DIE ANTWOORD have immortalized their weirdness with a short story video called Umshini-Wam (directed by of Harmony Korine whose apparently famous for Trash Humpers which i’ve never seen). It’s no Natural Born Killers yet holds similarities in that it’s essentially a love story set in a violent world with the hint of an abusive parent killed. The presentation, however, is altogether different!
Ninja and Yolandi star as slowboat smoking, wheelchair gangsters dressed in oversized, cartoon pajamas accompanied by machine guns. Most of the tale is set in an empty suburbia and a forest, enforcing the theme of them being on the fringe of society. When they do interact with it, it’s to steal motorized wheelchairs and holographic hubcaps which is the film’s metaphor for pimped-up wheels and the pursuit of things to get respect (yeah, very hip-hop). When they park on the bridge and stare at the cars racing through the night below, there’s an incredible loneliness which is further underlined by their side-by-side wheelchairs that are emblazoned with personalized, motor vehicle license plates stating “FOK OF” [Fuck Off) and “WAT KYK JOU” (What are you looking at?). As society has rejected them, so they have rejected it. Hip-hop goes punk.
On the surface, it’d be easy to mistake this as a weird present for stupifying youth culture. Critics will undoubtedly be divided. Intellectually, at first, i stood in no man’s land but, emotionally, i was absorbed.
Yolandi’s weird sing-a-long raps are the first attraction. They serve as a broken soundtrack and hint at a broken story that has gone before. One repeated refrain is, “I’m old enough to bleed, I’m old enough to breed, old enough to crack a brick in your mouth while you sleep.” Tie that together with her questioning (rather than stating) that, “I think that God’s forgiven us?” and Ninja reassuring her that “Ja, God’s a good guy…everything’s gonna be fine,” i’m lead to conclude that she was abused by her father whom they killed.
There’s a bigger message too.
I don’t vote for DIE ANTWOORD being the rapping and visual representation of South Africa they claim to be. Sure, i agree with Ninja having previously said in the press that South Africa is not the Rainbow Nation the world is lead to believe. South Africa is a violent place! Our farmers are killed, drivers hijacked, ATMs blown up, poor robbed and our women raped into statistics that claim some fucked-up crown in our increasingly fucked up world. But the “zef side” of life does not represent the common people. We are not third-class humans living in the hood. And South Africa also has much beauty to offer.
I’m not intending indignation but believe it’s important to see the whole picture considering that DIE ANTWOORD only represents South Africa’s darkness. I respect them giving a spotlight on certain topics (such as tribal circumcision in their song ‘Evil Boy’). Here, it’s the title of the video, Umshini-Wam, and the opening words, “Bring me my machine gun,” which refers to the song that is loved and hated in South Africa. Previously, Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC during apartheid, used ‘Umshini Wami’ as a revolutionary song. It’s considered by many white people to be a threat, an ultimate form of racism that is ultimately dire. Those “white feelings” are not considered in the “Rainbow Nation” of modern South Africa which finds some black politicians singing it, including the President, Jacob Zuma.
Within the context of the video, it’s emphasized by parody. Ninja and Yolandi encounter an Afrikaner, wheelchair dealer who states, “You’re a waste of a white skin. You’re like white kaffirs.” The latter is rammed home with the sub-title, “You’re like white niggers.” It’s ironic that this socially incorrect band uses parody to make a politically incorrect statement correct. Or maybe i’m digging too deep and this is just DIE ANTWOORD ensuring that they appeal to a commercial market who think they are outsiders i.e. we are white trash, we are niggers, we are anything that the world casts out or fucks over.
Nevertheless, Umshini-Wam is fascinating distubia. It’ll make you want to get stoned. Watch it!
PS: In Mahala, an ezine that intellects my inbox weekly, Brandon Edmonds wrote a terrific article critisizing DIE ANTWOORD because of this video. It’s a damn fine read even if mine is a counter-argument. Read it HERE for a bit of yin and yang in your day.