“Malumkoolkat Is A Problem, Ingkinga”
Okamlumkoolkat had solidified his status as the Zulu Michael Jackson by the end of 2015. To many, myself included, this came as no surprise. Watching him perform live over the past two years, be it at clubs, sponsored events or concerts, his 30 minute performances undoubtedly were the event. Excitement over what Malum was going to play next was standard procedure; what was he going to make the crowd chant next? ‘Umswenko!’? ‘Turn up yangemphela!’? Were the audience going to sing ‘Gusheshe’ next? He held the same stage time as any other artist, however, his sets always felt a little too short.
To understand why he is a viable artist both here at home and in Europe, where young kids flock to his shows; it’s important to understand what he represents. From the jump OkMKK was the definition of what “Afro Futurism” embodies. In his art he combines his culture and identity. A strong cultural move; refusing to assimilate into mainstream South Afrika whilst simultaneously pushing the envelope with collaborative efforts in what many consider to be a predominantly white music space- EDM. When our favourite rappers were cultivating their artistic identities, it felt as though we were receiving a ready-made. One that had already been exhibited all over the world before it got home.
When 2015 ended, Simiso had done what Spoek Mathambo and Petite Noir still haven’t. He managed to cultivate a cult following at home. That was illustrated when pandemonium broke out few days before the 100K MaCassette mixtape dropped. OkMKK stated the tape would only come out once he had reached one hundred thousand fans on social media. After a few weeks the campaign gained momentum. His fans did all the PR for him, advocating to their friends to listen to his music, watch his videos and click follow. The only video that came out during that entire campaign was the 100K Macassette video. Once he reached a 100K fans; we had to wait longer. Refreshing soundcloud, tumblr and twitter frantically for days on end. Finally, he dropped the tape and i am yet to see a reception similar happen with anyone else. 100K Macassette won mixtape of the year at the South Afrikan Hip Hop Awards 2015. Late December 2015, he announced he would be touring in Australia. He had become the Stefano Di Mera of our lives, right before the notable decline in communication with his fans. So what happened?
Nearly 20 days into the New Year he stopped tweeting, tumblring and instagramming. Everything stopped, he was silent. For a few days i thought that the tour was moving at a pace faster than our uncle was used to. Maybe the heat out there in Australia was extreme, the silence could be explained. Then the bomb dropped: Simiso Zwane had been arrested, tried and convicted for intended sexual assault on another artist. This is the moment where all impersonal bullshit gets thrown out the window. The question of what this means to the self is raised. When someone is arrested for rape, someone in the public eye, a young black South Afrikan man in 2016, what does it mean? i answer for myself and speak on what i witnessed within others when the question was posed to them.
As a black womxn who has endured direct and indirect sexual abuse, i felt sick, angry, sad and disappointed. “Why why why did he do that?” is a question i asked myself as i read article after article trying to figure out what exactly happened. Perhaps hoping there would be a report that would totally debunk the fact he told a womxn not to make a noise as he attempted to have sex with her. Hoping that maybe an instance of miscommunication; something that could be explained away. i didn’t want OkMKK, whose music i listened to as a source of refuge in an incredibly dark moment of my life, to become a trigger of this kind of pain that one has to experience to truly know.
Rape over the last few years- in this post Mbeki present Zuma era- is an issue that has been pushed to the foreground because it can no longer be ignored. With HIV/AIDS becoming so intertwined with rape, it no longer is an issue that a victim can deal with on their own. It is everyone’s problem as the ramifications of rape are felt beyond the self. Victims of sexual assault have had no choice but to forcibly make society take responsibility for the social climate created that has bred this ill.
We’re supposedly past burying this reality and perpetuating rape culture. As hard as social activists are fighting for a safer, victim blaming-less society, they are purposefully being ignored, repressed and silenced. All of which is evident in the case of our now rape uncle, OkMKK. Newspapers reported on how in court the man pled guilty and expressed his remorse and embarrassment but took full responsibility for his actions. His management released an offish statement expressing they could not believe it happened, “We’re not saying that the womxn is lying”- but it definitely read like they did. His fans at home didn’t want to believe it and made it seem like they saw nothing wrong in what had happened. Quickly turning their attention to how excited they were to see him perform new material when he got home.
