This video, shot in Tanzania, is at once hysterical and suspect.  The description on Youtube: “An American hipster visits a Maasai tribal village in Africa. The natives try to get him to dance. Awkwardness ensues.” That’s it for information.  It’s the sort of thing the tumblr blog I Studied Abroad in Africa! would fish out. Anyway, the video was posted by “brianmuller333” and his channel includes a lot of videos of his dogs and wedding. I was too lazy to send him an email.

We know the video is a joke meant to poke fun at hipsters. So what do hipsters ‘do’ that make them so ridiculed, hated, and yet, desired?

They are drawn to being ‘first’ to arrive, discovering, and claiming ‘ownership’ of a location, a trend, or a taste. In that, they are the embodiment of the American pioneer: others may be there already, but the important thing is that they are the someones who got there first, to stake a claim. They are after the ‘authentic’, the pure, the unsullied, that which is remarkably ‘counter’ to the popular/done/accepted thing. Only everything is borrowed, and one can really only give homage to one’s predecessors. But as any modern adventurer after the ‘authentic’ Africa, India, or wherever will find, there’s always a Coke bottle in every remote Eden–nothing remains undiscovered, and in fact, as long as another human being is there (however discounted that human may be, in terms of her/his value to modernity), that place was, of course, found.

In a way, the hipster obsession with ‘being there first’ points to a sadder reality: we are in search of the sacred–something untainted by repetitive use (and has therefore lost its meaning), something unsullied, something that allows us to feel security in its Real. I’ve no idea if there are actual hipsters attempting to find the illusive sacred in Masaailand, but the caption at the end points to the ridiculousness of claiming ownership, when one ‘discovers’ something that gives one a beautiful experience – as only hipsters can.

Also, it shows how hard it is to look graceful leaping up and down in one place. That man looks …ugh, like something else.

Further Reading

No more caricatures

Engaging seriously with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s life could help us understand how South Africa got where it is and where it’s going.