Tag Archives: Art

Death Row Records Owned by Toy Company


What do Tupac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg etc. have in common with Peppa Pig, PJ Masks, G.I. Joe and My Little Pony?

20-trucs-que-vous-ne-saviez-pas-sur-death-row-dossier-649

 

In a masterclass of how to play board games like a Grandmaster, Hasbro, the toy and board game now owns Death Row Records, reducing a once revered and feared label to a collective of toy soldiers.

How did that happen?

According to James Rettig at Stereogum:

In a wild turn of events, Death Row Records is now owned by Hasbro, the gargantuan toy and board game company that is behind My Little Pony, Furby, Monopoly, G. I. Joe, and many more classic children’s enterprises. Death Row Records is, of course, the West Coast rap label that was founded in 1991 and put out major releases from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac. Strange bedfellows!

Hasbro acquired the Canadian Studio One Entertainment for $4 billion. They owned the Peppa Pig and PJ Masks franchises.

Entertainment One had a valuable music division when they purchased the Death Row catalog in 2013 after its previous parent company went bankrupt.

They bought the label’s catalog for approximately $280 million in 2013, about seven years after Death Row declared bankruptcy.

in 2006, Death Row Records filed for bankruptcy. It was auctioned to Wideawake Entertainment for $18,000,000 on the 15th of January 2009.

The WIDEawake remit was to put out all unreleased Death Row material. Their chief aim was to put out all unreleased songs from the Death Row Vault . They also re-released and remastered classic Death Row material and made considerable money from the venture. 

It beggars belief that what was once a black owned label that made crazy money and had rap stars living five stars lives is no more in black hands but in the arms of a major toys and board company.

dre and suge

Death Row Records shot into public consciousness in 1992. It was a fledgling West Coast record label that was founded by the infamous Suge Knight and the famous and legendary Dr. Dre as depicted in the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton.

925769054s

 

It had only been established for a year when Dre’s The Chronic exploded on the scene and took over the streets of America and spread globally.

71mlumu1tvl._sx522_

Following the success of that album, Snoop Dogg and Tupac joined Death Row Records and with their considerable talents built the label into one of the most formidable recording labels at the time and made vast amounts of money.

tupac-snoop-deathrow-records

The Chronic’s success was quickly followed up by Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle, Above The Rim, Murder Was the Case, Tha Dogg Pound – Dogg Food, 2Pac’s All Eyes On Me and Makaveli – The Don Killuminati: The 7 day Theory

dogg

Those albums and many more that followed solidified Death Row Record’s reputation as one of the baddest rap and music labels of all time and probably the most notorious.

koc5866cd-1

Suge Knight, the co-founder, worked with some of the best rappers ever in the form of Pac, Dre, Kurupt, Daz Dilinger, M.C. Hammer, Nate Dogg, to name a few well known artists.

The downfall of Death Row Records was Suge’s temper and love for violence. It is no surprise though because the label was started with proceeds from violence.

The white musician known as Vanilla Ice who had a hit with Ice Ice baby, claims that Knight crashed into his hotel and took him onto the balcony by himself.

Suge allegedly implied he would throw Vanilla Ice over unless he complied and signed the rights of Ice Ice Baby to him.

That money helped to establish Death Row Records. The label would eventually make more than $400 million and end with it’s star dead, the business manager in jail and monies stolen by white businessmen.

In an ironic twist of fate, the money ended up where it started in white hands and they are enjoying the fruits of black labour as has been the case for the past centuries.

There is a lot to learn from the case of Death Row Records. It is an important case study in how not to run a business; how to manage your wealth, intellectual property, and why it is important to safeguard our legacies for the next generation.

But maybe the biggest lesson is that there are no guarantees in life and nothing lasts forever.

Despite the crazy monies Suge Knight made during the heyday of the Death Row Records and managing it’s back catalogue, his net worth today is about $500 thousand dollars.

For many of us, Death Row Records’ music was the backtrack to our youth and finding our feet in this world. We grew up fired by its artists and music. It is sad to see the label’s fall from grace from being a black icon to a white acquisition.

