Here’s an excerpt from Luso Mnthali’s post on Rick Ross’ recent video in Lagos, Nigeria and Solange’s newly released music video shot in Cape Town, South Africa:
Solange Knowles recently dropped her own made-in-Africa video for the lovely song Losing You. Which only made some ask why she magpied two different experiences from Africa. If the Rick Ross video feels too raw, the Solange video feels too soft. Except for the imported glamour or imported aspirational glamour of Les Sapeurs, that really is how townships in South Africa, in Cape Town in particular, can look. But the video feels softer, and without the glaring, staring edges that I’ve experienced when in Gugulethu.
Perhaps I’ve over-thought this, and not come to the realization that yes, even townships have soft edges. More fool me. And when we talk about poverty porn? Puh-lease. I might ruffle a few feathers when I declare that even South Africans participate in it right on their own doorstep. There are those whites who go to Mzoli’s in Gugs (affectionate name for Gugulethu) and will plead with a cameramen recording a stint for German TV that they “don’t usually” go there. So if you’re slumming it, what does that make what you’re doing? All those ‘township tours’ on offer in Soweto and in Cape Town’s townships. What are we, as foreigners, or people from Gauteng and other parts of the country, doing there jolling if we aren’t actually from and of the townships? We’re slumming it and being hipster cool about our knowledge of the hip, ‘business’ parts of the townships. And our friends who live there? We’ve never been to their homes, trust. And if we have, we were scared. Admit it. When my classmates in law school would talk about Soshanguve, Mabopane and Mamelodi my eyes glazed over. They might as well have been talking about different countries. And that is precisely what townships were meant to be. A person living in Higgovale is in a different country of circumstance from one living in Gugs, Philippi or Khayelitsha. They’re all Cape Town, but many different Cape Towns. And that is the problem with us Africans screaming blue murder when other people come take a look-see and make their art here, whatever the merits or lack thereof.
I think both these videos, at least to me, raise some questions about not just aesthetics, but also our interactions with our brothers and sisters not just across the ocean, but right here at home. When folk in the Diaspora choose to shoot videos in two of the powerhouses of Africa but lift elements of this Africa that we the privileged are not too keen on, what are we saying? Some articles have asked similar questions about the Rick Ross video, and I’m appreciative of them. Some commented on a possible lack of originality in the Solange Knowles one, while others just talked about the aesthetics of her Cape Town love affair. Either way, the soft focus and certain features of Solange’s video made me think ‘Cape Town but not really Cape Town’. The kids, the barber and the seated gogos (grannies) made me think oh there it is, the place I know. Her entourage were all hipster kids, and that’s fine too. The poverty in question? Well, it’s pretty much in evidence by location, but not a constant slamming in your face which Rick Ross does with his effort.