photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
rapper M.I.A. is a revolutionary figure. i should just get that out of the way from the get-go.
she's revolutionary because of her background as a first-generation immigrant daughter of a founder of the TAMIL TIGERS (an ethnic SRI LANKAN separatist group in open conflict with the corrupt national government). she's revolutionary because she is outspoken about her experience as an immigrant, a status that is universally derided, discarded and intentionally misunderstood by first-world inhabitants. she's revolutionary because she is unafraid to speak her truth. and i wont lie, her flipping off the camera at the SUPER BOWL was probably the greatest thing ever on such a telecast (right up there with PRINCE's rainy performance).
what made her documentary MANTANGI MAYA M.I.A. (CINEREACH, 2018) so compelling is how you see this cultural behemoth finding her identity through 22 years of archival footage shot by MATHANGI ARULPRASAM herself. most interesting is her initial trek to SRI LANKA as an adult, seeking to learn about a struggle she was separated from and the disconnection she felt. as a THIRD CULTURE KID myself growing up in NIGERIA and KUWAIT, i can relate to being stuck between cultures and continents. my whole life i felt disconnected from AMERICAN life which has only been exacerbated during the TRUMP era. i can relate to the experience of being tied to an identity of which you have little control, as an AMERICAN who lived abroad for years in NIGERIA, ALBANIA, KUWAIT, VENEZUELA and MYANMAR. that dilemma definitely hits home. and i believe part of my reason for having so much respect for M.I.A. is her fearlessness in speaking her truth in spite of intellectual charlatans like LYNN HIRSCHBERG and BILL MAHER and the tired conservative media and corrupt political interests they facilitate in effectively silencing and putting down BLACK and BROWN people. its that idea of speaking up for a forgotten population and not shutting up when the WHITE adults in the room tell you to shut up. honestly fuck them.
i dont know how one doesnt respect her fearlessness and moral clarity.
this documentary is also the type of film that makes me uncomfortable in that it showcases the triviality and shallowness with which of our national discussion regarding war and human suffering. i was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to teach secondary english at an international school in MYANMAR a few years back and was taken aback by the dismissive tone by western journalists when discussing the suffering of the ROHINGYA population. apparently AMERICAN blood is more precious. the pain and suffering of BLACK and BROWN people was less newsworthy. same here with regards to SRI LANKA.
again, i am glad for her voice and look forward to her new album. cant wait to see what she chooses to address this go around given the state of the world. i think deep down she knows she has the respect and admiration of her people, so being deliberately smeared by western media conglomerates isnt her worry. it comes with the territory.
it proves that she is dangerous. that she is a revolutionary.