 

Leave a comment

August 24, 2019 · 1:41 pm

Sankara The Play Review: Echoes of The Coup That Wasn’t in Zimbabwe


Over the weekend, I attended the play Sankara that was showing at The Cockpit Theatre in Marlyebone in London.

external shot of The Cockpit Theater in Marlyebone in London courtesy of thegatvolblogger

Sankara was written and directed by Ricky Dujany. Dujany claims the inspiration for the play, which is basically the rise and fall of an Africa hero, was Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar.

It is a timely reminder of the iconic African leader; his life, death, philosophy, principles and struggle against power, Western imperialism and international hypocrisy.

Sankara highlights the role of African leaders who come to power; do little to nothing to uplift their own people, protect Western interests at the expense of their own people and national interests;  their role in the continual subjugation and exploitation of their own nations and people.

external image of The Cockpit Theater in Marylebone in London showing posters of Thomas Sankara in the front window and at the entrance to the building

Sankara has all the hallmarks of a Shakespearean tragedy. However, the greatest tragedy is that this story is a real story inspired by actual events that are interwoven into the narrative by using dramatic devices such as audiovisual footage from the archives of history projected onto screens in the theatre to echoes of Sankara’s speeches from books like Thomas Sankara Speaks being recited by characters in the play.

Sankara is truly an African tragedy. It is the tragedy of Africa’s lost potential. It is the tragedy of Africa’s arrested development.

It is the tragedy of how those who have the genuine human, moral and political will to uplift the lives of Africans are murdered by the powers that be whose sole objective is to see Africa remain underdeveloped and subject to white interests.

From the outset of the play, we are reminded that Sankara came to power through a military coup – popular though it was – but a coup nevertheless.

a close up piccture of the poster of Sankara the play in the window of The Cockpit Theater in Marylebone in London advertising the play by Ricky Dujany. Picture taken by thegatvolblogger

It echoes recent developments in Zimbabwe in November 2017 that saw the ousting of Robert Mugabe through a coup that wasn’t a coup. It was a popular coup in the same way that The August Revolution was.

However, the similarities end there. The Zimbabwean coup lacks the moral backbone and the philosophical perspective of the Burkinabe Revolution. It was a reactionary move devoid of a sound political ideology.

Echoes of Sankara’s words in the play, “A soldier without any political or ideological training is a potential criminal”, resonates with developments in Zimbabwe and the actions or omissions of the miltary that seized power to consolidate it’s own interests, and create a mililtary state under the guise of preserving the legacy of the liberation struggle and entrenching democractic ideals.

In the play, the role of the military is a world away from the role of the military in Zimbabwe. Whereas, in The Burkinabe Revolution, the military was actively involved in working hand in hand with the people to build roads, the first international railway and other projects that developed the communities; the opposite is true in Zimbabwe.

The military has awarded itself all the positions of power in goverment and the public sector, and has limited involvement in helping to make the living conditions for the masses better in Zimbabwe.

In addition, they have made themselves king makers, the ultimate arbitrator of who has the right to lead Zimbabwe through the ballot or other means.

Reliving Sankara through the play reinforced the principles that he enshrined and lived by. His wit, charisma, humour and powers of mind were brilliantly captured in this three hour long production.

However, it is Sankara’s attitude towards debt that is truly at odds with the Zimbabwean leadership.

“Debt is aimed at subjugating the growth of Africa through foreign rules. Thus each one of us become a financial slave, which is to say a true slave.”

In the play, this quote above is brilliantly captured in the speech that Sankara made at the OAU meeting addressing the question of debt and creating a club of Addis Ababa for African leaders to address these pertinent questions that many African leaders are reluctant to address to this day.

It is ironic that it is also in this speech that Sankara reminds the seated leaders at this meeting that he might not be there next year because of his speech and that was eerily so.

In the play, as Sankara speaks, the footage at that meeting is projected on the screens making the scene eerily realistic.

When Sankara returns to Burkina Faso, he is asked how did things go. He responds that he expects the other African leaders to come out in support of him. However, the irony is that we know it is not going to happen and they are going to betray him.

