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Kelela's 'Take Me Apart' Is A Sci-Fi Saga On Black Women's Sexuality & Power

In her new album, Kelela creates a moment that is afrofuturistic, progressive and reaffirms the mysticism of black women.

Black women are conjured from the earth, seasoned by the sunlight and marinated by the magic of a million fore mothers. We are enchanted beings, grounded by the roots of our tresses and complexions that mimic the earth's skin.

Despite harboring these energies, we have endured oppressive and discriminatory social and cultural ideologies that attempt to crush our spirits. Misogynoir, or the distinct intersection of racism and sexism that we face, impacts our self expression, our ideas of beauty, self worth and sexual liberation. Even when we break away from it, it persists.


Kelela, an Ethiopian-American black woman, is all too familiar with the complexities of carrying this intersectional identity in a nation that devalues black people and women. Her journey to finding and expressing her voice, creating music she believes in and loving and lusting unapologetically has provided her the ability to compose sensational, rapturous lullabies. Every black woman knows they are not from this world; that this world cannot handle her.

I pondered these realities while listening to Kelela's Take Me Apart. The title itself is both confrontational and commanding. On one hand, it suggests the several ways our society tears black women apart, whether through direct violences and micro-aggressions or indirect cultural norms that seeps into our mentalities. On the other hand, she requests to be dismantled, to be shred to pieces, through sexual ecstasy or through the patience and delicacy needed to acknowledge her emotional density. I have been torn apart by lovers in ways that have left me broken and deformed, but rarely in ways that have made me feel seen, touched, changed.



Kelela defies convention. With thick locs bluntly carved into an asymmetrical bob, speckled with bulbous bubbles or gold hoops; a shaved side of her head; and a sensual, psychedelic fashion sense including baggy fits, bold colors and sexy, skin tight threads, Kelela is not what people expect of a black girl. She also doesn't fit into the narrow conventions of stereotypical R&B, a genre that black singers are expected to submit to. She steps outside of the box and stares at it seductively, before deciding she wants something better.

Take Me Apart showcases the depth of her personality and challenges the preconceived notions of black feminine sexuality, romance and independence. What makes this project even more captivating is its articulation. Fusing sci-fi instrumentals, otherworldly melodies and superhuman vulnerability, Kelela creates a moment that is afrofuturistic, progressive and reaffirms the mysticism of black women.

It took Kelela 6 years to complete this album. It outlines the evolution of three crucial relationships: first with a tumultuous lover ("Frontline," "Waitin," "Take Me Apart," "Enough") the next with herself, where she explores her being and, loosely, others ("Jupiter," "LMK"), and the last with a new, hopeful romance ("Truth or Dare," "S.O.S."). These narratives are expressed through a fantastical escape where whispery echoes, airy synths and electronic beats are the means of communication. Her planet is one where movement, sensuality, mystery and vulnerability are the ways of life.

However, the album transcends an intergalactic journey through relationships and sexual experiences: Kelela declares uninhibited desires, demands the most out of her lovers and confronts toxic relationships. In some moments, she is remarkably candid about her sexual and romantic expectations: "Don't say you're in love until you learn to take me apart," she warns in the title track. On "S.O.S.," she accurately describes how much more stimulating it can be to play with a partner instead of playing with yourself: "I could touch myself, but it's not the same if you could come and help me out."


Kelela 'Take Me Apart' album cover.

Other times, it isn't straightforward requests she sends—it's heartbreaking confessions of unfulfillment and disappointment. "Despite what you took, I miss what you gave," she sings in "Waitin," a deceptively upbeat tune describing her complicated relationship with a previous lover. The opening lines of "Better" are even more real: they describe the moment you realize that getting back with your ex was a bad idea. "We got back and it's not the same, and I'm afraid to say it out loud."

It's this candid courage that makes Take Me Apart infectious and emancipating all at once. I'm inspired to continue going after who I want, telling potential lovers how I feel, to be forward, fierce and flirtatious, without worrying about the constricting gender norms that try to shackle our actions and decisions. By knowing oneself, and being true to our emotions and expectations—both within and with others—we can lead lives based on freedom, instead of fear.

