The Purple Shall Govern

During Anti-Apartheid riots in Cape Town, South Africa 1989, water mixed with colour dye was shot at the protesters; from then on, the Purple Rain would be associated with a whole strategy to fight urban rioters. This weapon initiated a new form of psychological and geolocational repression. Jet Pulse Water Cannon Systems have an additional tank of paint that is mixed with water when the shooter presses the injection button. Not only does it make demonstrators retreat, but it also “tags” protesters with humiliation and ridicule as a form of punishment. Almost like returning back to feudal times, opponents to such political regimes have to pay their complaints with a deep sense of guilt. Furthermore, Government authorities can control their movements more easily, identify and arrest, once they leave the demonstration area and try to camouflage in the surrounding areas. Their bodies are automatically turned into public display of their thoughts.

Most cases where colour was sprayed are complex political realities, where the people is clearly divided between those in power and those under power. Obviously, it is important for to the ruling class to stop the riots. However, when colour is used, the balance of power has become so critical to the remain of the Government, that it is even more relevant for them to track disobedience and prevent the menace of a general uprising.

protests palette:

Protests against homophobic laws in Kampala_Uganda May 2011_Marc Hofer

Protests against George W Bush’s visit to Seoul_August 2008_Chung Sung-Jun

Indian police against Kashmiri_Srinagar June 2008_Tauseef Mustafa

Israel police against Palestinians in Bilin_March 2011_Issam Rimawi

Protests in Dhaka_Bangladesh April 2011_Shuvo Das

Protests commemoration anti-Soviet Uprising in Budapest_October 2006_Joe Klamar

Protests in Ramallah_August 2006_Nasser Shiyoukhi

[all images via TIME Light Box]


  1. E

    And, what happens with the city: the buildings, the streets… they also get dyed?

    • daniel

      even trees are punished!

  2. I would change the language of “Obviously, it is important for the ruling class to stop the riots.” To “Obviously, it is important *TO* the ruling class to stop the riots.” If anything it is important FOR the riots to continue. Obviously.

    • daniel

      thank you, Craig for the appreciation and sorry for the misunderstanding. Sounds much better!

  3. Pingback:

  4. Great article Daniel. I associated my own interpretation on the funambulist.

Leave a Reply