/ 4 November 2014

Has Mutant foretold larney’s downfall and it’s left him shit-scared?

A still from the video of Dookoom's 'Larney
A still from the video of Dookoom's 'Larney

I have been trying to write about Dookoom and Isaac Mutant for the past two weeks – one of those complex, deconstructive pieces. But truth be told, everything that could possibly be written about their latest song, Larney, Jou Poes!, has been scribed.

Scores of writers have pontificated über- intelligently about Dookoom’s revolutionary song and explosive video. Lots of nice white people have risen to the challenge to show how very much they “get it”. They “get” the anger and the 300 years of slavery, and the fact that, in this country, “you have to shout to be heard” among lots of other erudite conclusions.

From what I can tell, the song has been given a nod of approval from the gatekeepers of “all things radical” and the general liberal consensus is that it should not be banned because, after all, anger is not outlawed and even if the song does speak of the possible “day of reckoning”, it is only symbolic.

Some, I suppose, would call this wishful thinking.

On the other side of whiteness, the song and the video have created fear and trembling so visceral that one can almost taste and smell it. I have heard privileged white women react to the video in ways that are hysterical and clearly indicative that the subject is the symbolic manifestation of the darkest, deepest, anxious ­fantasies about the black murderer, rapist and wild man who lurks in the recesses of the guilt, fear and loathing of white illusion.

It is the combination of visual haphazard abandon as farmworkers run amok, armed with pitchforks, guns, cheap wine, rebelliousness and resentment, that does them in. There is none of the restraint or constraint one would see in Brett Bailey’s “human zoo” – to which plentiful white folk go to gaze on the trussed-up black body, safely restrained, naked and displayed.

This is the exact opposite of Bailey’s cerebral, nonaggressive and controlled retelling of a history that, many have argued, is not his to retell. Rather, this is the reckless abandon of the body in motion – of black agency and its potential danger to white security. 

It is the collective body of the uprising – the revolutionary and unrestrained black man gone berserk. The unwashed body of the worker, of the indigent, of the nightmares that lurk in the recesses of whiteness that now intercept our public arena, spilling into the conscious world and indicating the loss of white ownership and control of “the other”.

The horror, the horror.

And then there is the vulgar language.

I love vulgar language. It is in my Dutch/Scottish/bog-farming/forest-dwelling/ peasant/skollie/sailor blood. Ja, Those same skollies so eloquently referenced by Mutant.

When my mother and father were still married and I was six, we used to live in a neighbourhood that bordered a coloured area somewhere in Cape Town. In between “them and us” was a playground. The playground was demarcated for white kids only, but the coloured kids used to spill in and claim the spaces. They would plant punches on our arms and “terrorise” us if we went to play at the same time as them.

We would watch from our fourth-floor flat window to make sure the ­coloured kids were not there before we would venture down to play. As soon as it was empty, we would rush downstairs and occupy our “rightful” space on the merry-go-round, seesaw and swings.

Once, we went careering down to play but a group of coloured boys got there before us. They stood in front of us and challenged us to go past them. I had butterflies in my stomach. I wanted to vomit from fear. But we did it – my brother, two sisters and I. We walked past them. One boy punched my arm hard. I cried in fear. My brother shoved him against the seesaw. He shouted at my brother: “You blerry fokken poes!” Then they ran back to their neighbourhood.

Those words resonated in my head, heart and body for a long time after. They rang out loud and clear like a long-lost ancient song. The DNA memory of centuries of Dutch/Scottish peasants, sailors, bar wenches and witches burnt at the stake twirled in my deep consciousness in a primal and unfettered dance. They reverberated with my ancient Celtic cellular memories and made me feel real and whole.

“You blerry fokken poes.”

Whenever anyone made me angry after that, these words would fly from my mouth and I would sense a deep wave of relaxation. I got hidings and was sent to psychologists because of my love for vulgar language. 

These were the words that were used when someone threatened me – like when a boy nearly drowned me in the pool in the complex where we lived and I came up spluttering and screamed at the top of my lungs – “You blerry fokken poes!” My mother rushed out with a hairbrush in her hand and smacked the daylights out of me. Later on, and filled with remorse, she told me that swearing was “not nice” – that no one liked it and it made them feel “destabilised”.

