The Treatment of Black Bodies by Die Antwoord

Die Antwoord have just announced that they will be breaking up. This is a good news for some and bad news for those who never noticed the problematic legacy they have left behind.

The Rap Rave band from Cape Town-South Africa, are best known for the controversial visuals of their music videos, and the crude language used in their music, as well as Yolandi’s squeaky voice.

But in the POC community,  they are known for one thing, and that is their appropriation of black culture and overall racism.

Listening to their music alone this may not be as visible as it is in their music videos. Ninja, Yolandi’s partner has an obsession with the Ghetto life and working class culture. Even though they are both millionaires after their massive success in the industry, they still pretend to be poor and from the ghetto/ gangster life, which may be a reflection on their past somehow.  However,  we all know it is something white musicians love to steal from the stereotypical black culture the mainstream media love to feed us .

Throughout their career, they have made a point of creating a fresh style in both their aesthetic and their raw music. However, it is hard to not notice the ugliness of their hatred towards black folk in both their behaviour and their visual work.

Even though their music is fun to listen and dance to, there is something almost wicked about the amount of hate that is hidden underneath of it.

Here are some examples of what I personally notice to be a negative  treatment of black bodies by Die Antwoord.

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At their live shows, they have a series of “big butt” seemingly white dancers twerking whilst flicking around their dreadlocks. This in itself is a normalised type of appropriation of black culture by white musicians. We can also see examples of it in Miley Cyrus’ imagery in both live shows and videos, but also the music video for “Sorry” by Justin Bieber. This appropriation means, stealing parts of black culture that are eroticised by white folk, using it for one’s own good, without it benefiting the culture it was originally stolen from.

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This is also repeated in their other music videos, for example,  Baby’s on Fire  in which Yolandi dances next to underage black kids, who are wearing little clothing and twerking. This is only a few seconds of the video but still an unsettling imagery and the only time any black folk are represented in the whole video.

CW for the first paragraph: Sexual Assault

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They have an obsession with demonising black bodies. In the video for Cookie Thumper, we follow a love story between, school girl Yolandi and a supposed gang member Anies who has just gotten out of prison. Probably influenced by their massive obsession with crime and prison culture which is very classist and unrelated to their own personal lives as Millionaires. Yolandi is supposedly younger than him and lives in an orphanage. Anies is shown to us as a both evil but exotic predator. He forces Yolandi to come to him late at night to sleep with him. Anies’ character is the only black character in the whole video. Yolandi lives in an all white orphanage, so it is no wonder why being with a black boy who is in a gang is an exciting game for her. Anies is shown as an almost demented character, he is wearing contacts that make his eyes inhuman.  He is shown to be abusing drugs and selling it to the underage girl, but also we witness a scene in which he is having sex with Yolandi. She is then shown to be very distressed by this sexual contact, and this scene which is essentially an assault scene is shown in a lighthearted way. This is unacceptable because the scene is so disturbing. This feeds into the stereotypical ideology about “black male sexual predators”. Sexual assault is something that is pointed out a lot in their music, in some ways it is positive that they stimulate conversation, but there is a thin line between it influencing and just being used entertainment purposes.

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Black face is one of Die Antwoord’s’ obsessions. In Fatty Boom Boom the dancers are wearing seemingly African tribal (white folk’s interpretation of) makeup. and Yolandi is wearing full on black face, with demonised eyes. Yet again demonising black bodies. The whole video is very problematic because it shows South Africa as a place full of crimes and diseases which is a total western interpretation. This criticism was taken very lightly because the media/fans were too distracted by Die Antwoord’s criticism of Lady Gaga instead. In Ugly boy, there is a stereotypical black-faced man wearing an afro wig, which seems to make fun of “black face” and in a way approves of it. Black face keeps on appearing in most of their videos.

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Rich Bitch, a video that centres around Yolandi, shows her as a rich girl in her glorious golden mansion. In my opinion, the imagery comments on the class differences between the colonial white residents of South Africa and the native residents that still continue to exist. Throughout the video, Yolandi shows off all her belongings in her mansion, including a scene in which she is sat on the toilet, and reaches out for toilet paper, which has images of Julius Malema printed on it. So she basically wipes herself with the image of a black man. If we all agree on the fact that non-black races are politically anti-black as the result of colonialism, Die Antwoord are bluntly and openly offering their actively anti-black views to us and being praised for it by the media.         

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 Trying to make sense of their behaviour myself, the conclusion that I have reached is that Die Antwoord want tell us it’s hard to be a  minority in a country and being “marginalised” based on their skin colour. Both of them seem to have had unhappy lives as a result of it, Yolandi ran away from her strictly religious adopted parents, and Ninja seems to struggle with his Identity as a white guy in a black country. But what they seem to fail to understand is that they cannot be victimised for being the minority in south Africa. Yes, they were born and raised there, and that is their country.

But this in no way should be compared to the experiences of migrated folks from colonised countries into western countries. Ninja and Yolandi are white straight and cisgender. They have so many privileges in both South Africa and the rest of the world, they are the colony, even though it was their ancestors who colonised South Africa. Their attitude that says “you should be like us” and puts down South African culture, is colonial in itself. Yes, it is hard to be the odd one out and not fit in, it is ok to talk about it too, but they are not the victims. Native South Africans have every right to disapprove of them in their country because of the history, and this is not the same as hate groups like English Defence League disapproving of South-Asian immigrants in England. Because the existence of white folk in a country that they historically colonised and continue to colonise today is harmful to that country and their people.

So Die Antwoord need to stop playing the victim and treating black bodies as the oppressors because they are initially the oppressors and they are in no way in the place of being oppressed by black bodies. Their power and rise to fame from hating on black bodies simply proves this.