News

Bodies That Matter: The African History of Naked Protest, FEMEN Aside

FEMEN continues to gain more visibility for naked protest, yet many fail to recognize that naked protest has long been a strategy in African history.


If you're unfamiliar, FEMEN is a Ukraine based feminist group with chapters throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. FEMEN has been making waves for the past year now, through their chosen method of activism: naked protest. While the method has gained popularity and visibility in the mainstream, it has also been problematized by feminists in other parts of the world. This past November, when Egyptian feminist Alia al-Mahdy posted photos of her naked body wrapped in an Egyptian flag, there was a huge debate over the use of the method as an example of European feminists imposing their values onto Third world feminism/Islamic feminism. Sara Mourad has already provided an excellent analysis contextualizing the debates surrounding Alia's naked body, which is in many ways applicable to the latest manifestation of FEMEN's tactics in Tunisia, via the naked body of Amina Tyler. Tyler's naked protest has been the topic du jour particularly because of the call for her to be punished with at least 80 to 100 lashes, or actually death by stoning.

Maroud highlights how many women of color feminists have taken issue with what they consider a clear example of imperial feminism, through importing western understandings of nakedness onto Islamic notions of the body; I want to draw attention to what continues to be overlooked. It seems that no one is emphasizing the fact that these white feminists do not own the method they have chosen to declare as their call to arms against patriarchy. In short, before we discuss how FEMEN is engaging in somewhat problematic dynamics with women of color feminists throughout the Middle East & North Africa region, we should recall that their chosen method of protest is certainly not exclusive to white European feminists. Have we forgotten the naked protests that have taken place in Nigeria, Liberia, Kenya and Uganda for over a century? While the conversations surrounding FEMEN's growing presence in the MENA region certainly highlight valid arguments about Western feminism and how it relates to other notions of feminism/womanism throughout the globe, what I find to be the greatest example of liberalism is that they've managed to convince us that they own the method and in some ways, how we understand our own nakedness.

What is arguably one of the most powerful manifestations of naked protest over the past century took place during the Women's War in Eastern Nigeria (1929) and was a significant manifestation of black women's resistance to colonial authority and racialised Western notions of the body. The significance of the history of this method continues to manifest in naked protests, which have taken place in West, East, and Southern Africa as recently as December 2012. Yet these black women and their unyielding fearlessness to literally put their bodies on the line and stand against multinational oil companies, corruption, and violence, receive little visibility in the mainstream. Sometimes, even in their own countries, their commitment and strength is dismissed as foolish, unfruitful and futile.

In this era of social media and new technologies FEMEN's tactics are able to gain notice through their chosen mediums of expression and well connected network. The issue is not so much that they use naked protest as a method, but rather that we continue to confuse our disapproval of how their tactics mimic imperial feminism with the method itself. In other words, FEMEN's expansion into the Middle East and North Africa is likely a glaring example of imperial feminism, but not because of the method. Women of color, specifically throughout the continent have been using naked protest and genital cursing for centuries to express their intolerance and perform resistance. FEMEN's naked bodies aren't the only bodies making waves- while their tactics are highly visible, they have yet to shut down an entire oil facility for seven days with the simple threat of disrobing.

African History Story by OKA Contributor: Maryam Kazeem

Popular

MFE Pays Tribute to PRO on The Second Anniversary of The South African Hip-Hop Legend’s Passing

Artists signed to PRO's label MFE commemorate him in new tribute song 'MAWE: VITA24' on the second anniversary of the South African hip-hop pioneer's passing.

One aspect of PRO(Kid)'s legacy that rarely gets mentioned is his label. As head of Money First Entertainment, the label he founded, PRO played roles in the trajectories and craft of artists such as Red Button, Captian_fs, sFs 5 Star and TeePee among others. The former three were official members of MFE with Red Button, PRO's protégé, being the first artist to be signed to the label.

PRO who passed away exactly two years ago today gets a tribute from his label's roster. "MAWE: VITA24" is a remix of an sFs 5 Star song titled "Mawe" that the artist released in February.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

The 10 Best PRO(Kid) Songs Ranked

SPeeka ranks his favourite PRO songs of all time on the second anniversary of the kasi rap legend's death.