Three months after that speech at the Organisation of African Unity headqurters on the 29th of July 1987, Thomas Sankara was assassinated.

One can sense the same betrayal happening to the masses in Zimbabwe who are waiting for the military that removed Mugabe to change things, but are in the process of making them financial slaves as they go globetrotting seeking loans and indebting the nation, and seeking re-entry or reengagement with the clubs that Sankara despised for their hypocrisy and robbing the people of the fruits of their hard labour.

It is also ironic how in one scene Sankara receives an official from the IMF who is seeking to get contracts signed off that will undermine the interests of the people and Sankara refuses on points of principle.

This official from the IMF appears in the play in different guises as different characters. He is like a recurring motif that reminds you of the many facets imperialisms manifests itself like a pest that leeches off its host.

However, in the Zimbabwe situation, the new president declared Zimbabwe is open for business, and is actively seeking to engage investors who may not have the interests of the people at heart but their own.

What is eerily unnerving is that the president has no known stance on imperialism as Sankara did. His political philosophy is opaque. He lacks the political and moral gravitas of Sankara.

And it is this stance above, that partially made Sankara the African hero transcend his continental limitations to become a global icon, embraced across the world for speaking to power not only on behalf of his own people but all oppressed people all over the world. Women included. Sankara’s feminist stance is well known and also well entrenched in the play and some of his revolutionary comrades react to it in quite humourous ways.

sankara actors gova media

From right to left: Yonka Awoni in green beret [Henry Zongo], Ike Chuks in red beret [Thomas Sankara], Chris Machari in blue beret [Blaise Compaore], Clovis Kasanda [Jean Lingani/ Charles Taylor]. Image belongs to Gova Media [https://www.govamedia.com/2018/04/04/theater-the-rise-fall-of-an-african-hero-play-written-directed-rickydujany/]

It is apparent that the Zimbabwe situation is devoid of a young, charismatic leader like Sankara who had the political will to carry out fundamental change as echoed in the play, “You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness”.

The late Thomas Sankara was instrumental in changing the mentality of his country, promoting work for everyone to build the nation’s first internatinal railway, refusing aid and debt, and coining the famous slogan “he who feeds you controls you”.

There are scenes that are brilliantly captured in the play that show there was an urgency in the way Sankara implemeted reforms such as nationalisation of land, empowerment of women, building houses, addressing hunger and solving the environmental crisis, education and vaccination programmes.

This urgency is absent in the Zimbabwean situation. That lack of urgency reinforces that Zimbabwe is most likely than not headed for gloom.

There will be no revolutionary programmes coming from the encumbent government because it is a government of reactionaries and a privileged elite who are similar to the ones Sankara and others unseated in the hope of liberating Burkina Faso.

It is this urgency above that allowed Sankara to make Burkina Faso self reliant within four years while other nations have failed to achieve a fraction of what he did in over three and a half decades plus more.

The greatest question many will have is does the play teach us anything new about Thomas Sankara. The answer is in the affirmative.

I will not spoil that by revealing all, but I can say that I have read a lot of books on Thomas Sankara, watched numerous documentaries and written a fair bit about him and still learnt something new that I did not know from the above.

Sankara also raises questions about the agency of Captain Blaise Compaoré. I am not sure if it is a question of Ricky Dujany employing poetic licence or he is aware of something that a lot of people are ignorant of. It is a strong possibility considering that he did his research for writing the play.

However, whether the wife of Captain Blaise Compaoré really did influence him to assassinate Sankara or not is questionable, but in my opinion it doesn’t absolve him from the ultimate act of betrayal as it appears to do in the play or undermine his own agency.

In conclusion, Sankara is a timely and honourable production. It is honest, brutal, well executed and sensitively handled. The players rose to the occassion and did such a historical narrative justice, bringing the play to a new audience who may not have known or heard anything about Sankara.

I was happy to see some parents bringing their children to watch this play because it is important that our children grow up knowing our history, and where we are coming from, and those Africans who gave their lives to liberating the continent.

