Die Antwoord is an alternative hip-hop South African band that had its origins in Cape Town. The components are Watkin Tudor Jones also known as Ninja, Anri du Toit also known as Yolandi Vi$$er and the DJ Hi-Tek. With strong visual elements on the videoclips Die Antwoord works in a peculiar way.
Right on the moment we spell the name of the band and take a look at the name of the components, some elements can call our attention. The first element is the double signs replacing the “ss” on the name Visser, written like Vi$$er, making an apology to money, we can consider the idea of this money signs linked to the zef ideology, which in Afrikaner means an idea that you can be poor but stylish and extravagant. The second element is the name of the band Die Antwoord which is also in Afrikaner language and means “the answer”, bringing the idea that they are the answer to something or someone and we can consider the videoclip I fink u freeky an answer of those artists to our society. Working on the concept of semiotics we can clearly see the work that the band have brought to light – or darkness! “The process of semiosis means that we stitch the signs together […] It is similar to the process of metaphor in writing or speech, in which two otherwise unconnected ideas are syntactically linked and thus bleed into each other; each takes on some of the meaning of the other”. (TURNER, 1992, p. 15-16) This is exactly what happens in I fink u freeky, the videoclip was a work from Die Antwoord in partnership with the photographer Roger Ballen. With some disturbing elements they’ve created a scenario that can represent the life of some poor south African white people. In an interview that I found on the virtual magazine called Vice, Ballen talks about the human being condition:
When I started to photograph here [in Africa], I used to visit homes that the parents let their children paint the walls and there were some weird things all over the way. They were really poor or indifferent, people that didn’t had access to education or they were just chaotic. Life was a matter of survival. I used to be in dangerous and violent places, sometimes everything was a matter of life and death. When you are on that kind of place you can think this is craziness. But if you believe in creativity and liberalism why thinking this is craziness? Why is this craziness? Why don’t we let it grow? (BALLEN, free translation).
Working with the white people from South Africa poverty issues, Ballen and Die Antwoord show how this could turn into art. The contrast of what the lyric, performed in English, Afrikaner and Xhosa, says is a strong critical alert, at some point of the lyric they say “Get everything for free like Dr. Dre Beats headphones, when I get home I lounge on my Zef throne. Make my mummy happy cause I get so paid. Making my money rapping over techno rave” while in the videoclip a little boy breaks the headphones and the man lives in a completely poverty which we can interpret as the expensive headphone not having value to them, but even living in poverty they can see art in the worst things or see how those things can make art and a strong visual clip with a strong song. We can identify this phenomenon as a media spectacle, Douglas Kellner makes an interesting reflection about it:
Political and social life is also shaped more and more by media spectacle. Social and political conflicts are increasingly played out on the screens of media culture, which display spectacles like sensational murder cases, terrorist bombings, celebrity and political sex scandals, and the explosive violence of everyday life. Media culture not only takes up expanding moments of contemporary experience, but also provides ever more material for fantasy, dreaming, modeling thought and behavior, and constructing identities. (KELLNER)
Which means that even more the artists are picking everything that builds their lives and creating something that impacts our society and the freakiness of I fink u freeky made it so well.
And you? What have you been doing?