When I read La Chanson de Roland, as usual, I was lost in a whirlwind of unfamiliarity and confusion over why this middle age French poem matters. While the protagonist of the poem needed to blow an ivory tusk (Oliphant) for the French king Charlemagne to come to his army’s rescue, simply because the Moors, (their opponents) had gained an upper hand over the French army, Roland delayed blowing the Oliphant due to his pride and disillusionment of singlehanded victory over the Moors. Roland finally blew the Oliphant but, rather unfortunately, he does it too late. He loses his own life and his army with him.
The Oliphant is a horn made from the ivory obtained from predominantly male elephants found in Southern Africa and parts of Asia. By extension, the Oliphant represents masculine fervor, conquest, and hegemony. This post will dwell mainly on the Oliphant’s representation of male dominance and how it is overturned in the Black Panther movie.
The political tyranny of Killmonger leads to a division of sorts that leaves Wakanda in two divisive wedges. Though Okoye swears her allegiance to the throne, she ends up fighting on the side of T’challa though technically Killmonger is the current king (occupant of the throne Okoye swears loyalty to). This act on the part of Okoye causes a battle that resides on sexual factions. The battle is between the male and female sexes in the kingdom. Okoye, the commander in chief of Wakanda’s army of women, Shuri and Nakia, all women, against the insurgents, Killmonger and his new aide and right-hand man, Wakabi, and the army of cloth wearing men fighters.
The scene with the summoning of the kingdom’s store of rhinos which Wakabi gathers by blowing the Oliphant is representative of the exertion of masculine control. Of all the animals to opt for defense, why the rhino? The rhino is sturdy, towering and strong, it is symbolic of what a warrior should be. The rhino is the personification of Wakabi and is summoned to help the men’s army win the battle yet, the irony of the situation leaves viewers shocked because the indefatigable rhino suddenly freezes in his tracks when it sees Okoye. In addition, it licks her face, crumbles at her gaze and finally bows at her feet. Needless to say, this freezing of the rhino is vaguely reminiscent of how T’challa freezes in the opening scenes when he sees Nakia. These parallel scenes show a lack or at least an exaggeration of the seemingly impermeable nature of the male species.
A few comparisons between Roland of La Chanson de Roland and Black Panther’s Wakabi are –
*In both situations, the male actors needed to blow an Oliphant to save their situations.
*Both actors, ie Wakabi and Roland display some disillusionment, Wakabi’s at the mere thought that Wakanda needed a new King with more revolutionary ideas and Roland’s, the fact that he thought he could conquer the Moors single-handedly without the help of Charlemagne the French king.
*Both scenes in both works of art revolve around war or battle and actually take place on a battlefield.
*Both characters blowing the Oliphants are male.
*The Oliphant is used as a means to an end, in both scenarios, the horn is blown as a recourse.
When I saw Christiane Amanpour outdoor her new show Sex and Lovearound the world, I wondered what grand plan lay behind the production of this show…
9:40 something pm, my phone is buzzing with messages. The girls are upset over Moesha’s comments about Ghanaian women and their having to live off transactional relationships often with older men. Moesha is a Ghanaian socialite whose real profession is unknown. We either think she lives off her men or is employed in a day job that can not technically pay for her lifestyle so the sugar daddy or better put, the sponsor, fills in the paycheck gap. Chimamanda Adichie in her novel Americanah paints a vivid depiction of the complex socio-economic landscape in Nigeria while specifying the ambiguousness surrounding the economic life of one of her lady characters. The other co-protagonist of the novel, the man who is in love with the main character ends up marrying into a family mainly for financial reasons. Right from the middle ages until the twenty-first century, financial gain has remained a motivator of unions and relationships, Moesha’s declarations seem no different thematically from the allusions this paragraph has developed from.
My friend just returned from Nigeria and literally remained without female ‘company’ while away because he was unwilling to go along with the transactional reality that relationships are in that part of the world. Another friend recently returned from Cameroon and while asking him how his trip was, his words were that basic prostitution is out of hand. What in the world is basic prostitution? Casual relationships that dwell on economic gain was his answer. Wow, I said. Weeks ago, my eyes widened as I read this article about the blesser syndrome in South Africa. (Blessers are older men that literally bless younger women with HIV AIDS and money and condomless sex) As I drew comparisons between the facts the article presented and Ghana, I arrived at the conclusion that while the article portrayed Southern Africans as being more overt about their search for blessees and blessers, (because adverts were/are made on social media in search of younger girls to bless and older men who bless) Ghanaians are a bit more discreet in their ways I daresay mostly because of our religious hypocrisy but moving on, songs such as Ebony’s Sponsor among a host of other products of popular culture such as this episode on An African City shows us that the dynamic of sexual-economic relationships aren’t a new thing under the Ghanaian sky.