I was not impressed by the accents in the play. There were times when you could hardly hear what the actors were saying because of the funny and inconsistent accents. They were not necessary especially when you have actors using English when we know that the real life characters communicated in French and local languages in Burkina Faso.

That is a minor criticism of the play. My disappointment is mainly reserved for those who did not turn out to support.

I watched over the past weeks as Black Panther trended on social media and it appeared like every black person went out to watch the movie yet those same people who became honorary Wakandaians were nowhere in sight.

It appears that our people are more in love with the hype of Hollywood and fictious heroes and seductive white naaratives about Africa than they are about the real thing, and they remain ignorant and oblivious of African history and embracing our own African heroes and narratives.

The ultimate question though is how will the Zimbabwean coup that wasn’t a coup end. Sankara reminds us that coups rarely end well. As a Zimbabwean, I wish that we are an exception to the rule though this may go against what I know or have observed through our history. There are exceptions to the rule. And maybe our coup that wasn’t might not end up in the same way as Sankara and be one of the most notable exceptions.

Leave a comment

April 10, 2018 · 5:49 pm

Poets and War


Poets and War.

Leave a comment

Filed under About Writing, Abstract Writing, Creative Writing

Love is the ultimate revolutionary


African Revolutionaries

Love is the ultimate revolutionary

Love is the ultimate revolutionary

Fighting and defeating

Those external forces trying to colonise

Your hinterland and exploit

Your heart and mind.


Love is the ultimate revolutionary,

That tall, dark, handsome stranger

Camouflaged like an enemy

Who makes the pit of your stomach

Flutter and feel

Like it has been hollowed out;

And makes your knees tremble,

Takes your breath and senses away

With half a glance.


Love is the ultimate revolutionary

Charming and disarming,

Knocking out your defences

And last line of resistance

Without firing a shot;

A revolutionary setting you free

Without a word or fight

Yet turning your entire world

Upside down

Giving you a new found sense of self,

Freedom and Love.

Leave a comment

Filed under Abstract Writing, Creative Writing, Poetry

Love Prescription


image

Love can’t be prescribed

Like a doctor prescribes medication.

Take two three times a day

After meals and blah blah blah…



It has no algorithms.

It can’t be programmed.

If reason is the thesis,

Love is the antithesis.

It pulls tongues at science

And holds the middle finger to scientists.

You can’t slice it open

With a scalpel and pinpoint

Its vital and reproductive organs.



It can’t be legislated

Like those draconian

Immorality Acts

In Apartheid South Africa.

Imprison it

And it will

BREAK OUT STRONGER

Than it was ever before,

Bending and breaking bars.



It is what it is.

A wild seed that germinates where it wills

And takes root where it is unexpected

Until one day you see

It blossoming,

Petals unfolding and full of colour.

And you wonder by what alchemy

It grew in such an unusual place.



Love is its own prescription.

The chemical reaction

Taking over your head and heart;

Leaving you giddy and high.

It’s the elixir

Pulsing through the highways

And alternative routes of your body,

Killing the pathogens and viruses

Poisoning your heart and soul.

It restores your sense of balance

And healthy outlook on life.



It is the prescription

Pharmaceuticals can’t monopolise

And make a killing,

Transforming us into

Over the counter addicts.

Leave a comment

Filed under About Writing, Abstract Writing, Poetry

Poets and War


picture of bleeding hand

A surgical-like incision on my hand

Leaks red ink,

Flowing like a burst pipe

Connecting the membrane

Covering my skeleton

And hinterland.

Poetry beats in my heart ♥

And I bleed for my art.

Not only soldiers bleed and die

In the line of duty.

In the frontline of many world wars,

Poets died far, far, far away

From home with poetry locked inside

The kernel of their minds.

Have you heard of Chris Okigbo

That revolutionary poet

Who downed his papers and pen

And picked up a gun in the Biafra War?

Realising the bullet

Was stronger than the pen

He sacrificed his life

Dodging bullets and bombs

In the name of freedom.

He died with his gun

In his arms

And poetry stuck between his gums.

