/ 24 November 2014

Rapper Tumi Molekane – ‘I knew the video would offend people’

Following Simphiwe Dana's scathing tweets about a photo of the star holding women by hair leashes
Following Simphiwe Dana's scathing tweets about a photo of the star holding women by hair leashes

Twitter came to a near stop on Sunday when an image of rapper Tumi Molekane holding leashes of two women down on all fours surfaced on the social network. Singer Simphiwe Dana tweeted the image with the words: “Not cool bruh, and you know I love you. Not cool at all.” 

In an email response to the Mail & Guardian on Monday, the Motif Records founder said: “We released this video over three weeks ago, we worked with a company called Channel Thirty for the behind the scenes images. Simphiwe got a hold of one such image ‘the women on leashes’ and tweeted ‘not cool’ to me.”

The image is a shot from the poet-rapper’s video In Defence of My Art featuring musicians Reason and Ziyon – directed by Kyle Lewis. This is not the first time the director features women in chains. He shot the Jamali music video, which features the band members in shackles and later a caption that reads: “last bids for these exotic beauties”.

Dana cited patriarchy and violence among some of the reasons for her issues with the image.

“I was shocked that someone who claimed to respect me so much had to be forced by myself to watch the video in question before we discussed it. I told her it was part of a music video and she insisted on focusing on the one image,” Molekane said in the statement. 

‘We have become desensitised
The soul-jazz singer tweeted Molekane: ” … putting women on leashes and on all fours? I find it pretty hard to excuse it, extremely”. While touching on misogyny, Dana said: “We have become desensitised to the misogynoir [anti-black misogyny] in hip hop. Since the days of Snoop [Dogg].” 

In the email, Molekane said: “This video represents battles my people and family have gone through and are still going through, Kyle Lewis had a vision and I thought it incredibly powerful. I knew it would offend people … I wanted to tell a story, and I felt I did. I know the images are violent, I know the reflect an oppression, that’s exactly the the story I am telling. You might feel I failed fine, but don’t go calling someone a sexist and misogynist for telling one story out of a thousand I have told.”

Responding to her patriarchy references, the Hello Hello Kitty rapper tweeted: “I was raised in a patriarchal system but raised to reject and challenge the system, my art reflects this battle consistently.” In defence of his video, the Tanzanian-born star also took to the social network to add, “I don’t see it as perpetuating violence but telling the story of violence. Matriarchy! Raised by a soldier and fierce feminist”. The tweet elicited the following responses:

Bill Cosby tweet
Later Molekane involved comedian Bill Cosby who has recently been in the news over a growing number of accusations from women who say the Cosby show star sexually assaulted them. “Now please @simphiwedana can you go after Bill Cosby now,” he tweeted.

Molekane then apologised to the singer and deleted the tweet. “I was speaking to a friend of mine here,” Molekane said to the M&G about the Cosby tweet to Dana. Twitter “is indeed a public platform but I was making a crass joke to my friend Simphiwe and she didn’t think it funny, so I apologised but her … this is how it would have played out in a private space”.

“I love that the exchange happened and I think it is important.” Molekane reflected. “However, it may [have] sparked more conversations around accountability, sexual violence, sex power dynamics and art.” 

Others weighed in on the conversation too:

*An earlier version of this story contained a tweet from Dana, which was incorrectly attributed to the image of Molekane.