“We don’t know the full story” “She was probably asking for it” “Do you know how many people lie about rape” “Phela he said he was sorry” “Angithi he didn’t touch her, what’s the problem?”
This isn’t the first time someone has been accused of rape publicly and the masses managed to find that the most appropriate time to separate themselves from the “personal” and focus solely on the “public”. It became harder to vilify him when radio stations still played his songs. The artists he collaborated with still release music featuring him with no reservation. Television channels, days after the announcement, having no problem playing his music videos. All those with the platform to speak against the issue that permeates in all homes and all families decided to say nothing.
This incident is a combination of male entitlement, victim blaming, perpetuated rape culture and and and. It gets tiresome trying to detangle ourselves out of this mess, trying to figure out how we got here. Perhaps that’s why there is reluctance to do so. Although the topic it’s loaded, it has to be unpacked.
The fear of the black man raping the white womxn is still as present in today’s society as it was when these fears were legitimated in pseudo anthropological scientific journals. The paranoia of the black man raping the white womxn is what separated demographics from one another. It’s what kept the black areas away from the white ones. What got black men arrested for being found in white areas at night. What makes tour guides remind tourists to stay out of black areas at night. The same fear is what makes it neccesary that women travel in packs and stay away from dark alleys. These warnings and cautions so lovingly presented to us by society, seem to really only apply within the spaces dominated by the presence of working class black men. Division by race has become division by class. When we imagine the poor and powerless aggressors who use rape as a perverted means to gain some form of power, we think of the poor black man.
We understand rape as a sick means of power being taken by those who in many aspects of their lives are made to feel worthless and powerless. We apply that reasoning to the societal structure and end with the misguided conclusion that it is a black-people problem; a black epidemic. We associate poor unknown black men with rape. We perpetuate this belief within black communities too. So we teach young girls that they must be careful around men. Never do we condemn the man who waits outside the school trying to pick up young girls. We condemn a young womxn for being at the wrong place at the wrong time when raped at night near a bar or shebeen. When black victims speak up in spaces that are “white” we are ignored; that’s our people’s problem. It is only good enough to speak up and see justice through when Oscar shot Reeva because that’s when it’s real.
Historically speaking, its bemusing how rape has been made a black people problem in a nation filled with the offspring of white colonial rapists. Illustrated on another public rape case playing out involving Kesha and her producer Dr. Luke. Two people who are rich, who have both white privilege and celebrity status. There is no black body involved. The “it’s a powerless poor black people thing” cannot be applied to that scenario.
You have to ask yourself why OkMKK believed, in whatever state he was in, that breaking into a room and molesting a womxn as she slept was remotely okay?
The common factor between the two cases is male entitlement and dominance. In both cases the “traditional” understanding of what rape looks like did not play out. Neither Kesha nor the artist OkMKK assaulted were preyed on in some bush by some dark unidentified hooded figure. Both Dr. Luke and OkMKK violated whom they knew, associated with and womxn they’d see the next day and the day after that in public. i ask myself if OkMKK did it because he felt compelled to by some sick societal pressure. To be the presumed black person he thought everyone felt he was? Did he do it to prove a point to himself that he was invincible and he could have sex with whomever he wanted, however he wanted? At some point before she went to bed alone, locked her door and entered her bed alone, she had perhaps shown some interest at the possibility of having sex with him later? Was her silence read as consent?
