So when I heard about "Nishike," I was willing to give it a shot. But I couldn't get even halfway through the video.
And it's not that I'm holy or that I find it dirty. It's that I thought to myself - what is this doing to me, and what will remain in my mind when I've finished watching? What is it saying about sex, love, womanhood and manhood?
Alot of people have decried the hypocrisy in condemning Sauti Sol while they watch raunchy telenovellas or music videos by mainly US musians. I agree that we shouldn't apply different standards to local and international artists. So whatever I say about "Nishike" applies to foreign movies as well.
I generally avoid watching explicit content, though I'm not very religious about it. I'm not going to not watch say, Monster's Ball or 12 years a slave because I want to avoid the steamy scenes. Besides, if I'm watching it on DVD, there's a button on the remote called "forward." And generally, I avoid watching TV because I don't have the luxury to skip the sections I don't want to watch. So if I'm not sure about a movie, I'll wait for the version on youtube or DVD.
And when I do watch those scenes, I am conscious that they are violent against my dignity as a black, female child of God, and I will say as much. For instance, I dislike the two said movies, but not just for the contentious scenes, but for the larger story as well. For example, I really dislike the role for which Lupita won the Oscar. While I do celebrate her personal success, especially because she acted so well, I find the award a humiliation to black women, and a mockery of black men. Surely, black women have played greater and more uplifting roles in movies for which they should have gotten Oscars. And what message has Hollywood sent us, and to our girls, if the only African American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar, and the first African woman to win an Oscar, won the awards for characters that were so degraded? In fact, the worst scene for me wasn't Patsey being raped or being flogged when naked; it was when Northrup walked away and left her in slavery. He had no choice, but that's precisely the point. The essence of slavery is to deny people their choices. In this case, slavery also denied Northrup his manhood; he was absent when his children grew up and married. He was forced to flog a black woman. And then he left that woman in slavery. That's what the real slavery is - it goes beyond the plantation to the heart of what it means to be a black woman or a black man. Slavery humiliates black women and prevents black men from having a positive impact on the people they love and who love them.
So back to "Nishike." My problem is the story beyond the mere pictures of semi-nude women and men. And beyond the tacky lyrics (really, Sauti Sol?). My problem is the story of Kenya. We're a country whose exploitative ideology rules even our emotions and our sexual interactions. Just like our politics exploits ethnicity to distort our minds and set us against each other, our values about masculinity, femininity, love and sex distort the way we think and the way we treat each other. Yet sex, sensuality and intimacy are supposed to be a celebration and a metaphor of who we are as women, as men and as children of God. Curtis Reed gave us a great breakdown of what that means when he took Ajenda Afrika through the Soul of Sex workshop.
As Curtis said, our model of sensuality should come from God, from our faith, and from our consciousness of who we are and the world we live in. And I would add from great poetry, which explains why I love Nikki Giovanni's poetry that weaves revolution with black love. Like the poem "Seduction." So when we need to have explicit pictures, it's a sign that we're desperate, that we lack imagination and we've lost the words, that we've lost the plot, and that we've lost the love stories that we should be telling one another, and with which we should be building one another as free human beings.
That said, I'm still a fan of Sauti Sol and very much looking forward to the new album.