Upstart South African rap group, Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for “The Answer”), has a lot of nerve. Not only is the duo engaged in a war of words with Lady Gaga, but their latest video, “Fatty Boom Boom” has caused quite a stir due it’s depictions of the male-female duo in black paint.

As a black American, blackface in any iteration is extremely racially charged, but I wasn’t sure if the imagery of a coal-black painted body and bright red lips held the same weight in South Africa.

It does.

Aisha Harris of Slate.com writes:

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 toreject white superiority and the images it has thrust upon them.

While Die Antwoord have lambasted Lady Gaga for being out of touch and appropriating performance culture just to make money, many have taking the duo to task for co-opting black and colored culture in South Africa.

After taking Ninja (the guy in the group) to task for borrowing heavily from working-class dialects and Cape Flats’ gang culture, Professor Adam Haupt of the University of Cape Town surmises, “In essence, this is how a privileged, white, English-speaking South African artist is able to ‘go native’ and become a Web 2.0 viral marketing success story in the US and Europe.”

Whether Die Antwoord is attempting to disrespect black South Africans by using such an inflammatory image or is just simply trying too hard to be edgy, one thing is clear: they completely overstepped the line.

Like it or not, for white folks, blackface should always be off-limits.

  • African Mami

    the beginning of the video was hilarious! Oh my! Yap, I agree with your sentiments oo.

  • Mike

    WHAT THE FACK!!!! There have been WAY to many racist events in the past week. AND WHITE FOLK ALWAYS WONDER WHY THEY ARE SUSPECTED AS RACIST!!Black folk we need to put white in there place. Im only 14 and I know this. and wth “Like it or not, for white folks, blackface should always be off-limits.” BLACK FACE SHOULD BE OFF LIMITS FOR ANYONE!!!!! Ughh and sometimes I wish i wasn’t a born a part of this severely ignorant generation and that all of the ignorant black people could go into a cave hibernate a couple hundred year and imurege the superior race……..

  • http://gravatar.com/clnmike Tonton Michel

    Perhaps they were auditioning for a part in the Nina Simone movie with Zoe Saldana?

  • isola

    Sometimes some white people can be so lame and uncreative.

  • i mean

    Shame, I was starting to like them too. Oh wells..

  • Lyn

    WTF. I’m so scared right now. This is not art. this is music made for shock value.

  • http://theogk.wordpress.com Kelly Hawkins

    1. There’s a lot of body paint in this video.
    2. She looks more like an ugly creature than a Black caricature (she’s wearing yellow contacts and still has her blonde, straight hair.)
    3. I think most of their vids have South African themes & symbols that I don’t really understand.
    4. This song is really funky.

  • Kaya

    I see why you say the beg. is funny XD
    It is!

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    works for me….

  • cAIT GREEK

    think you need to take a deeper look at die antwoord, their past, and what they are trying to accomplish. this is not racist. they call attention to things such as racism in their work. its not about being edgy – its about making statements. why do you think they had that guy with progeria in their video enter the ninja? most people reacted to that saying it ‘crossed the line.’ that they were ‘using’ this guy to be edgy. that reaction – that the guy with progeria was being treated as an object by die antword – showed the objectification of those making such claims. whch, of course, was the point. his name was leon, hes an artist and dj from capetown, and good friends of ninja and yolandi. yeah – shes in blackface. but why didnt you mention the fact that dj hi tech in the background is wearing a kkk outfit?

  • kissofdanger

    Je suis d’accord!

  • Kamikak

    … or that she’s also in white face and he’s also in red face..

    I’ve been around the world and found that the rest of the world doesn’t always see things the same way as black Americans do. I’m not offended and the intro is funny.

  • Comment

    White folks are losing their minds… They are so lost &confused til it’s comical. I feel sorry for them.

  • http://gravatar.com/1111 Anonymous

    You understand that her painted body (and face) in the video is intended to represent a panther and not be some sort of blatant racial remark. Leave it to everybody in the Western world to constantly victimize and deconstruct everything into a state of political incorrectness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/X23sexy Wong Chia Chi

    ….Watch Lady Gaga try to bite off this though. LOL

    I should have been offended but it’s hard to take Die Antwoord seriously.

