Blackface is theatrical makeup used in the United States and around the world, where the practice became popular during the 19th century, it became associated with certain archetypes of American racism such as the “happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation” or the “dandified coon “. Hence Blackface has become associated with racism, particularly in the USA, so that the term may be used in a broader sense to include similarly stereotyped performances even when they do not involve blackface makeup.
A certain Rustum Kozain had written -
Had Ninja been white working class with actual regular, day-to-day interaction with people on the Cape Flats, then the parodic would have no purchase; nor would accusations of appropriation. Or had Ninja, for instance, rapped in a mixture of white working class English and Afrikaans and Cape Flats English and Afrikaans, without developing the visual embellishments, then the social commentary and satire would have stood out in relief. And it would have been an interesting point about fluid identities emphasised. But the visual embellishments – especially the tattoos that tread gingerly between celebration and disavowal of prison-gang style and the gold teeth – do point to appropriation and Waddy Jones has not suddenly discovered his ‘inner coloured’.
To which a certain Andy replied:
“We live in a country where people spent their whole lives under apartheid trying to be re-classified as white if they were coloured, and coloured if they were black. And now, in the post apartheid dispensation, people are actually free to choose whatever racial group they’d like to belong to. These definitions are fluid and shifting. There are no hard edges between black and white. But all the “academic discourse” is up in arms about the “authenticity” of Die Antwoord? When in actual fact they’re missing the point. Kozain calls it appropriation and hints towards a kind of exploitation of coloured culture. Which really just smacks of sour grapes – as if culture is sanctified and hallowed ground not to be investigated and explored by “others”. Jones/Ninja is a South African. What’s to stop him being and communicating anything he wants to? Proudly, South Africa is a melting pot. This is what happens in a melting pot. Shit coalesces. People are influenced and find value in a diverse experiences, cultures and ideas. All this chin stroking really just shows people up for what they are. Resistant to change. Resistant to new ideas and fresh approaches. Afraid… and falling back on old, tired arguments that erase all the rather unique nuances of the creative, like default positions. Blackface! Racist! Inauthentic!”
I have said it before myself. A divided country like South Africa desperately needs these cultural mashups. South Africa is a country in tremendous change identities are more fluid here than most other places.
(And besides, I think to make a straight black white comparison with the USA is not very helpful. South Africa and the USA have very different histories. Is South African coloured a plain shade of black as in the US? Die Antwoord means something similar & different in an South African context than it does in the US.)
PS: Also notable is Any’s descriptions of Ninja’s tjappies (Tatoos):
The tattoo on his right arm is of Evil Boy – derived from Casper the Friendly Ghost with a huge “piel” symbol of the 28s gang. The sex lovers, sodomites and rapists.
The tattoo in the middle of his chest is the symbol of the 27s the murderers and prison enforcers of the number code.
That tattoo on his right breast is of Richie Rich, symbol of the 26s – the money lovers, thieves and scoundrels. So don’t come with that bull that he carefully selected prison tjappies that don’t have direct references. Research!