While I am not interested in determining whether Moesha was wrong to have said what she said or not, my focus rests on what Ghanaians are doing to empower women and renew mindsets so that people do have the need to rely on sugar moms or dads out of economic need. Logically, there is no way to dictate the lifestyle of humans but the more important thing is to realize the urgency that needs to come from issues like this. Our society is morally decadent and sexual episodes such as these are not the only things that we should be alarmed about. Being a Ghanaian has taught me that we are people that easily forget and make fun of every possible thing on earth. In addition, Ghanaians literally live with crocodiles yet scream in fright when we see lizards outside.
In a country where a minor can flash her naked body on camera while flies dance around her vagina and receive acclaim through viral shares and much laughter, in a country where preachers go to bed with members of their churches, hold entire services to demand the body counts of their members with much focus on how much members are bringing to the church coffers rather than a focus on the salvation of members, in a country where female singers get shamed over their choice of dress, in a country where full grown parlimentarian women get shamed over wearing body jewelery such as anklets, in a country where women sometimes
often fall prey to sexual requirements to secure or keep a job, ( well this happens in our schools too ) in such a country, a country where if you’re a woman in a top position, people wonder if you slept your way up, paying little heed to your credentials, a country where self-acclaimed relationship experts and mariage counsellors hide behind morality and push severe and unrestrained sexism and remain justified, this is our country where scandals blow over quickly just to be replaced by other ones while we laugh and laugh, maybe it is time to ask what exactly we are doing besides laughing or hurling angry words at people such as Moesha while the truth stares us in the face. Ghanaians love to circumvent and address everything else but the truth and possible solutions. Maybe it is high time we brainstorm real solutions.
Comments like this are refreshing because it is very much like that community with the dusty, bumpy, eroded road. One of the community members decides to tar only the portion of the road that is in front of their house while the dust from the rest of the road blows up and touches the same house that sits in front of the little stretch of tarred road.
Watch Moesha’s full interview here.
Looking on social media and hearing people speak/write, I’ve questioned the meaning of trends such as #drippingmelanin, #doitfortheculture, #feminist. Needless to say that somehow #teamlightskin has gradually faded out, with #drippingmelanin gradually taking its place and hitherto weird looking Sudanese models suddenly taking center stage with their lean bodies, sharp jawlines and dark skins; Lupita’s unapologetic hairstyle (cropped hair with the line that we’re all suddenly rocking), direct gaze, dark skin and Wakanda prowess will simply not allow any millennial think that this is the age where we cower to whispers that remind us that we aren’t worthy enough. However, while developments such as these make me question hashtags such as#drippingmelanin, I wonder if such hashtags serve as a reflection of real mindsets or are they basic trends we jump on for the simple reason that they’re trends? Are we feminist because we think it is cool to say we are or do we actually embody and understand what we claim ? Are we doing it for the culture because we have a deep appreciation of culture or just because we want to rock that Dashiki or do the Gwaragwara for the gram?
Anyway so while we #Sugardem (
hard to say what they stand for because they have no website and their Facebook does not so much as have a basic one line about what they stand for ... however they are a Ghanaian group that seem to sympathize with the patriarchal society that Ghana is) or #Pepperthem, I’d like to remind us all that feminism is not a simplistic battle of the sexes, which is why I regard Cardi B’s latest album as a work of art that is not necessarily feminist (the #Pepperthem type of feminsim) even though her songs have become official diatribes directed at men, but an album that everyone regardless of identity can take something out of. ( Timely reason why you probably should watch this TedTalk)
Cardi is a blast of freshness, and for all who know how much I adore all things cultural, I love the fact that she gives Latina/o/x and other minorities something to hold onto especially in a country where being in the minority is a huge privilege (insert sarcastic emoji). Though I find the cover of the album insanely cliche; (because of course who doesn’t take a photo without sticking out their tongue these days), her lyrics hit you and make you wonder if you heard right. This post will analyze Cardi’s shocking and yet endearing and highly relatable lines as a call to action especially for the relentless pursuit of excellence, assertiveness and an acceptance of self-worth that hopefully transcends a basic interpretation of her songs as a divisive wedge between the sexes or a girl tribute to worthless men.