A lot of noise was made over the fact that he didn’t actually rape her so it “wasn’t that bad”. This lies in the understanding that rape only happens when there is penetration. We understand rape to be this painful experience of unwanted sex, an entire act. But that’s not only it. That is not the only way one can be violated and assaulted, reason so many are getting it wrong. We’re conditioning ourselves to only acknowledge a certain kind of pain we know is too painful to talk about every day or to just anyone; so we cushion ourselves through distance. Male entitlement enters the mix because, more often than not, it’s been forcibly imposed on womxn that a “no” isn’t registered as a rejection and point to stop. i experience instances where we’ll be operating independently -be it in a club, on the road or even in a class- and somehow not directly saying “no i do not want to have sex with you” is understood as a “please continue with what you are saying/doing because I am about to say yes but i just need you to be a little more insistent”. When you’re dancing with someone in a club a “no” is just part of a ritual. Stage one to a four part mating dance which includes a non-verbal “try harder”, “not now” and “i’m saying no so that to you and all my friends i don’t come off as easy”. We talk about rape culture like it’s some abstract theory that solely exists within a theoretical sphere but everyday people are experiencing spaces where something is being fed into it.
OkMKK was apparently drunk when he entered the womxn’s room and began inappropriately touching her in her bed. You have a drunk man finding his way into a womxn’s room through the balcony sliding door, sliding into her bed and touching her as she slept without her consent. Consent in that instance would have been with the womxn walking into her room with OkMKK, getting into the bed with him and then verbalizing that she wanted him to touch her in that manner. Breaking into someone’s room and groping them whilst they sleep is not remotely near the margins of “he was drunk shame” parameter of excusable. The public tosses that term as if they don’t know as well as myself and any other cab driver at 2am outside a club knows, that alcohol does not think independent thoughts on our behalf. The way you know how to navigate to your home whilst taking puke stops on the road, is the same way he knew what he intended to do.
Another interesting point has been how sexual aggression/intent to assault is recognized as something wrong in Australia and how swiftly the justice system deals with it there. It bothers me when i think if that scene were to play out here, what would happen? Would the victim be allowed her privacy and her anonymity? Would the police respond as quickly as they did there? Would the case make its way to court and would he have been found guilty? Would all of it play out the same way or would we be here not having this conversation?
A few months ago at UCT during the height of the student protests, a non-student occupying ‘Azania House’ slid next to a womxn and began to grope her inappropriately. She immediately woke up, screamed alerting everyone that this had just happened. The legal system here did not support the young womxn. The police didn’t arrest this man until students went on a manhunt looking for him in one of the largest residences and included putting the word out on social media. After an extensive and tense manhunt which included a protest of womxn and non-binary conforming bodies stripping naked in front of a crowd that exclaimed somehow “she was asking for it”. This incident and the fact that it all played out at a time when media presence on campus sped up; a usually very slow court process had many of us furiously waiting to see what would come of it.
He was represented in court by his sister and the court at some point questioned why social media was used and how this actually for some very strange reason weakened the case against him. He got away with it. He wasn’t on trial. She was. It became the fault of the victim, who had asked for nothing, suggested nothing but was assaulted because she had the audacity to be a womxn.
Its incidents like this humiliating process of identifying yourself as a victim and the stigma attached to that word “victim” that makes many suppress their pain. Quite literally saying nothing is less painful than doing something.
Bringing this back to OkMKK and his insistence that he pled guilty because he was told to and one day we will hear his side of the story. i really don’t want to touch that one. It was better when it felt like he was taking responsibility for his actions. As wrong as what he did is, when it felt like he was taking responsibility, though difficult to stomach because it felt like a personal attack on my own body. i could see myself working towards forgiving him. It would have been the first time i heard someone own up to being a sexual offender. i hoped in his time in prison he thought, repented and truly focused on bettering himself. That as a fan i would work on finding forgiveness within me..
However, all i read was “it wasn’t me; don’t believe everything you read even if it’s court papers. You know that people lie about rape and one day i will tell you how this womxn set me up and accused me of something i really did do but shouldn’t be counted as a crime”.
That’s all i saw. That’s where we’re at.
The “i” small cap is a conscious imagery of not being bigger than the group.. The Cartesian principle is “I think therefore I am.” In Afrika we say, ”i am because we are and since we are, therefore i am.”