So Die Antwoord’s new music video has been pulled due to copyright issues from Jane Alexander, re. the appropriation of her Butcher Boys. Of course the general response to this is that copyright is really last century anyway, political correctness is really 2000-and-late and Alexander should just chill out (I mean it’s not like she invented people with horns right?).
These sentiments are easy. So is liking Die Antwoord.
I haven’t had time to really formulate an argument about this yet (though I will over the week), but what really strikes me about this whole issue is that South Africa is in a swift and perhaps irreversible process of forgetting. Hey, Apartheid JUST HAPPENED. Put down your IPAD’s, stop thinking about your cutesy fonts and your First World Problem memes and think about whether we (and who is WE anyway, hipster artschool white kids. Hey, I don’t even go there anymore) have the right to be all postmodernly pastiching this iconic image of Apartheid oppression. And sending this (mis)imagining out into the world.
Jane Alexander’s Butcher Boys is a pivotal work in the history of resistance art and of Apartheid – indeed THE ‘seminal’ (I hate this word, but am in a rush, so I apologise) anti-government work to come out of the Apartheid era. The work’s importance relates to this moment, this protest and as such holds considerable cultural, historical and political capital. This is not a Banksy photo-printed on canvas we’re talking about, it’s the fucking Butcher Boys.
Die Antwoord exist only through (Others’) cultural and artistic sampling and (mis)representation – sure, this is what makes them good, if they are. Sure, ‘originality’ is no longer a valid way of judging any kind of production, and in the end I am not even sure that Alexander is in the right here, I tend to side against the author in these kind of arguments. (That said ,one can empathise with her concerns that audiences will assume her collusion in this use of her work: all of Die Antwoord’s music videos look like Roger Ballen photographs, but that’s through collaboration, hence this borrowing of another South African artist may well be assumed to be with her permission.)
What I’m more interested in, though, is not Alexander trying to control her authorial rights, but what I read more as her desperate attempt to try and retain some meaning, some memory, some history within the South African contemporary popular cultural landscape.
I’m also interested in asking why Waddy (Sorry ‘Ninja’) and Yolandi want to place themselves in the position of white Apartheid oppressors. It’s a pretty big deal.
Below I’ve posted another example – an image that went viral around youth day last year, next to the Hector Pieterson June 16 image it ‘parodies’. Sure, this is a far mores obvious example of the forgetting I am talking about (LOL) than Die Antwoord’s pastiche, but I would argue that they are both symptoms of the same sickness, of not wanting to remember, not caring, moving past too quickly, a terminal culture of forgetting.