Dookoom Rises Up

A Cape Town hip hop group causes a huge stir with its music video "Larney Jou Poes" (roughly translated: Boss, your cunt.) depicting an uprising by farmworkers.

Finally South African hip hop is spurring national debate, and it’s not Die Antwoord.  No it is Dookoom, the new Cape Town hip hop outfit fronted by local legend Isaac Mutant, which has caused a huge stir with its video “Larney Jou Poes” (roughly translated: Boss, your cunt.) Much has been written about the video, from the likes of radical black consciousness intellectual turned Member of Parliament, Andile Mngxitama, to constitutional law professor, Pierre de Vos. Even Vice’s music blog Noisey ran an extensive piece on the video.

“Larney Jou Poes,” directed by young white filmmaker Dane Dodds, is an awe-inspiring work of black rage – farmworkers who down tools, revolt and burn the word “Dookoom” onto the side of a hill. The word originates from the Afrikaans word dukun / doekoem, referring to a spiritual healer. The word became a sort of negative term in the Cape, and signified a distrust of the Cape Malay population, and the “dark magic” they brought on the slave ships from the east. The video is aesthetically quite dark – a muddy black and white treatment endures throughout, every shot almost underexposed.

While the video does not overtly call for violence, the anger is palpable and it real – it draws on hundreds of years of oppression and exploitation. The director said in an interview with film industry publication Biz Community that he chose the song out of a few from Dookoom’s “A Gangster Called Big Times” EP because he found it challenging. “It made me feel uncomfortable and I felt that it expressed something that should not be real, but probably was.”  Unbeknownst to young Dane, this shit is all too real.

Isaac Mutant was inspired by the De Doorns Wine Farm strike of 2012, where workers demanded an increase of their meager daily wage of R69 to a more liveable R150. South Africa has a long history of oppression and abuse on wine farms, from slavery to indentured labor, where white farmers paid workers in alchohol–a devastating practice which has led to generations of alcohol addiction and dependence.

When Dookoom pulls the middle finger and says “fuck you, boss!” it is this continued history of violence that they are raging at. But as Pierre de Vos put in his analysis of the Dookoom backlash, not everyone understands or acknowledges that structural racism exists today. When you call out white racism in South Africa, you get labeled a racist (which Isaac cleverly anticipates in the song.) Much to the advantage of Dookoom, Afrikaner rights group Afriforum (who claim to promote the interests of minorities in South Africa, but generally care only for white Afrikaans speakers) labeled the song “hate speech” and have made an application to have it banned. This will only give more credibility to those that are buying into the message, and the authenticity and cool that comes along to it.

Perhaps the only critique of the song that I agree with was Adam Haupt’s suggestion to change the name of the song to “Larney, Jou Piel” – (Boss, your dick) thus subverting  Cape Town’s age old misogynistic insult. However that’s a discussion for another day. In the meantime, turn the bass up and nod your head to Dookoom’s beat, and imagine a day when all Larney’s, regardless of race, will have to share their ill gotten gains.

Further Reading

An unfinished project

Christian theology was appropriated to play an integral role in the justifying apartheid’s racist ideology. Black theologians resisted through a theology of the oppressed.

Writing while black

The film adaptation of Percival Everett’s novel ‘Erasure’ leaves little room to explore Black middle-class complicity in commodifying the traumas of Black working-class lives.

The Mogadishu analogy

In Gaza and Haiti, the specter of another Mogadishu is being raised to alert on-lookers and policymakers of unfolding tragedies. But we have to be careful when making comparisons.

Kwame Nkrumah today

New documents looking at British and American involvement in overthrowing Kwame Nkrumah give us pause to reflect on his legacy, and its resonances today.