Editor's note: Today (August 8) marks the second year since the passing of PRO (who was known as Pro Kid earlier in his career). The legendary South African lyricist is credited with being the father of kasi rap—a subgenre of South African hip-hop characterised by a heavy use of punchlines and storytelling in mostly IsiZulu and tsotsitaal (Gauteng township slang).

Pro inspired a generation of kasi rappers and his impact and influence are still felt to this day. The prolific rapper's catalog consists of two classics namely Heads & Tales and Dankie San which sit comfortably alongside other notable releases.

We reached out to the South African hip-hop producer and kasi rap aficionado SPeeka to rank PRO's best 10 songs from good to great.

"Linda PRO Mkhize left a permanent mark in our hearts," says SPeeka. "I for one will continue to appreciate his artistry and celebrate his legacy by simply pressing play on the countless gems he contributed to the culture we all love. Dankie san!"

Below is the list compiled and broken down by SPeeka himself.

10. “Pressa, Pusha, Phanda”

Producer: Luddha

Album: Snakes & Ladders (2009)

"Ngiya understand mawuz'shay' isfuba, i-pride uyigwine wrong."

One of PRO's greatest strengths was his ability to use his gift to uplift listeners. It's widely known he was lethal lyrically. He was a product of an unforgiving underground rap scene that helped shape his skills as an MC. This track, which is from his fourth studio album Snakes & Ladders (2009), is just another shining example of how he was able to use those same raw skills to deliver a message of hope and encouragement over a beautifully crafted instrumental. It resonated with all of us and will forever remain a go-to joint for young adults from the hood who tend to feel like the hustle of trying to get your life together is too much.

9. “Sekele”

Producer: Dome

Album: Snakes & Ladders (2009)

"Ngiku PSL, ukuMvela and i-bench usal'freyifa/ Ngiya pensela, I touch lines njalo mang'skryf-a."
Being the Soccer crazy country that South Africa is, it was only natural that everyone became overly excited at the realisation that in 2010 SA would be hosting the FIFA World Cup. Just a year prior to the football legends coming over to the country for what became one of the best FIFA World Cup events ever, the Number 1 Soweto boy released the first single from his fourth studio album (Snakes & Ladders) titled "Sekele". The Dome-produced banger had a football theme, with clever wordplay and punchlines that fans had grown to appreciate PRO for. One could argue that the excitement for the tournament grew when PRO dropped this gem – the kasi rap fraternity would probably agree with me.

8. “Umfutho” (featuring Brickz)

Producer: Spikiri

Album: Continua (2012)

"Nom'ungas'bheka wena, angek'usenze lutho!"
PRO's love for kwaito music was evident in his brand of hip-hop music. He wore that love on his sleeve proudly. One can only imagine the excitement he must have felt when he was in the studio with the legendary kwaito pioneer Spikiri cooking up this joint. A rapper jumping on a straight-up kwaito beat was unheard of in the early 2000s. This collaboration was clear proof that the feud between the two genres was absolutely ridiculous. It ended up opening the floodgates for South African rappers finally fully embracing their kwaito roots, which resulted in what I believe to be the peak of South African hip-hop that immediately followed. This joint is South African to the core, and it left me day dreaming of an entirely Spikiri-produced PRO album.

7. “The General”

Producer: by I.V. League

Album: Dankie San ( 2007)

"Uphush' ub'celeb and siyabazi, ungazos'chomela/ Mawulele thina siya ndlula nje nge truck ye nzomela…"
Vintage PRO. The General is a more-than-fitting title for both the joint and the man himself. We are treated to an epic display of flow-flexing, which at first listen sounds as though may have been easy to write until you realise that PRO only made it seem that way. I.V. League came through with a fresh production that had a hint of that dancehall flavour.

6. “Ungaphel’ Umoya”

Producer: Beat Maker

Album: Heads & Tales (2005)

"...Cut the flossin'/ or else uzohlangana namahlany'aphum'estoksini/ abo thathazonke nalez'ez'fak'ipilis' e-socksini."
I know what you're thinking: "This track should be higher on this list". Another joint that perfectly embodies the artistry of Linda PRO Mkhize. He managed to take what is essentially a dark production and used it to convey a message of hope. He did this while also managing to point out the darkness and acknowledged that it's where he's from, but since he was able to escape and so can you.

