While many were expecting the unexpected on the first stop of the Kanye West Yeezus tour, it's highly unlikely anyone quite expected what they got. In addition to performing in a Maison Martin Margiela look featuring a head mask and bringing out a Jesus lookalike--all taking place on his massive set that included among other things flashing lights, flurries of snow, a dozen dancers, and a mountain--the newly-engaged rapper sold tour merchandise that featured the Confederate flag.
Photos of the merchandise, which turned up on Virgil Abloh's Twitter account, depict the controversial flag used as a hooded robe for a skeleton carrying a sickle, and also drapped as a backdrop for another skull. Abloh, who has been called West's style adviser, captioned the photos with lines like "Our mama's were raised in an era when... The touring merchandise collection of thoughts."
Having been born in the southern state of Georgia, West likely knew of the negative connotation of the flag prior to collaborating with Jersey-born Wes Lang to create the artwork. For many, the flag, which was officially the flag of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, symbolize a violent, rac1st, and outmoded past of the South. For others, the flag only represents the South's history. It was for this supposed reason that the flag was kept flying over the South Carolina State House long after it should have come down.
It's been speculated that West's usage seeks to re-appropriate the symbol but the artist has yet to make an official statement on meaning. The usage does stay in line with the theme of race evidenced in both Ye's album and incorporation of "White Jesus" into his stage set.
Click through to see the tour merchandise.