mp3 of the day: Ocote Soul Sounds and Adrian Quesada - Divinorum
So day before yesterday night I happened to check out Ronke Apampa's website and see this on the front page:
Being well familiar with the somewhat puritanical ways of my Nigerian brethren and sistren, I immediately made the rounds of a few Nigerian-oriented websites to gauge the reaction. And (surprise!) it was a shitstorm. Opinions varied but I think this, uh... colorfully worded post here (snatched from an unnamed message board) is fairly indicative of the general tenor:
"Hugh hefner or what is the plaboy mans name. Nigeria has a dum-dum playmate for you in the name of Agbani Darego. I think she should be expecting his call. As far as I am concern any female that let her body become an object of entertainment, belong to the gutter. Even down here in the world capital of sinful entertainment U.S.A, Such action from so called decent girls raise eyebrows. such as Nicole smith and Latoya Jackson for a few. Is AGBANI.one of our woman Role model. I dont think so Anybody from a decent upbringing will no agree to. Great woman dont become great by selling their body.She is just going to be a good pinup for male restroom."
Well, to be fair, most of them were a lot more articulate than this one but what was almost universal to the responses (almost I say!) was the sense of outrage and shame, and possibly straight up haterade. Most of the negative respondents were women (surprise again!) who vacillated between the high moral ground of "oh, she's supposed to be a classy role model as the first black African Miss World yadda yadda yadda" and catty shit like "why she gonna even go show off those slipper-like boobies with the ugly big areolas?" - sometimes within the same post.
(By the way, ladies... Dunno if you knew this, but the big areolae look is actually what's hot on the street)
What I found most confounding though was the recurring refrain of "This is so immoral... It's not our culture." It's funny because it's something that Denis and I were talking about just last week. We originally had some nudity written into the movie (male and female, yo... We're equal-opportunity like that) but I ended up writing it out because I think it's gonna be too much of a headache finding actresses comfortable enough to drop trou. And I feel like a real sleazebag being the one trying to convince a reluctant chick to take off her clothes (remember Q.T. in Girl 6? By the way, that movie gets a bum rap as the worst Spike Lee joint when you consider it against barely watchable crap like She Hate Me and Bamboozled).
Hell, even getting a Nigerian girl to allow herself be photographed semi-nude (and by "semi-nude" here, I mean like, in a bikini) is like trying to broker peace in the Middle East. I know; I've tried it. The firm response I got from all candidates was "It is un-African."
Denis pointed out to me how bizarre it is the extent to which Christianity and Islam have warped Africans' perception of what our own culture is. The European concept of modesty didn't even exist in Africa until relatively not long ago. I mean, let's be real - young girls walked around virtually naked until they got married and seeing the bosoms of even a grown woman was an occurrence neither uncommon nor particularly special. Fast forward to one short century later we're blanching like a bunch of Quaker schoolmarms at the sight of some minor nipplage.
All of a sudden I really understand why Fela gave his albums defiant covers like this:
Anyway, Agbani... If you're reading this, just shrug off the haters. I got your back... So go ahead and show your front all you want to.
Denis and Koko are really putting in serious work back in Lagos. While I'm quite grateful and extremely motivated by their efforts, they're starting to really sound like producers... which can be distressing to a sensitive-ass ar-teest like myself. They're talking about cutting out parts of my deathless prose, changing my exquisitely-rendered scenes and pitch-perfect dialogue. How dare they suggest that we might not be able to execute the 500-piece musical tribute to Busby Berkeley and perhaps might have to lose the recreation of the Charge of the Light Brigade, as well? Philistines, I tell you!
It stings a bit, but it's all good, though... I think a certain degree of frisson is necessary for projects like this. If everybody is too reverent towards the material - or each other - the end result is usually bland (I think I nicked that from The Kid Stays in the Picture). Besides, I welcome challenges like this. Limitations and restrictions are the true test of creativity and I relish opportunities to apply my powers of invention to solve practical problems. Otherwise it's just art for art's sake, right?
And believe me: That is very un-African.