For what is now the second time, London rapper M.I.A has come under question regarding the appropriation of another culture in her music videos. However, this time, there isn’t actually a video to scrutinise – or at least, not one that anyone outside her label has seen. Yesterday, MIA (Mathangi Arulpragasam,) took to Twitter to express her frustration with the situation, stating that her record label had pulled her video from release simply because it was “shot in Africa”.
No stranger to controversy, M.I.A has a track record of pissing people off – but also (and certainly more importantly) for getting them to think. Flipping off the crowd at the Superbowl and being denied entry into the US aside, she’s always made use of politically charged content (both lyrically and visually) and has been known to go for the shock factor. Her music videos are where all these thing culminate. Born Free saw what was basically the genocide of male redheads, while Bad Girls sparked a controversy all its own.
Following its release, questions arose surrounding the appropriateness of M.I.A’s video for Bad Girls. On one hand, it seemed be a particularly of feminist piece commentary about women in Saudi Araba (with particular reference to the driving ban enforced). However, on the other, the video appeared to perpetuate stereotypes of the Arab world. Also, the video wasn’t even shot in Saudi Arabia, but rather, in Morocco.
Fast forward to 2015 and it looks as though M.I.A’s label (Interscope) isn’t taking any chances, having pulled her video before it’s even been released. There is little to no information on the song itself, but it is said to have taken two years to track down the dancer the video showcases in a one-take shot set. Yesterday, M.I.A took to Twitter to express her frustration with the situation and also to prompt an important, much needed discussion, with Azealia Banks having since joined the conversation.
Whether or not M.I.A is guilty of cultural appropriation here is (obliviously) not a comment one can make without actually seeing the video. However, there is certainly a difference between celebration and appropriation, and the description of the video makes it seem a far cry from the Taylor Swifts, Katy Perrys and Iggy Azealea‘s (and hey, maybe even the M.I.As of 2012) of the world.