His poetic sensibility –

A politicizing factor.

He bled for his art

To free minds and hearts

And realise the envisioned self.

1 Comment

October 28, 2014 · 4:58 pm

Knot I Have Become


image

 

The crescent moon creeps through the window

As the night stumbles through the light starved rooms

Its cloak reeks of deep sleep

And I listen to its nocturnal wanderings

While I toss and turn in bed

Blindly fumbling under the covers

To extricate myself from the intricate

Knot I have become

And free myself

To reach my full potential

An unrestrained spirit

Leave a comment

Filed under Abstract Writing, Creative Writing, Poetry

My Canvas


image

The world is my canvas

Words the broad brushstrokes

I use to paint 🎨

The perfect picture 📷

And the the universe

The celestial gallery

I exhibit my creations.

© M’sama 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under Abstract Writing, Creative Writing, Poetry

Exhibit B – Is This Racism Or Art?


image

William Blake once wrote that, “The foundation of Empire is art and science. Remove them or degrade them and the Empire is No more. Empire follows Art and not vice versa as Englishmen suppose.”

Fast-forward to 2014 and the question of what is art and what is not art is rearing its head again. Exhibit B or The Human Zoo directed by Brett Bailey which was supposed to be on show at the Barbican is the bone of contention. It has now been cancelled due to protests.

There are two sides to every story. Firstly, there are the protestors, led by Sistar Sara Myers, a modern Queen Nzinga who opposed Exhibit B and called it RACIST. They object to the depiction of blacks in chains and various states of insubordination in human zoos as a desecration of the memory of Africans who were subjected to subhuman bondage during the African Holocaust.

In the opposing corner is the Barbican, a white South African Brett Bailey (the director), and various sections of the white community who object to the protests and claim Exhibit B is art and raises questions and issues surrounding racism. In addition, there are also black performers in the Barbicans’ camp who I will touch on therein.

I empathise with the protesters. I believe it is the moral duty of all decent and conscious human beings to protect the memory of those Africans and others who were held in subhuman bondage.

Exhibit B takes the piss and doesn’t restore these people with any dignity. Instead it treats them with contempt and continues to portray them as objects and not subjects with voices of their own. They are using their stories for profit and to satisfy their own perverted objectives. White people often brush off slavery and colonialism and tell black people to forget about it.

However, they are not so quick to brush off any profits or privileges that they accrue from the African Holocaust. As long as it benefits their ulterior objectives, it is fair game. However when it comes to reparations and land redistribution and affirmative action, they change their tune and say black people must get over it. It appears that they are prepared to claim what suits them from the colonial situation but write it off when blacks make their own claims based on that same subject.

Exhibit B continues to objectify and dehumanise Africans and serves the black community no purpose. It only reinforces negative and stereotypical representations of African people in the media and art. The history of black people is presented in white quarters as a long lamentation of repeated defeats. Nothing is said about the successful nation building attempts or their greatest achievements.

Nothing is said to relate the past to the present to demonstrate a historical evolution of the modern African. Nothing is said about their great stand in the struggle for freedom and the envisioned self. Rather, there are repeated attempts by the powers that be to project an arrested image of Africans, their culture, their progress and their subservience.

It only reinforces and continues colonial discourses. For centuries, art has been complicit in the colonial project. Edward Said in his phenomenal work, Orientalism, raised awareness about the representations of others or the Manichean opposite in Occidental literature, musical and visual arts.

Writers like Rupyard Kipling (Kim), Rider Haggard (She and King Solomon’s Mines), Conrad (Heart of Darkness) to name a few were actively involved in reinforcing stereotypes of Africans and Indians. Their literature constantly played on the racist notions of Africa or Asia arrested in time, or degenerating and inhabited by savages or the occasional noble savage.

Africa and Asia were constantly displayed as women that were to be penetrated, raped while the western metropolitan was always considered logical, civilised, ordered, etc. African writers like Chinua Achebe took on these colonial discourses and turned them on their heads exposing their racist perspective as illustrated in the pictures below.

image

Extract From a newspaper I stumbled on stuck in the middle of my book, Hopes and Impediments by Chinua Achebe.

