20 June 2018
I have been a longstanding fan of YoungstaCPT, and while he is severely underrated - it is no reflection of his talent. He has, in recent years, gained more acknowledgement in the South African entertainment industry but suffice to say it isn't nearly enough. I say this given the fact that he has released well over 20EP's. It would be mere speculation to try and figure out why, given how dynamic he is as an artist. It is this dynamism which encouraged me to write about him in a visual studies assignment I received earlier this term. It was his dynamism as well as the overwhelming realization that colonial erasure has resulted in my being able to study at university for well over two years and not learning about any coloured contributors in academia - excluding sporadic contributions to some of my textbooks. I cannot help but feel that the burden of re-creating a tarnished and exploited coloured archive of literature will fall upon the shoulders of our generation. In any case, below is the essay I submitted to my lecturer in perhaps one of the whitest universities in the country - on the above music video.
“If one agrees with the notion of culture as a social construct, closely allied to notions of identity and ethnicity, it must be assumed that visual representations of a community will attempt to reflect a culture which has been constructed to re-assess community life, assign new meanings and possibly subvert dominant representations of the past.” (Dunnhauser, 2006:53). It can be asserted that post-colonial discourse actively interrogates the adverse effects of subversive colonial anxieties regarding the construction of racialised, monoethnic identities. Similarly, the emergence and active resurgence of self-asserted and reclaimed racial identities. As well as the different ways in which these “new” identities confront and deconstruct the colonial imaginings of race, ethnicity and culture previously re-enforced through stereotypes as well as institutionally perpetuated racial dogmatism. A discourse which is specifically rife in coloured communities given the on-going discourse regaurding ‘the coloured identity’ – which undeniably destabilized the Apartheid regimes idyllic demarcation of race, ethnicity, and hegemonic cultural identities. It is in this ideological landscape in which YoungstaCPT has gained such prominence on the hip-hop and rap scene alike. This essay plans to interrogate the performance of coloured identity, as well as its wide-spread affiliation to (and the importance of) Islam in the Cape Coloured community. This will be done with a visual analysis of “Arabian Gang$ster” by YoungstaCPT in (collaboration with Maloon TheBoom).
The name of the music video can be read as a political and ethnic signpost signifying to the viewer not only an affiliation with Arabic heritage, but a subversion of the widespread stereotypical narratives of coloured people being gangsters. This can be read as a subversion of the stereotypical narrative (of gangsterism) as this stereotype is not only reclaimed but re- introduced to the viewer in a semi-didactic capacity. Semi-didactic as the lyrics in combination with the imagery create a visual vocabulary detailing the existence of the coloured diaspora and the ways in which this heritage has been subject to erasure and inaccurate stereotypes in colonial discourse.
The music video was filmed in Sweden which is not blatantly apparent from any of the visual markings in the music video. It can be asserted that this speaks to the power of localism as well as indigenous languages (used, primarily as slang in this video) to ground visual narratives. Dunnhauser asserts that the Apartheid regime “has affected the ways in which Black communities express, reproduce and disseminate their cultures – the process of cultural production has become localized and specific. Rather than an affiliation to a broader imagined group, individuals are more likely to align themselves culturally with their neighborhood, province, or city” (Dunnhauser,2006:33), a phenomenon which YoungstaCPT is infamous for. His stage name can bare testament to the prevalence of localism and spotlighting issues faced by coloured people in impoverished Western Cape communities.
YoungstaCPT has, on numerous occasions, expressed the urgency and need to represent the coloured community in explicit and implied terms, through the insistence on the ‘CPT’ at the end of his name being used properly (CPT serving as the geographical abbreviation for Cape Town). Essentially signposting and highlighting the importance of localism not only to his culture but ensuring that neo-erasure of coloured identity does not reoccur with his cultural production of semi-mainstream hip-hop (Duncan, 2016). Subsequently, it can be asserted that YoungstaCPT’s performance of coloured identity is so articulate in this visual repertoire that it is perfectly able to: firstly, be able to translate on an international platform as foreign, and secondly delude local viewers into reading the visual piece as being located in South Africa. Both of which demonstrate a resistance to the prevailing demarcation of the coloured identity as mythical or unintelligible to the process of decolonization- given the ethnic-multitudinous of the coloured identity. The establishment of this narrative on an international platform undermines that viewers pre-established notions of geographical centrality needing to be present in order for a music video to be marked as South African. If anything, it can be suggested that this music video actively serves as resistance as the hegemonic understanding of ‘colouredness’ as being dependent on its approximation to whiteness and the ways in which whiteness is believed to inform coloured expressionism.