5. “Fede Fokol”

Producer: Omen

Album: Heads & Tales (2005)

"Easy, son/ Mamel' iikhokho z'gibel' i-beat, son…"
Omen was completely in his bag when he made the beat for this joint. A neck snapping boom bap gem that PRO took and molded into a hood banger. He effortlessly switches between English and tsotsitaal, while keeping it kasi to the core. He strikes a perfect balance between appealing to "hip-hop purists" and the ordinary guy in the hood hustling in street corners. I can't remember a time this joint was played at a hip-hop session and I didn't lose my mind.

4. “Soweto”

Producer:Omen

Album: Heads & Tales (2005)

"Ghetto like kids on the corner playing Ludo/ with little pieces of stones and bottles wherever you go…"

If you don't consider this track as the official anthem of the South Western Townships, then you're playing. PRO had people from outside Soweto proudly chanting "SOWETOOOO!!!" Enough said.

3. “Wild West”

Producer: Dome

Album: DNA (2006)

"You saw the poster, vele angihleki mang'bhala/ Tight grips on the pen and angiyeki mang'bhala!"
Dome and PRO did something so special on this one. They took the theme song to the classic western film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) composed by Ennio Morricone, and brought it straight to Soweto. It's one of my all-time favourite sample flips. As usual, PRO kept the lyricism flawless while continuing to unapologetically display his trademark hood pride.

2. “Wozobona”

Producer: Omen

Album: Heads & Tales (2005)

"Never ngiyekele le-rap mina sbali, no ways/ Ngihlala ngikhiph' i-number number mawungaqgcwali, always/ Ngeke ngihlukane ne kasi noma ngingaya e-Fourways…"

During the early days of the legendary Slaghuis movement, PRO's name was an urban legend. Unfortunately for my 15-year-old self, I never got the opportunity to watch him perform at the session because he always came on later in the evening and I had a curfew. By then, the only PRO song I knew was "Soweto". One Friday evening, the music video for "Wozobona" debuted on the SABC 1 music show One. This was my introduction to PRO rapping in vernac. I was completely blown away. Even though I was already a fan of "Soweto", I believe hearing "Wozobona" for the first time officially turned me into a PRO fan.

1. “Bhampa”

Producer: I.V. League

Album: Dankie San (2007)

"To all the crooks abaz' shaya ngama Pro Ink boots/ Sengisho na laba abakhule nge beer ne loose/ Ngoba i-culture yase loxion is part of your roots/ Bathi thina senza kakhulu, kanti abazi sisa toets-a…"
To keep it 100, choosing between "Bhampa" and "Wozobona" as my all-time PRO joint is one of the toughest choices I've ever had to make. Both tracks represent everything I love about the late great artist. After years of long debates with fellow PRO stans about which joint is better, I finally came to the conclusion that it was "Bhampa" by a nose. The production, the catchy hook, the unparalleled penmanship, the kwaito flair... everything. I also felt that it had slightly more commercial appeal therefore was able to reach more people. The fact that PRO was able to have such a great impact commercially without feeling the need to dumb down his lyricism is just one of the reasons why he will forever be the greatest to ever do it.

Honourable mention: “Living The Way I Should” (featuring Nothende)

Producer: Amu

Album: Heads & Tale (2005)

Audio
(Youtube)

The 7 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Beyoncé x Shatta Wale, Major League DJz, Alsarah, Skales, Burna Boy and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our best music of the week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

Nasty C: ‘I want the world to know there’s more than just Afrobeats in Africa’

Nasty C is under no pressure to fit the confines of what an African artist is supposed to sound like.

Watch the Futuristic Video For Adekunle Gold's 'AG Baby'

The Nigerian star's pulsating new track also features singer Nailah Blackman.

Nasty C Shares Stunning Visuals For ‘Palm Trees’

Nasty C releases stunning neon visuals for 'Palm Trees' from his highly anticipated album which is now available for preorder/pre-add.

AKA’s Visuals for ‘Monuments’ is the #StayAtHome Content We Signed up For

AKA shares slick, psychedelic montage for 'Monuments' featuring Grandmaster Ready and Yanga Chief.

popular.

‘Joko ya Hao’ is Not Your Typical Apartheid Film

South African filmmaker Mmabatho Montsho doesn't rely on the politics of her new film to carry it along, but instead imposes her authorial voice on a tribute to Winnie Madikizela Mandela.