Then, think about it.
Now maybe it's just because I'm about to write a research paper and do a choreographic project about the appropriation of African dance in order to create (choreograph) original work that I am sensitive to what I just witnessed on BET. But Kanye, really? You are gonna sit up in an all white room, dressed in all white singing your woes, and then peer outside your window to see the naked black "Africans," running, stomping and drumming?? More than that... dressed like they are the lions, tigers and bears themselves. And then have two larger than life women, painted in neon colors in some sort of "tribal" art I suppose, feelin' all up on each other, puttin' on a show for men to fantasize about.
Terrence, from 106 & Park, referred to that exact aspect after the video was over saying something to the effect of: "Kanye was sittin' in the all white room, and then BAM! The sexy African girl comes out!" I know I'm being extreme, but it's like why don't we transport ourselves to the late 1800s, early 1900s and just put our black women on display just because they have "abnormally" large butts! I'll save the rest of the video-ho rant for later...
Ellen Degeneres, who actually premiered the video on her show referred to it as "Brilliant!" But I'll forgive her, since she's just trying to get ratings and promote a nice black man.
Brilliant? Excuse me! How much more essentialist can you get about African culture? Here we are in 2008 and the MOST popular images, conceptions and perceptions we have of Africans (because I'm sure that video will be number 1 on the countdown very shortly) are these black people in non-descript costumes, doing non-descript movement, only serving to be exotic, sexy and other.
Come on black people!!! When are we going to stop perpetuating these images?? Kanye, like most high profile artists, who I'm sure for his image as much as his charitable nature, does his part to help save poor Africa, but I feel like this video does more harm than whatever amount of money he contributes to a charitable cause. I feel like African-Americans especially will never change their perceptions of Africa, and see the continent and its people for who and what they really are, if we continue to support the misperceptions. It's no wonder so many black Americans, especially young ones, feel no sort of kinship, or even honor and respect to the land that our ancestors came from. These images do not lend themselves to an understanding that some of our young adult African peers are sitting home on their sofas watching music videos too.
I found one blogger's response to the lyrics and video an interesting take:
If you watch Ye's video to this song you will actually realize that he is explaining his relationship with Africa,Kanye being a strong African American man, has always felt a strong relationship and connection with Africa and the culture , He wishes that his connection could be stronger, but he isn't loving Africa the way he wanted to because his life in American Society has kept his love for Africa Locked down, and the only people who lose are the African people and Kanye.
While I appreciate this person's analysis, it doesn't make up for the way that Africa is portrayed in the video. There are just much more tasteful, non-stereotypical ways to portray African people. But then again, they probably wouldn't make any money.