South Africa’s “Madam & Eve” Turns 20
“Madam & Eve” is a daily comic strip published in twelve South African newspapers and one Namibian newspaper. Since 1992, “Madam & Eve” has followed the intertwined lives of Madam Gwen Anderson, a greedy white woman, and Eve Sisulu, a maid looking for a raise.
Two years before the strip began, Apartheid was still in practice. Two years after the strip began, the first free elections were held. Thus, the strip has endured many of the social, political, and cultural changes in South Africa. Although the strip revolves around Madam and Eve, it frequently takes character breaks to satirize national themes, such as political parties, corruption, and racism. President Jacob Zuma and his African National Congress are frequent targets for the comic, as is Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
Nevertheless, the main theme of “Madam & Eve” is the domestic relationship between the employer and the employee. They frequently quibble about money and the workload. Madam watches TV and reads the paper all day while Eve irons the clothes (occasionally sleeping on the ironing board, a la Snoopy on his doghouse), washes the floor, and does the dishes.
The comic is currently written by Stephen Francis and drawn by Rico Schacherl. Interestingly, Francis is from the United States and Schacherl is from Austria. During the strip’s first ten years, South African Harry Dugmore contributed as well, though he is no longer involved.
Artistically, the comic is similar to contemporary American strips. The drawings are light and airy. The strip is somewhat digitized with panels of computer-generated text occasionally added. Like most strips today, the lettering is unfortunately digital, as are the colors. The black and white strips speak for themselves and there is no need for tacky colors, even online.
Because of its popularity, “Madam & Eve” was adapted to television in 2000. Four seasons aired.
“Madam & Eve” is not the only South African comic strip. “Jet Jungle,” a defunct action strip, and a few other short-lived comedy strips have seen print; however, none have had the staying power of “Madam & Eve.”
“Madam & Eve” – Official site with strips
Penguin Films – South African studio that developed the TV show
“Madam & Eve” at 20: In Pictures – 10 December, 2012, The Guardian