex phenomenon of the nation has emerged; highly negative conceptions have been challenged by voices that seek to understand rather than dismiss expressions of nationalism and national identity in fields as diverse as sport, architecture, fashion, film, engineering, advertising, and currency design. The South African publications Lantern and Panorama were competing projects in a rhetorical exercise that grappled with constructed national identities in a pre-1994 South African community and, as such, these artefacts deserve interrogation. To this purpose I examine the cover designs of the journals – both to a greater or lesser degree state supported – between 1949 and 1961 in order to demonstrate how a consideration of rhetorical content not only reveals embedded ideologies, but also demonstrates the agency of graphic design in the strategies of propaganda and education as utilised by Lantern and Panorama, respectively. I problematise these concepts, and propose more nuanced readings than may be conventionally attributed to government-sanctioned visual culture from this period in South Africa’s history.