CONTROVERSY: Local music band Die Antwoord came under fire for posing the model on their self-titled album Die Antwoord in traditional Xhosa initiation clothing.
CONTROVERSY: Local music band Die Antwoord came under fire for posing the model on their self-titled album Die Antwoord in traditional Xhosa initiation clothing.

Artwork on music album under fire

By Tony Ngomane Time of article published Jun 30, 2017

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“What is happening is not new... for over 500 years Europe has been doing this.”

These were the thoughts of artist and cultural activist Professor Pitika Ntuli in the wake of accusations that a US-based South African band had crossed the fine line between appropriation and cultural exploration with their latest album art.

Die Antwoord, who came onto the South African music scene in 2008, and maintained a low but strong profile and a steadily growing South African and international fan base, recently came under fire for posing the model on their self-titled album Die Antwoord in traditional Xhosa initiation clothing.

The group has collaborated with international artists such as Dita von Teese and Jack Black, and their “zef counterculture” style of music and their overall rock-the-boat aesthetic have secured a place on many South Africans’ playlists.

But they have been accused of rocking the boat too much because the cover of their album features Yolandi Visser standing in front of fellow band member Ninja, who is dressed in Xhosa male initiate attire.

Although initially released last year, this image has recently resurfaced on social media, and has been followed by a barrage of anger and hostility.

Among those enraged by the matter is musician Ntsiki Mazwai, who took to Twitter to voice her anger and views on the matter.

“This is not his culture. He is not Xhosa and he has no right to parade around pretending that he is,” she wrote.

Mazwai said regarding the musical duo: “We should take them to the Human Rights Commission for exploiting our culture.

“He is not a Xhosa man. He has not been to the mountain. He does not know what the blanket or the mud means.”

This is not the first time private aspects of Xhosa culture have been made public.

Earlier this year, The Wound, a film on the Xhosa initiation of “going to the mountain”, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in the US.

Ntuli said yesterday: “They are using the tradition of initiation to make a profit. The tradition should not be used in a commercial way.”

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