  • http://www.facebook.com/X23sexy Wong Chia Chi

    Yeah, the yellow eyes kind of threw me. But there was a lot of stuff going on visually. I don’t think the group cares about controversy, and people interperting it that way. They have the “Our DJ is black” “We’re not American’s” pass on racism.

  • Anthony

    I would check out what people are saying about Die Antwoord in SouthAfrican media before I say anything. South Africa seems to charting its own course culturally so I don’t want to impose my views.

  • http://gravatar.com/aedivine aedivine

    Oh yeah,because panthers totally have dollar signs for irises,right? troll harder. I don’t know where you’re from,but last I checked it was 2012 ,I’d like to think special effects and make up have advanced and covering yourself with black paint with big red minstrel lips is not exactly how one would do themselves up like a panther in today’s world. Nice try though.

  • http://clutchmagazine blcknnblv

    Last time I checked being a dark skin person is not an insult.intead of wasting my time on those losers I’m more concerned that back kids don’t have access to education and healthcare I’m tired to see that our face is synonym for charity.black women don’t have any protection In those black countries. Maybe it’s Time to use big government.it worked well for whites people beside slavery and Asian People.black people we have to stop been so individualist

  • http://gravatar.com/thisismyoyster Valsays

    I just….can’t.

  • moemiel

    I think that race relations in the US and race relations in SA are different. I, having grown up in SA, has experienced that intro. where ppl think that I have monkeys for pets, live in trees and have seen all kinds of jungle animals. And i dunt think the author of the article actually listened to the lyrics. they r talking about the state of black rapstars (which i see as minstrels to keep white ppl entertained with all those lame songs about ass, yeah Big Sean).

  • Lyss

    and black people do?

  • Perspective

    There is so much going on in that video – I don’t know what to think. Its like one bad acid trip.

  • Anthony

    I have visited South Africa several times, and South Africans tend to be very keen observers of America. In terms of pop culture, America has laid a heavy imprint on RSA, but I think that younger South Africans are consciously seeking to define themselves free of western models. i think this is very true of Black South Africans who have really rejected English as medium for most of their popular expression in favor of tradtional Bantu languages as well as ever evolving new languages that develop so rapidly in South Africa. In a way, I suspect that white South Africans like Die Antwoord may be more keen to maintain a cultural Trans Atlantic connection.

  • JoeB

    This looks more like a form of art and not form of blackface racism that was used in the 20′s. The only person who should be upset about this is Lady Gaga, not black America. I mean come on it was ok for black Americas to put on a white face and make a movie but but let white any race in the world put on a blackface and call it art

  • Anthony

    I think that as far back as the era of Steve Biko and Black Consciousness, Black South Africans have been moving in direction that looks much less to the West and Black America. Earlier in the twentieth century, many educated South Africans expressly modeled themselves after African Americans. A couple of books that talk about this are Botsotsi, a book about pre- Apartheid street gangs, and the biography of Alfred B. Xuma (ANC president who was also Tuskeegee grad Alpha Phi Alpha member.)

  • http://fromthoughtsintowords.blogspot.com/ rkahendi

    There was definitely a lot going on visually. I’m surprised that critics zeroed in on the ministrelsy and nothing else. Very disturbing video. I don’t pretend to understand what it’s about. But I definitely think this group is happy to push the envelope on anything potentially offensive.

    As for the “pass on racism”, for crying out loud, South Africa was under apartheid until 1994. And the Afrikaner minority borrowed ideas from white elites in the Jim Crow South decades ago. Racism is very much alive in South Africa today.

  • ANthony

    I don’t doubt for one second that Die Antwoort have some racial issues. Who doesn’t? I also think that the fact that they made a video parodying Lady Gaga makes my point that they are looking to the West in a way that I think fewer Black South Africans do anymore. I think the biggest mistake African Americans can make when talking about any country is to assume that they have the same racial dymanics that we have.

