The Mutant Nation came out of the underground in great numbers on Tuesday night – sliding across the red-hot tarmac of the CBD of Cape Town like Alexandra’s cat-eating rats to witness the launch of Dookoom’s Larney Jou Poes!
The video is causing a little tsunami in the cultural circles of South Africa. The lead singer, Isaac Mutant, is a hip-hop legend in the Cape Flats, having had a hand in the making of one of the most celebrated hip-hop creations from two decades ago – The Prophets of da City.
The Prophets spoke black truth to white power. And the people gave them love for bringing the horror of the ghetto to the open so that no power can claim not to know that a people discarded by the racist system lives a socially dead life.
It was a powerful invitation for the re-imagining of liberation.
Dookoom is set to be real big. There is little doubt that they will in all likelihood displace Die Antwoord – the Afrikaaner trash act that has taken the world by storm. It’s difficult not to see Die Antwoord motivated by the same missionary impulse of the white liberal who is forever driven by desire to rescue the native from the sin of blackness.
The band is acting resistance and getting super rich for its effort. It was this problem – how every white-black encounter ends with the exploitation of the black – that Steve Biko, and more precisely Frantz Fanon, studied.
Comparison between the two groups is unavoidable. Dookoom, on the face of it, has returned to reclaim its art form so long colonised by others for their benefit. There are rumours for instance that Ninja of Die Antwoord had perfected his blackface performance through spending time with Mutant and co-studying the black motif, which he later carefully put on stage and converted to money and fame.
Basically, Ninja repeated the successful appropriation of blackness for whiteness we see with the puppet Chester Missing, behind whom stands a white man. We are still trapped in the colonial relation governed by whites taking from blacks by the gun or by love. Help is the most potent weapon of colonialism, it reigns giving when it takes back tenfold.
Dookoom’s explosion into the big stage oozes determination to resist this anti-black relation. The rage over land is pegged back to the beginning – 1652! Land and the slave-like conditions of black farm workers continue to present the best testimony of the horror of settler colonialism that has created modern South Africa. It can be said that the struggle against racist oppression is the struggle to be able to speak.
This is an impossible task given that black speech has no meaning in an anti-black world, it’s mere noise.
Dookoom’s Larney Jou Poes! screams back into whiteness with such intensity, one gets the sense that a disaster is not too far off. The question is whether this black noise can bring down the walls of white Jericho.
The video abandons all niceties and mobilises the most vile form of expression to try and reclaim the stolen land and humanity of black people from whiteness.
The video’s black-and-white motif keeps the binary of the unhappy race relations intact through the storm of wild passions in song. We see a tyre carrying a flame rolling down farmland menacingly. There is unrest in the land, an uprising of the oppressed; they have stopped begging, now they spit the vile ferment of the papsak back to the baas – jou poes my larney!
One can’t help imagine Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Like the movie, black resistance is permitted by a white creator. Mutant is a front man of a white band. The video itself is produced by a talented white man who goes by the name Sirius Tales.
When I tell him that he has pulled a Tarantino, he is pleased. But then I go further and tell him at the day of reckoning he must not expect any mercy from blacks, he frowns with disappointment and asks, “But why?” I tell him I have no words to speak the weight of 700 years of black oppression. Dialogue ends.
At one point during the launch, the 99% white Mutant Nation find themselves pointed in the face with an accusation and a declaration of war. First they giggle nervously, then floods of laughter opens, middle fingers shoot up, they shout back the refrain – “jou poes my larney”.
Zealots at the feet of king Mutant.
I ask an art critic what does he make of this white love for a pro-black video that runs so close to fire. He points out that the impact of the video shall be felt outside the pretences of brotherhood in the cities where black rage is packaged for sale and amusement by white youth as they wait to claim the place of their parents in controlling black labour and bodies.
In other words, the music shall transcend its permitted rebellion status by white patronage. The music is too unruly to be tamed, it threatens to open the floodgates of repressed desire for liberation by the black dispossessed and despised.
This gift of ungovernability may be the best contribution to culture as a weapon of resistance in contemporary South Africa where art has lost its utility as a tool for mass consciousness towards rebellion for a just world.
As I leave the launch I wonder what the next hip-hop act would say. It seems to me that on this matter of land and race, Dookoom has closed the debate for now.
Andile Mngxitama is the Economic Freedom Fighter’s commissar on land and a regular contributor to the M&G