Extract From a newspaper I stumbled on stuck in the middle of my book, Hopes and Impediments by Chinua Achebe.

It is clear that art and racism have always gone hand in hand. The minstrel shows featured white actors in blackface and other grotesque representations of blacks that often masqueraded as art. Famous celebrities like Judy Garland in Babes on Broadway and Bing Crosby in Dixie were not immune in featuring in these shows in blackface yet this was considered to be art. This was as recent as the 1940s.

The point is that these gross representations of blacks were produced for the consumption of white audiences. The same applies to the human zoos. Their

Sartjie Baartman also known as the Hottentot Venus was held in a human zoo and displayed as a freak of nature and abused by white audiences.

Sartjie Baartman also known as the Hottentot Venus was held in a human zoo and displayed as a freak of nature and abused by white audiences.

patrons were white also and had no compunction about patronising shows that dehumanised other human beings. The case of Sartjie Baartmaan is a typical example.

We must take stock of the nostalgia for empire, including the anger and resentment it ignites in those who were ruled or enslaved and had their way of lives destroyed by capitalists who behaved like nothing more than criminals in Africa and the colonies.

We must analyse the culture that nurtured the rationale, sentiment and imagination of empire. We must not lose sight of the hegemony of the imperial ideology which today has almost become embedded in the affairs of cultures whose less regrettable features we still celebrate.

We value freedom of speech and we respect and defend everyone’s right to free speech but object to dehumanization and contempt of others masquerading as freedom of speech. It is ironic that the enactment of black dehumanisation is depicted as art and protests against it considered censorship.

In this debate we cannot afford to lose sight of how colonialism and slavery, both crimes against humanity, utilized the disinterested movements’ such as philanthropy, religion, science and art to achieve its goals. The process of imperialism occurred beyond the level of economic laws and political decisions through the employment of recognizable cultural representations by continuing consolidation within education, literature and the visual and musical arts.

This was the point Blake was making about, “The Foundation of Empire is Art and Science”.

What is evident is that those who have the power [social, economical or political capital] or the victors control the narrative. In this case, the Barbican was imposing  a “discussion” on its own terms without prior consultation of the people it was most likely to offend. It set the parameters of the discussion which it claims it was trying to stimulate. This reminds me of the words of Noam Chomsky:

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”

This is akin to kicking or whipping the black community and then informing them how they should react to the beating. It is hypocritical. It is not constructive. It is impossible to maintain a fair or rational debate with people who participate in their exclusive pool of privileges when the playing field is uneven.

There are those in the Barbican camp who have labelled the protesters as “illiberal” or “racist”. To deal with the first point. It is a waste of time trying to prove who is more liberal than who. That is the white liberals problem to assuage their guilty conscience.

There is nothing liberal about acting in complicity with your oppression, demonisation or objectification of your people simply for people to say you are a liberal or have received a liberal education so you are not like “them”. This is the classic argument of the racist, stratifying the “good” blacks from the “bad” blacks or in the words of Malcolm X – the house negro and field negro.

The liberals are simply indulging in mind games. They are claiming their monopoly on intelligence and moral judgement while treating blacks like perpetual under 16s who constantly need guidance from these liberals.

Secondly, racism is a question of power! Without the power to subjugate, one cannot be racist. This language about reverse racism is the favourite pastime of frustrated liberals who feel that their trusteeship is being rejected.

No matter what the protestors do or say, they are not going to strip the liberals of their white privilege or segregate them in white only ghettoes. Steve Biko succinctly captured the reaction of white liberals when they felt their monopoly on intelligence and moral judgement was been eroded and their guardianship rejected:

“These self appointed trustees of black interests boast of years of experience in their fight on behalf of blacks, and because of blacks. When the blacks announce that the time has come for them to do things for themselves and all by themselves all white liberals shout blue murder!”

The protestors don’t have the power to subjugate anyone, let alone whites in the UK, because they lack the institutional, political, judicial, military, and economical capital required to subjugate anyone.

