Writer Aisha Harris examines a disturbing video from a (White) South African rap group, reminding us that blackface is too delicate of a topic to be handled by amateurs.
Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for “The Answer”), a South African rap-rave duo, have just released a new video for their song “Fatty Boom Boom.” Among the many elements of the NSFW production is a get-up donned by one of the two that looks an awful lot like blackface. “Die Antwoord totally wear blackface in their new video,” writes Tom Breihan at Stereogum. “Awesome, right? That’s really exactly what we all needed to see today.” Breihan is attempting, I think, to convey his general puzzlement: The duo, Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, who are white, are known as provocateurs. So is this really blackface, and should we be bothered by it?
Yes and yes. While the U.S. and South Africa each have quite distinct and complicated histories when it comes to race relations, blackface has been a troubling issue for both countries. The culture of blackface and minstrelsy in South Africa dates to the 1860s, when English settlers arrived. Since that time, a minstrel festival, first known as the Coon Carnival, has been held in Cape Town every year. The Kaapse Klopse, as it is now known, primarily features the working class coloured population of South Africa these days, participating in a subversive act meant to reject white superiority and the images it has thrust upon them.