Die Antwoord: The Smart Scavengers

2012-02-28 09:23
Die Antwoord is unoriginal.

They gave Afrikaans music a bad name and alienated listeners.

They identify themselves with others ideas; recycle it.

They live off other's work and make money from other's art, like Butcher Boys by Jane Alexander.

This is what two poets have said in a debate in literary circles about Die Antwoord's "financial exploitation" of not only so-called "zef" or "common" people, but of the work of highly regarded artists and photographers.

"They abuse artworks, like that of Jane Alexander's Butcher Boys that specifically made anti-apartheid statements.

"Alexander tries to protect the integrity of her artwork. Postmodernism leans on others' work. And Die Antwoord appropriate and recycle," said poet Joan Hambidge.

She believes Die Antwoord is making headlines in America "not because they are good, but because the Americans probably can't believe what they see (...) because political correctness leaves everyone dumbfounded.”

"Die Antwoord is zef. Like an orange on an aerial, a Cortina with orange fur. Zefferelli's curse. Just as that, Die Antwoord's lyrics are vulgar. They can't spell the word 'liedjie' (song). They write 'lietjies'."

A leading Afrikaans poet, who wishes to remain anonymous, said "zef" as embodied by Die Antwoord, gives Afrikaans music a bad name and alienate listeners.

"Zef is an ancient Afrikaans tradition. First the zefs sang themselves: the Briels, Uncle Chris Blignaut. Then David Kramer with his zefs and they are pressed against the heart; Anton Goosen with Boy van die Suburbs.

"The zef went to the theatre with PG du Plessis; to poems with Gert Vlok Nel; and to rap with Jack Parow.

"We have to ask to what extent Die Antwoord fits in with this tradition? Is it about zef or brown? Does it fit in with coloured - and then what coloured? Coloured rap isn't zef, but poor, under pressure and angry. Is Die Antwoord a mixture of these?

"Does Yo-Landi do the Afrikaner-zef and Ninja the coloured? Or is it something completely fictional? Zef as the outside world specifically thinks Afrikaner-rebellion-zef should look like?" asks the poet.


Poet Johann de Lange in turn says Die Antwoord is smart.

"Their success has to do with savvy, timing and dumb luck. Their zef game is sophisticated. Their appropriation of Roger Ballen's photographs or Jane Alexander's Butcher Boys is proof of this.

"Die Antwoord did not ver-zef the Butcher Boys. I find it hard to understand why Alexander got attorneys to try and stop visual references to her work.

"Does she have any objection that Ducamp made a cheap postcard of the Mona Lisa and also gave the poor Lisa a moustache?

"I wonder if the fact that Die Antwoord is successful and makes money doesn't sit well with her."

De Lange also doesn't agree that Die Antwoord looks down on society.

"Maybe their intent is to make this part of society visible again; show it's nothing to be ashamed of.

"Zef isn't necessarily limited to a specific social class. Just like kitsch, it occurs on all levels of society, and what is zef, kitsch or common, varies with time.

"What is kitsch today, is art tomorrow.

"My money is on Die Antwoord. Although I'm not a fan of their type of vulgarity, I believe they have a place and a function."

Watch Die Antwoord's latest video for their song I Fink U Freeky here:


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