The protestors are responding to a situation they find themselves in where their black skin is being used as a mark of subservience. They are merely responding to white racism. There is nothing wrong with the protestors. Racism is a white problem. Racism is a white construct. Therefore, if there is anyone with a problem, it is white society. This is not a blanket condemnation of white people. There are exceptions to the rule.

However, we are concerned with group attitudes and politics here, not the individual. The exception does not make a lie of the rule, rather, it reinforces it. The big challenge to the liberal is can he really denounce his white privilege?

The obvious response is that it is unrealistic. It might be true but it only serves to illustrate that no matter what a white person does, their white skin, their Mastercard to privilege means it is almost impossible to escape the oppressor’s camp.

Ultimately, this is why blacks speak with a greater sense of urgency than the liberals because they are tackling a situation that they can’t escape. On the other hand, if the heat becomes too much, the liberal can always take a break or walk away. Blacks don’t have that luxury. They don’t have that privilege.

The protestors rallied together because of their unifying factor – their blackness. When members of Transport for London strike, no one accuses them of separatist tendencies. The same applies to firemen, teachers, nurses, etc. They are unified by their professions or industry to fight their own battles. However, when black people stand up for their rights, the liberal establishment detects an anomaly.

Ironically, it is a counter-anomaly. The anomaly was there right from the moment the liberals were presumptuous enough to think that it was their responsibility to use their privilege to speak on behalf of or fight the battle for the blacks.

The Aftermath
In the aftermath of the cancellation, the fallout has begun. Various sections of the mainstream media have attacked the protesters. The attack on the protesters is counter productive. It is interesting to note the tactics being employed in the offensive against the protestors. The black performers are being used to lambast them and this does no one a favour. They only sound like they have been paid thirty pieces of silver to sell their souls out.

It also conjures up the words of Dr. Khalid Muhammad when he was describing the tactics of the right wing when they can’t beat a black man or woman. He said:

“When white folks can’t defeat you they’ll always find some Negro – some boot-licking, butt-licking, buck-dancing, bamboozled, half-baked, half-fried… punkified, pasteurized, homogenised nigger — that they can trot out in front of you.”

The use of black performers to attack the genuine concerns of the protestors also draws up questions about who represents the genuine aspirations, dreams and concerns of the black community. It is unrealistic that a handful of black performers can be the true representatives of the black people.

image

Therefore, they are not in a position to counter the voice and concerns of 23000 black voices. They are no different from Judas Iscariot, an extension of the enemy into the black ranks. They sold their souls for thirty pieces of silver. At least Judas Iscariot had the decency to kill himself when he realised the gravity of his betrayal. The protesters are not doing what they are doing for money or fame. Their integrity or moral stance was never up for sale by the highest bidder like the performers.

It is evident the black performers would do anything for fame and fortune. In that respect, they are no different from the multitudes of black entertainers who say and do whatever their handlers tell them to do even if that includes insulting their parents, elders, fighting their siblings or generally disrespecting the black community. They are no different to the multitude of black leaders in Africa, America and the West who come to power and do little or nothing to uplift their own people.

While these performers have every right to have their own opinions and engage in any financial transaction of their choosing but they must also respect the objections of the black community’s concerns about the way they are represented, how their story is told and who tells it.

It reminds me of another of Biko’s thoughts about real black people, “Black people -real black people – are those who can manage to hold their heads high in defiance than willingly surrender their souls to the white man.”

I listened to one of the performers on the Wright Stuff. She was awarded plenty of air time to air her views without anyone representing the other camp to challenge her. The predominantly white audience lapped up her shameful performance. That alone illustrates how the story is one sided. Sara Myers was provided a few minutes via a telephone link to put in one liners but not enough time to put her views across as this black performer.

When a question was put to this black performer, how she was censored, she was unable to provide a coherent answer. It was excruciating to watch. She went on to explain her role in the exhibition. She said she was playing a black woman in South Africa with a white mother and black father. She went on to say that if she had lived in South Africa in 1994, she would have been taken from her mother and thrown in a black area.