Figure 1, presents the viewer with a close-up image of YoungstaCPTCPT in a traditional Muslim prayer cap, with his eyes closed. This shot is uncharacteristically intimate for an opening of a music video, made more so as the viewer is made aware of his (assumed) practice of Islam. It is well known that Christianity was used as a weapon of colonial imperialism, with “far reaching consequences on westernization of black personality and image spiritually, socially and culturally. These combined in undermining African resistance to European exploitation, and paved unhindered road for European colonialism and imperialism” (Anaele, 2014:78). As such, many communities of colour allied for this (and other) reason to alternative religions – such as Islam. The demonstration of YoungstaCPT as a public figure, in an Islamic prayer cap pays homage not only to the prominent Muslim, Cape Malay community in Cape Town but perhaps an inadvertent rebellion against the presentations of a religious Christian homogeny. This assertion can be made as most main-stream South African rappers (i.e. AKA, Casper Nyovest, Da Les) are all Christian or practice/perform Christianity identities in their music. It is also noteworthy, that the title of the song in combination with a performance of an Islamic identity, may serve as a satirical comment on the assumptions internationally regarding the portrayed violence of Muslims, specifically Muslim males.
The performance of a Muslim identity and the pre-supposed patriarchy which is often projected onto the religion is challenged in Figure Two, and throughout the music video. Figure Two presents the viewer with a long shot of YoungstaCPT, focalized in the frame given his placement in the center. This shot is subtly challenging bias about Islam is the visually gender neutral placement of the Hijab on the background actors.
While not in the foreground, the actors cannot immediately be assigned a gender – which is generally the case as womxn stereotypically wear hijab. This can also be read as a confrontation against:
The choice of womxn in democratic countries to wear hijab freely, not as a result of unjust coercion
(Tentatively) the dangerous of assuming and assigning bodies gender according to clothing choice. Perhaps even ridiculing the concept of gendered
It is asserted by Mohammed Adhikari that racial identities in South Africa were institutionally perpetuated in order to gate keep racial essentialism which was central to the Apartheid political project. This systemically entrenched gate-keeping has resulted in “racial stereotyping [becoming] became entrenched in public discourse and in popular culture as never before. The Coloured people of South Africa, being a racially defined and marginal minority, were particularly vulnerable to negative stereotyping within a popular mind-set increasingly informed by racist and segregationist assumptions” (Adhikari :2006:142). Adhikari further comments on the prevalence of coloured identities being presented as solely a result of colonially enabled miscegenation, further serving to undermine “the ethnogenesis of Coloureds as a distinct ethnicity and sub-culture in South Africa” (Adhikari :2016:2) and maintain the idea of racial purity in other racial groups in South Africa.
One such stereotype, made closely synonymous with coloured people is that of gangsterism, which YoungstaCPT comments on throughout the music video both lyrically and visually. Figure 3, presents the only still in the music video which can be identified as South African. This is made known to the viewer as the still reads “PAGAD”. PAGAD, serves as an acronym for People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) (South African History Organization:2011). The group developed in response to lack of government intervention to the onslaught of drugs as well as gangsterism on the Cape Flats. The use of Figure 3 in the music video may be an ode to the desperation of civilians living on the cape flat, made evident by the invention of a vigilante group. However, it may also be a comment on the self-sufficiency of the coloured community. It is, perhaps also a challenge against the prejudices presented in narratives around gangsterism and its sole perpetuation of unqualified violence. The inclusion of this shot is a perfect example of the display of “Brazin’z re- representational theory.” (Carroll 1996:37). The theory essentially asserts that “the film image or photograph is directly produced or is caused to be by its referent.” (Carroll 1996:37). The referent in this instance being YoungstaCPT’s sign-post of Cape Town.
The Figures are as follows :
[ There is more content after the Cited Sources- I am just of the firm belief that credit must be given where credit is due... also plagiarism is no joke]
Adhikari, M. 2006. ‘God Made the White Man, God Made the Black Man…’: Popular Racial Stereotyping of Coloured People in Apartheid South Africa. South African Historical Journal. 55(1): 142.
Anaele, C. 2014. Slave-Trade, Christianity and European Imperialism In Nigeria: A Study of the Ante and Post Abolition Periods. Canadian Social Science.
Carroll, N. 1996. Theorizing the Moving Image. London: Cambridge.
Dunnhauser,P. 2006. Representation of Coloured Identity in Selected Visual Texts about Westbury, Johannesburg. A research report submitted to the Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts (Dramatic Art).
Duncan, G. 2016. YoungstaCPTCPT: Cape Town’s International Pied Piper. Avaliable:http://www.capetownlately.co.za/YoungstaCPTcpt-cape-towns- international-pied-piper/ [2018, March 18]
Palmer, T.F. 2016. Racialism and Representation in the Rainbow Nation. SAGE open. 6(4):2.
South African History Organization.2011. [O]. Available: http://www.sahistory.org.za/organisations/people-against-gangsterism-and- drugs [2018, March 20]
So, some of my favourite songs by him are as follows :
I think we all contribute to the progression of our respective culture by the way we carry ourselves.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust - What will your contribution say about you?