Kelela's hyper-awareness of herself, her influence and her position in the universe propels her music into distant yet familiar landscapes. I adore "Jupiter," a brief snippet that encapsulates the freedom in space and solitude, the grace in building our own personal planets. "Find in me, find a love that oozes," she breathes, reminding us that love of self reigns above romantic connection. I imagined what power we could manifest if we succumbed to our transformative energies, created the worlds we wanted to live in, and stepped into them like the sultry goddesses we are.

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Illustration by Simone Martin-Newberry

A 15-Year-Old Nigerian Student Lends Her Voice to the Fight Against Boko Haram With Graphic Novel

Aisha Mustapha's graphic novel about her experiences under Boko Haram was published today for International Day of the Girl.

Aisha Mustapha, is a 15-year-old student from Nigeria, using her voice to tell her own story. The young writer recently penned a graphic novel about her experience fleeing Boko Haram, locating her family and trying to further her education. It's a heavy subject, obviously, but with her graphic novel, she offers a voice for young people directly affected by the crisis in Northern Nigeria.

The book was published today to mark the International Day of the Girl, a day established by the United Nations in 2011 to "highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights."

Aisha's talent for storytelling has previously been highlighted in Assembly, a by-girls-for-girls publication by the Malala Fund that brought Aisha's graphic novel to life, premiering it today in conjunction with International Day of the GIrl. Tess Thomas, Assembly's editor, elaborated on the purpose of the publication saying, "We believe in the power of girls' voices to generate change. Our publication provides girls with a platform so their opinions and experiences can inform decisions about their futures."

Aisha's words were illustrated by artist Simone Martin-Newberry, who had this to say about the process of creating the visuals for the graphic novel: "I was very moved by Aisha's story, and really wanted to treat it sensitively and do it justice with my illustrations. My aim was to capture the real emotions and actions of the story, but also keep my artwork bright and colorful and full of pattern, to help reflect Aisha's amazing youthful spirit."

Check out some excerpts from the piece below and head here to read it in full.
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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 10: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on stage during a campaign rally at the Target Center on October 10, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images).

Trump Attacks Ilhan Omar & Minnesota's Somali Community In Disparaging Anti-Immigrant Campaign Speech

Trump stepped up his demonization of Minnesota's Somali community in front of a braying crowd of MAGA-hat wearing supporters.

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota and—in typical white-nationalist fashion—used a significant portion of his speech to disparage the local Somali community, and once again take shots at the state's Somali-born Representative Ilhan Omar.

"As you know for many years leaders in Washington brought large numbers of refugees to your state from Somalia without considering the impact on schools and communities and taxpayers," said Trump, echoing the countless anti-immigrant statements he's made in the past. "You should be able to decide what is best for your own cities and for your own neighborhoods and that's what you have the right to do right now, and believe me, no other president would be doing that," he added as his supporters cheered him on.

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Keith Roper/Flickr Creative Commons

Kais Saied is Set to Become Tunisia's Next President

While official results have not been published, the retired academic reportedly secured 76 percent of the votes according to the exit polls.

Last week, Tunisia held its legislative elections, according to reports by Aljazeera. The Ennahda Movement obtained 52 seats in the 217-member parliament while the Karoui's Heart of Tunisia party came second, with 38 seats. While the presidential elections were only scheduled to take place in November, they were pushed forward after the country's first democratically-elected president, Beji Caid Essebsi, passed away in July. Two independent candidates, media mogul Nabil Karoui and retired law professor Kais Saied, have been facing off in the presidential runoff. However, recent exit polls suggest that Saied secured between 72 and 77 percent of the vote.

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South African Designer Athi Patra Ruga is Collaborating with Dior

The designer has produced two bags for the international fashion label's Lady Art Project.

Athi Patra Ruga is an Umtata-born South African visual artist who explores sexuality, HIV/AIDS, queerness and African culture in fashion, performance and contemporary art. Recently, he joined fellow designers Rina Banerjee, Maria Nepomuceno, Mickalene Thomas, Jia Lee and Eduardo Terrazas in designing bags for the fourth installment of Dior's Lady Art Project which sees designers from all over the world re-imagining the fashion label's iconic Lady Dior bag. This year's group made use of techniques including embroidery, patchwork, quilting and printing, which experts have suggested may symbolize the resurgence of textile art in couture.

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