Her account is misleading. There was nothing like that in South Africa in 1994. As the product of a mixed race union in the 60s to about early 80s when the Immorality Laws were active, she would not have been classified as BLACK. She would have been COLOURED which was a strata above black people in South Africa with privileges black people were denied.

She would live in a coloured only area with better amenities than segregated black townships. By virtue of her white blood, she would enjoy some privileges denied black people as people who provided a buffer layer between black and white.

It is ironic this actress was ignorant of the history of the role she was playing yet she had the audacity to call Sara Myers ignorant. She had no idea about the role she was playing; therefore, she was not consciously informed to speak about whether the show was racist or not let alone condemn the protesters, many of whom are more informed about the African situation first hand.

The other disturbing aspect of the fallout is the language employed by some sections of the media. The diction is extreme and used to demonise the protestors. This language is no different to language used to demean, ridicule, undermine those who oppose power but don’t have the voices to reply. This mudslinging dehumanises the people it is aimed at and justifies attacks on them.

There are those in the press who claim the protestors censored the show. The Wright Stuff was drawing comparisons drawing between Hitler and Mussolini with the protestors. This is highly emotive stuff.

One has to remember that the former were heads of state and had the state apparatus, militias and the constitution to back them plus the army to enforce their decrees. Therefore, censorship like racism is a question of power and without it, you cannot censor anyone no matter how much noise or protests you make.

Therefore, it is highly irresponsible for people to draw up such mischievous comparisons which are not compatible. It is obvious those who make such decisions understand the least about censorship and power.

Censorship is not just a question of silencing what you disagree with. Power is what makes censorship possible. It is endorsed by the system and the constitution. In the art industry, there are the guardians of the industry. They decide who is exhibited, where they are exhibited and the likes.

They have the power to veto any form of artwork that doesn’t fit in with their values or criticises their ethics or moral stance. Therefore, the protestors had nothing to do with censoring the show as some mischievous quarters would like to suggest. The Barbican pulled the plug on the show.

According to reports, 25 000 people watched the show in Europe. However, the protestors raised a petition with 23 000 signatures and surely that number of people can’t be wrong. That is only 2000 people less than the audiences that watched Exhibit B in Europe.

There are more contemporary issues which the Barbican and people like Brett Bailey skirt. They would like to concentrate on the past providing a diversion from current issues such as the question of white privilege, equal access to resources, employment, education, reparations, institutional racism, equal justice and human rights.

Today, there are millions of black men and women locked up in human zoos called the prison industrial complex and detention centres yet no one raises discussions about the overrepresentation of blacks in these human zoos.

The question of racism is relevant today and it needs to be dealt with sensitivity and tact. Society can have a reasonable debate about feminism but when racism is involved, all decorum goes flying out of the window and there are heated exchanges and insults flying from both sides of the spectrum.

No one human being is perfect. That applies to institutions too. Brett Bailey and the Barbican should not be ashamed to admit they got it wrong. It is human. They might have got previous exhibitions and shows right but it is possible they got this one wrong and they can learn a lot from their mistakes rather than blame the protestors for their own undoing. When you court controversy, you should expect the backlash. You can’t always be right and everyone else wrong.

The furore surrounding Exhibit B raised a lot of questions. Probably one of the most poignant questions that was missed is: who has the right to tell which story? This is a question that is asked repeatedly in Postcolonial and Feminism Studies.

It is very difficult to assume that the critic (especially one from a privileged background) can ever speak on behalf of anybody, because the position of the critic and their object is never securely fixed. Their superior theory and enlightened compassion are inadequate as Sekou Toure reminds us:

To take part in the African revolution, it is not enough to write a revolutionary song. You must fashion the revolution with the people. And if you fashion it with the people, the songs will come by themselves.
In order to achieve real action you must yourself be a living part of Africa and of her thought; you must be an element of that popular energy which is entirely called forth for the freeing, the progress and happiness of Africa. There is no place outside that fight for the artist or for the intellectual who is not himself concerned with, and completely at one with the people in the great battle of Africa and of suffering humanity
.

2 Comments

Filed under Under The Spotlight