Dashiki Dialogues: Miniskirt minstrels and funeral twerks

2014-03-25 10:00

I’ve also watched with apprehension the YouTube video of scantily clad girls gyrating and twerking at a funeral in Soshanguve.

The video has since become a huge talking point on social media and news platforms.

It shows a group of girls in skimpy dresses and miniskirts, beverages in hand, as they belt out harrowing giggles and chatter while dancing to thumping House music.

Some stand and dance atop the mound of earth and others gather around the gaping grave to perform their riotous ritual.

The gathered crowd, including family members of the deceased, seem to accept what is going on as something that has to happen.

In fact, one of the women sitting near the device recording the unfolding spectacle asks if the girls are going to dance. Their passive attendance can be read as consent or permission.


So if we must voice concern, the bone to pick is with all in attendance and not just the scandalised girls. As the old adage goes: funerals are for the living because the dead are too dead to notice any of it.

That said, I must confess my feelings were not unlike those who were outraged. I thought the affair constituted unseemly conduct.

So as it snowballed into a subject of national conversation, I remembered the words of African-American cultural critic Stanley Crouch.

Speaking about the stock of abusive images that formed blackface entertainment and minstrelsy in general, Crouch noted “black people behaving less than human have never been at a loss for an audience”.

So perhaps beyond what the video shows us, it is our collective appetite for such imagery that is worrying. It was for the same reason Susan Sontag, in her book Regarding the Pain of Others, noted an applied moratorium on publishing the heaps of dead white bodies after the bombing of the twin towers.

Sontag further argued that “someone who is permanently surprised that depravity exists?...?has not reached moral or psychological adulthood”. But whether we like it or not, all the viral videos and the facts they represent tell us about where we are at this point in history.

The audiences they cultivate also provide an understanding of how a set of ideas in the economy of racial meaning about black people has been created and reinforced – solidifying in the mould of the wild, depraved, lazy darkie stereotype.

We need new dashikis to dialogue with who we are.

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