    South African whites did go to the Library of Congress to research the writing of segregation statutes. They also looked at schools like Tuskeegee when they designed Fort Hare University. Black South Africans have been inspired by Africa Americans going back to AME missionaries to South Africa during the nineteenth century. Heck, if you look in Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa (1916,) he quotes W.E.B. DuBois’ Souls of Black Folk, a book that was still pretty new, and I’m a lot of African Americans had not read it at that time. That said, in some ways, the Black South African experience is more like the Native American experience than the African American experience, and the African American experience is more like the experience of Coloured South Africans. Black South Africans are like Native Americans because they are an indigenous people who were never enslaved in significant numbers, and they were able to keep their languages and cultures. The South African government also put them on reserves much like Native American reservations. Coloureds are the descendants of slaves who lost the langauges (at least those of Khoisan descent lost their languages) and they, along with whites, created a creole culture, much like African Americans have been central in the development of American culture.

    Sorry for rambling, I am teaching a course on South Africa this semester!

  • http://www.facebook.com/X23sexy Wong Chia Chi

    Oh I know that. I just meant that that’s how they would inevitably respond to being accused of racism, pulling those two cards out of the deck. I think they did that when they were accused of homophobia. They were like” Our DJ is gay.”

  • Hellnaw Johnson

    Right. So fight minstrelsy with minstrelsy?? Oh, but it’s not blackface cuz we were dressed in whiteface too… Although history shows no evidence of “whiteface” existing….

    The Music Industry is successfully mind raping everyone these days.

  • Hellnaw Johnson

    That’s because there isn’t a long, dreadful history of blacks oppressing, enslaving, raping, torturing and killing whites and then putting on whiteface to continue to mock and proliferate stereotypes about them through art… WHY DOESN’T ANYONE THAT GRADUATED MIDDLE SCHOOL UNDERSTAND THIS!?!?!?

  • BriA

    Yea true Die Antwoord isn’t rascist and didn’t mean anything by it…. this is the statement from Yolandi
    “We don’t even know what blackface is. Ninja painted my face black for the video as part of our visual idea to illustrate an inter dimensional bridge between the colour filled streets and the pitch black voodoo-room in the video.

    “The pitch black Yo-landi in a street filled with colours around her immediately attracts your eye when jumping from the dark voodoo-room with Ninja and his backup dancers, who are also painted black. It’s an African thing – they wouldn’t understand it,” Yo-landi explained.”

    Also, if people look at their other videos some of the time they’re trying to raise awareness about issues and they do it provocatively… look up – “Evil Boy” by them and you’ll see

  • moemiel

    like i said take the video into context. and also don’t forget that SA race relations and racial identities aren’t the same as US. Things americans find offensive and racial can be completely disregarded by other nations.

  • African Mami

    @ moemiel,

    Please stop the madness!!

  • African Mami

    Good for you Anthony!!! Have fun teaching that class!! YES LAWD.

  • http://anonymous anonymous

    The problem with the analogy is that Native Americans are a minority of the population in the US while in South Africa the ‘natives’ make up most of the population. This is largely due to old world diseases – it’s a stupid accident of history and epidemiology.

    What happened in SA has no direct analogy in the US.

  • Just sayin’

    I think you’re missing the point… the point of the video was an attack on Lady Gaga, that apparently she takes a cultural meme, exploits it for profit, and moves on to the next thing. The video is lampooning all the perceived stereotypes about Africa and bringing to front that when Lady Gaga or many other entertainers, they see just that: painted people, gangs, lions, the dollar signs in everyone’s eyes (as in there’s cash to be made), and everything else the video portrays. And maybe they (Die Antwoord, but Africa in general) don’t appreciate it. I don’t think racism was the motive here is what I’m saying.

  • http://gravatar.com/personasocks pErSoNa

    They actually have a lot of respect for black South Africans. You should watch their video “The Making of Fatty Boom Boom.” It clears things up quite nicely.

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