Archie works on his legacy
Durban’s first black advertising agency owner outlines his jouney in the industry
ARCHIE Hirasen started the first black advertising agency, Red Baron Advertising, in Durban, with as he puts it “a roll of dice, a few wads of notes and an undiminished faith in the advertising industry”.
Soon he scooped accounts with Sapref, Tiger Brands, AG Sweets, Jayshrees/rivaz, Intuition College, Chef Braai Products and a string of jewellers.
He has represented the SA Tamil Federation (SATF) in compiling the Hindu syllabus at the University of KZN Westville, been on the executive board of the SATF, the Natal Tamil Federation and the Indological Society and is a founder of the Saiva Propagation Centre of South Africa.
He met Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo and other SACP leaders and unbanned ANC representatives at the Johannesburg Sun in the late 1980s, to support the new dispensation.
Years later, he had “the singular privilege” of introducing then-president Thabo Mbeki to a crowd of about 40 000 at Chatsworth Stadium.
A trip to India, when he was just 20 years old, evoked a spirit of self-discovery.
“Travelling to India alone to explore the country of my forefathers, was something hardly heard of in the 1970s, as Indian parents were always very protective of their children.
“Having been brought up conservatively with traditional values, travel opened new vistas of creativity and greater understanding of humanity.”
At 23, he started working for one of the largest design studios in South Africa: Paton, Tupper & Associates.
“This was my greatest opportunity, getting my foot in the door of a huge organisation with international artists and illustrators.”
Over the next 12 years he applied himself avidly, learning the ropes under the company’s founding fathers.
This being the “non-computer” era, visuals and final art were produced mechanically… a long and tedious task, he said.
Head-hunted by Matthews & Charter, a young dynamic group of creative spirits, he worked on accounts for Lever Brothers, Smith & Nephew, Ocean Appliances, Bata Shoes and Elida Gibbs.
“I was part of the senior management and also specialised in illustration and airbrushing. John Charter and Peter Matthews gave me the solid foundation to set up my own advertising agency.”
In Red Baron Advertising, he ensured he had a staff complement able to deliver high-quality, creative advertising.
He also lectured at private colleges regularly.
With computer generated art then becoming the norm, he had to quickly adapt to this format.
His favourite remains Photoshop. He also studied marketing intensively to cater to the needs of his clients.
“I have been ever since.”
Due to a recent amputation (a result of diabetes), Hirasen now works alone, servicing only a few accounts.
He also acts in an advisory capacity for several businesses.
He still interacts spiritual organisations.
The Perur Aadheenam Monastery in South India (where he is a close associate of the Pontiff of the Monastery), is just one.
He has given more than 1 200 discourses in Saiva Siddhantham (a special philosophy of South India); and met South Indian musical giants such as KJ Yesudas, Pithikuli Murugadas, Ilayaraja and numerous others.
Hirasen said he was working on a series of paintings for exhibition early next year.
“This will be a legacy that I would like to leave behind. I also want to spend my remaining years of retirement encouraging and teaching both young and old to use the canvas to express themselves,” he said. a creative with director several