Let us stand up and applaud Anita Ronge aka Kasi Mlungu for being who she wants to be. The 26-year-old Johannesburg-based DJ has been lambasted online for appropriating black culture. But hold on: who owns the culture?
I know of quite a few black people who appear to be European more than they do African. They do not do the black thing for some reason. But that is the way things are. They have the right to adopt the lifestyles they have chosen and remain just as African as the next black South African. That is diversity in action: being black or white is not as unambiguous as we would like to imagine it is, especially when Eminem is the highest-selling rapper of all time and arguably the best lyricist of his generation. Before Eminem – The Beastie Boys – a New York-based rap group released “Licensed To Ill” in 1986. It remains one of the best selling and highly-acclaimed hip-hop albums of all time. And before the Beastie Boys shook the world of hip-hop: Elvis Presley became one of the greatest entertainers of all time singing what everyone regarded as black music.
So should apartheid-like rules or associations govern the entertainment industry in South Africa today? No way. Kasi Mlungu deserves her ghetto pass. Much in the same fashion a black DJ gets a pass in the northern suburbs. Take DJ Fresh or Euphonik for example. They are black and proud I assume. But nothing about them screams I-am-black or I-am-all-ghetto. Put DJ Fresh next to Tiesto, Skrillex or David Guetta at the next Ultra Music Festival and he will look just as funky and European as they do. It would not be fair of us to ask DJ Fresh to drop his look because he does not dress like a traditional Tswana man or plead with Euphonik to find a new stylist so he can look all ghetto-fabulous. If Kasi Mlungu enjoys spending her weekends in Tembisa and that is her thing: who has the right to say she cannot base her career on a typically black or township vibe?
The African way of life is hardly an innate fact: it is acquired through observation, experience and education. Lest we forget: this is the year 2017. And multiculturalism is the reason why pop music is the biggest genre in the world. It further explains why Michael Jackson is regarded as the greatest entertainer of all time. Jackson blended a multiplicity of musical styles borrowed from rock and jazz to rhythm and blues and pop to create a universal sound that enthralled fans of all races from across the world. Kasi Mlungu has discovered her niche beyond the limitations of her Afrikaner upbringing and that is not a bad thing at all. Compared to three Rondebosch High School Boys who recorded a song about how much they hate black people Kasi Mlungu may just be the personification of the vaunted South African dream.
Should we frown upon Kasi Mlungu when the whole world is berating President Donald Trump for championing what appears to be a white supremacist agenda in America? Life can get very complicated if everything runs along racial lines and South Africans begin to value black exclusivity above racial harmony. Can we all restrict ourselves to liking black clothes, black women and black hairstyles or favouring black movies, black music and black personalities alone? Would I be selling out if I listened to Taylor Swift and Maroon 5 all day long? Or would I be accused of trying to be a yuppy if I dressed like Adam Levine does? And if I watched a movie like Forest Gump and cried at the end of it: would I be faking it and acting un-African?
The things that make humanity laugh or cry have nothing to do with race or culture. You know there are American programmes like South African Idol and X-Factor on TV that are not really African at all which are enormously popular with black South Africans. Should South Africans not watch all the wonderful shows from overseas because they either propagate foreign values or endorse global citizenry or borrow manifestations of culture from different races? And should South Africans see every little thing in showbiz through race-tinted eyes now that Kasi Mlungu has chosen to be colourblind? South Africa has a simple choice to make: on the left there are people of different races who are like Penny Sparrow of the black people are ‘monkeys’ fame. On the right there is Kasi Mlungu who is making the most of living in a multiethnic society. Who is holding it down for the South African dream?