|Looking like a money bag|- These are famously synonymous lines to Cardi’s own life, a girl whose journey is a literal backdrop against the famous motif of rags to riches. Lines like this reinforce acknowledgment of hard work and success, (whatever that is). Cardi’s lines demonstrate a willingness to strive for dreams so they don’t remain abstract and unreachable and while she does it, she shows that she pursues success at an individual and subjective pace,|I’m my own competition| remaining unwavered by whatever ‘progress’ the people around her are making.
|Sex so good I mention my own name while at it |- Take it whatever way you want, this line bears undertones of conceit yet demonstrates confidence and a deep-seated understanding of her sense of worth as a person, complimenting herself fiercely and not waiting for validation from others, while taking time to acknowledge other strong females (humans) around her, she sings about taking pictures with Beyoncé and asks women (men) to demand higher standards from respective partners.
|If I fall ten times I rise nine times; I’m not asking you to do it the way I did; I’m just telling my story.| While these lines are pretty self-explanatory and a motivation of sorts for everyone, emotional baggage can drive singers to subjectively interpret |I waited my whole life just to shit on niggas|as a vindictive comeback line over the people and more specifically niggas that have done them bad in their lives. No hun, |I waited my whole life just to shit on niggas|means that your feminism shouldn’t be all about men. This line could possibly be interpreted as your having waited all your life to show the world what you have talent wise or professional wise.
|Good girls do what they told; a bad bitch does what she wants|- best line so far that has caused or may cause a stir among friends who constantly want to argue out things as trivial as the meaning of words such as good or bad. Essentially Cardi just defined what it means to be a bad girl, a girl that defies conventions and independently does whatever she wants because she wants to and not because she only feels like somehow being a bad bitch is only about dope lace frontals that lie slickly against hairlines with the help of cheap pharmacy edge control gels. This time, I somewhat agree with Urban dictionary . A girl can be a bad bitch without it somehow being tied to how she relates to men.
I won’t write a concluding paragraph because this is an ongoing conversation but while I think about this wonderful album which has surprisingly held my attention and received no skips ( something I do fairly often) my favorite so far on it is I Like-it because of its latino influenced beats.
One hour to midnight. I’m half asleep listening to my cousin cry about her boyfriend and how she isn’t so sure she can get over him. I have good intentions. A part of me is on the phone comforting her, another part of me is asleep and yet a third part of me is very frustrated with the situation my cousin is in. The man or boy is probably fast asleep or nestled in the warmth of another woman. Not to be entirely pessimistic but flashback to a couple of years ago I thought men and women or to put it quite right, people, could stay faithful and true. Times where we could attempt to raise glasses in a grand and bubbly hope of a happily ever after. I was wrong. People were selfish quite honestly, and no amount of science or providence could explain why or how we had things in hand and still had eyes on other things. I guessed her boyfriend loved/loves her but sort of feels she’s entirely in his grip. I blamed it on complacency. He’s become complacent, I breathed into the phone. I said this in a matter of factly way. It was midnight after all, and no one had time to spare mincing words.
He feels there’s no need to keep trying. You’re in the net hun.
I rolled to a more comfortable position and tried to help her understand what net I was speaking of.
Haven’t you heard of that analogy?
No. I rolled my eyes in disbelief. She’d never heard of that analogy. Interesting.
Well, I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.
Tell me now.
Grandma always spoke of a man at sea who stood aboard his vessel with impatience and a fiery determination in his eyes. He was literally and figuratively hungry for fish. Fish, any kind of fish, big or small, silvery or dirty black, scaly or scaleless. Fact is, he had to return home with a big catch. The sea was boundless and dangerous and he knew he had to take his chance because there was so much more to gain. The gain outweighed the inconvenience. The vessel rolled lifelessly on the undulating current. The man’s gaze was indifferent yet expectant. He had a dirty cup in his big chapped hands. He drank slowly out of it while keeping his eyes on the vast body of water before him. He stayed transfixed until he suddenly let go of the cup. He shook his head several times and shielded his eyes with his hands. He had to see for himself if he was actually right! Fish! Fish! Oh my God Fish! There was fish! The proof was a shiny silvery patch in the water ahead. He sped ahead and threw his net with a great fuss. The silver-gold lay right beneath the water’s surface. He waited. Held his breath and stared. In a flash, he began, tugging his catch back on board. The fish jumped and tossed and wriggled and gyrated. The man remained nonchalant. He’d gotten his catch, after all, and that was all there was to it. He’d been at sea and in pursuit of the fish for ten plus hours, he’d been stressed out and frantic, yet the fish was safely in the net and the chase was over. Mission accomplished, it was time to move on.