It’s official. M.I.A is coming to SA

fist in the air Always unpredictable, rap star M.I.A. is packing for Johannesburg PHOTO: Mike Coppola / Getty Images
fist in the air Always unpredictable, rap star M.I.A. is packing for Johannesburg PHOTO: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

In news that will have her fans scrambling for tickets, pop star M.I.A. is heading to South Africa early next month.

Not only will the outspoken British-Sri Lankan rapper and activist attend the screening of a tell-all documentary about her life, she will also perform in concerts in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The star was this week in Canada at the Hot Docs festival where her film Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. was screening. Its African premiere will be in Johannesburg at the Encounters SA International Documentary Film Festival which kicks off on May 31.

Also on the bill at Encounters is SA’s latest film success story, Shameela Seedat’s documentary Whispering Truth to Power, a dramatic account of former public protector Thuli Madonsela facing the heat as she pursues corruption allegations against then president Jacob Zuma.

On Friday night the film stunned and delighted its producers by sharing the Special Jury Prize in Canada.

M.I.A.’s fly-on-the-wall documentary, directed by her close friend Steve Loveridge, uses 22-year’s worth of intimate home video footage to span decades in the life of the rapper who is best known for her song Paper Planes, which featured in the film Slumdog Millionaire and earned Academy Award and Grammy nominations. Some of the footage was shot by the artist, who was once an aspiring filmmaker herself.

M.I.A. (Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam) is the daughter of one of the founders of the Tamil Resistance Movement and the film tells her fascinating story of refugee life in the UK, following her artistic journey, her thrillingly unpredictable musical experimentation and her activism that regularly hits the headlines, not least in 2012 when she flipped the bird at the camera while performing in the Super Bowl half-time show as a guest on stage with Madonna.

Told in a mash-up style, the documentary reveals a mercurial character who is both naturally talented and yet fundamentally a chatterbox, vehemently sincere but at times superficial and naïve, extremely captivating and a bit of brat.

Concert organisers Black Major Selects told City Press that, at M.I.A.’s insistence, her first live performances in South Africa will feature a specially curated selection of cutting-edge local dancers, artists and DJs who similarly represent the fearlessness that she has demonstrated throughout her life.

The live shows will take place on Thursday June 7 in Cape Town’s Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock, and on Friday June 8 at the Newtown Music Factory in Johannesburg. M.I.A.’s Cape Town collaborators will include future gender-blurring pop visionary Angel-Ho, rising global electronics star Jakinda and DJ and internet sensation K-$.

In Johannesburg M.I.A. will be joined by multitalented DJ, photographer and director Phatstoki, DJ and radio persona Doowap and art, fashion and music powerhouse Dear Ribane.

Meanwhile, film fundis will be planning their schedules for a jam-packed Encounters, with Power of Womanhood as its theme.

More than half of the 40 films selected have female directors, many focusing on women who have made an indelible mark in history from advocate Thuli Madonsela to fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

Seedat’s Whispering Truth to Power will be the opening night film.

Through the story of Madonsela, her office and children, the film carefully navigates the political forces at play in South Africa today, charting various contested lines in the dual battle against corruption and inequality.

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist is a definitive look at the life, creativity and activism of one of the world’s most iconic fashion designers.

The film, which premiered to acclaim at this year’s Sundance, is a vibrantly entertaining yet intimate and poignant homage to Westwood, following her rollercoaster journey from failed housewife to outsider to leading designer and green activist.

Xoliswa Sithole’s Standing on their Shoulders is also keenly anticipated, exploring the legacy of the 1956 women’s march on the Union Buildings to protest against pass laws.

It poignantly features surviving march organiser Sophia Williams De Bruyn.

Once the backbone of resistance, did women become invisible after South Africa’s transition and are the “Remember Khwezi” and Fallist campaigns reigniting the legacy of activists like Charlotte Maxeke, the documentary asks.

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