I knew then the power that these words contained and, instead of stopping my profane ways, I set about expanding my vocabulary of swear words.

Later on in life I would write a few articles and papers on the power of vulgar lexis.

I am a believer in the might of swearing (or word magic) as a weapon to destabilise the dominant discourse – to reclaim the ­people’s language that was banned by the aristocrats and deemed vulgar. The earthy vocabulary peppered with vulgarisms that existed in all languages – “othered” and profaned. Sent outside of the church, outside of the system, outside of the economy, dehumanised and stripped of its charm.

And so it went on in the colonies, too, where indigenous people were the next to be robbed of their magic, their autonomy, humanity and livelihood; turned into chattels for the white-male supremacist economy. And they, those larneys, continue this practice of oppression right into our fractured neoliberal democracy, where the rich get richer and the poor more wretched and abused.

Well, my larney – vulgar it shall be.

You see, those who claim this word magic as theirs and who put it out in the public sphere use it against the elite, the white supremacists and the capitalists who sit pretty while they continue to profit off the broken backs of farmworkers and the oppressed black body – those men in suits or khakis, who don’t see anything wrong with the oppression and objectification of the resource-deprived poor. 

They believe that the masses should remain policed and gagged – in “ja, baas” (yes, boss) mode. To witness workers saying, with defiant conviction: “Jou poes, my larney – jy kan my nie vertel nie [You cunt, larney, you can’t tell me]” – incenses the baas. Because, they fear, or maybe they know, that one day this is exactly what their subjugated workers will say to them.

And then there is Mutant – whose ­physicality resonates perfectly with the quintessential literary construction of the dark man of the libidinous colonial fantasy – swarthy, dangerous, scowling, barefooted, vulgar, in your face, looking back at the world in poetic defiance – hard poetry – rude poetry – his middle fingers somewhat phallic: he represents (in this Eurocentric phantasm) the fantasies of aristocratic girls and good women trapped in the sanitised world of whiteness.

He is the olive-skinned gypsy of DH Lawrence stories and the Dark Prince of Emily Brontë novels – the extreme version of Heathcliff – the mulatto slave who scowls in the shadows, scheming of ways to take the daughter of the landowner. He is the scary man, the bogeyman, the dirty lover in the darkest fantasies of the pious Victorian woman’s seething repressed libido – wanting, wanting, wanting. 

He is the black man whom racism was constructed for – to keep in check; to keep shackled and away from the pristine white women; the man with the animalistic sexuality; the man with the huge, hard, throbbing cock; the man who threatens the colonial male’s self-esteem and sense of sexual prowess.

His eyes scare the shit out of those who dare to look – those defiant, smouldering black eyes. He stares back, scowling: fuck the grandiloquent “gaze trope” of the art connoisseurs. He could not possibly appear in Bailey’s “human zoo” – passive, de-dicked, trussed up in a gimp mask in some privileged white male fantasy.

Mutant is alive, throbbing with a “dark” sexuality” – his middle ­fingers not just an insult to the white boss man; they create longing in the hearts of full-blooded women.

This is the man who has been castrated by whiteness throughout colonial history and who is now refusing to be de-dicked, restrained, gagged or banished from our public spaces.

He sets his own people free, metaphorically, with the words and emotion that oppressed peoples have had burning in their chests for centuries. He burns the landscape of oppression with defiance and a lexis that the ruling class cannot control – and this scares the bejesus out of those who cling to their whiteness and privilege, and who do not give a flying fuck about the hunger of the rest of the nation.

This is the dark man who fills this whiteness imaginary with a fear and longing so terrifying that they would rather lynch him than actually listen to what he has to say.

Or, at the very least, they will analyse him into submission.

Dookoom and Mutant’s message is exactly what our sanitised pro-profits, anti-poor public needs to hear right now. It heralds a time when the voices and revolutionary calls for reparations, equality and change will be heard loud and clear, over the hysterical fear-based, neurotic and supremacist clamourings of the ruling class.

Just as the playgrounds of my childhood are no longer “whites only”, neither is the public sphere.

Don’t ban Larney, Jou Poes!.

Ban racism instead.