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Giftige Misfits:

a semiotic investigation into whiteness as


represented in I Fink U Freeky
by

Desr Barnard
Essay submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the
Honours degree in

VISUAL STUDIES
in the

DEPARTMENT OF VISUAL ARTS


FACULTY OF HUMANITIES
UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA
NOVEMBER 2012
SUPERVISOR: Rory du Plessis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

LIST OF FIGURES...................................................................................................ii
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION..........................................................................1
1.1
1.2
1.3
1.4
1.5

Background and aims of study ................................................................... 1


Literature review ......................................................................................... 4
Theoretical framework .............................................................................. 12
Methodological framework ....................................................................... 12
Outline of chapters ................................................................................... 14

CHAPTER TWO: THE DISCOURSE OF WHITENESS STUDIES......................16


2.1
2.2

Construction of the myth of whiteness in post-apartheid South Africa ..... 20


Sub-conclusion ......................................................................................... 22

CHAPTER THREE: I Fink U Freeky......................................................................23


3.1
3.2
3.3
3.4
3.5
3.6

Enter Die Antwoord .................................................................................. 23


I Fink U Freeky - A formalist reading informed by Dyers
whiteness theory ...................................................................................... 25
Masculinity ............................................................................................... 32
Mise-en-scne .......................................................................................... 41
Death........................................................................................................ 43
Sub-conclusion ......................................................................................... 47

CHAPTER FOUR: CONCLUSION.........................................................................48


4.1 Summary of chapters ................................................................................... 48
4.2 Contribution of study .................................................................................... 49
4.3 Limitations of study ...................................................................................... 49
4.4 Suggestions for further research .................................................................. 50
SOURCES CONSULTED.......................................................................................51

LIST OF FIGURES

Page

Figure 1:

Roger Ballen, Early Morning, Napier, 1985..............................

24

Figure 2:

Roger Ballen, Dresie and Casie, Twins, Western Transvaal,


1993.........................................................................................

24

Screen shots of unclean and uncontrolled white bodies in


I Fink U Freeky, 2012...............................................................

27

Screen shots of muscular congenital whiteness compared to


gaunt biological whiteness in I Fink U Freeky, 2012................

28

Figure 5:

Screen shots of white children in I Fink U Freeky, 2012..........

30

Figure 6:

Screen shots of black boys represented as unnatural in I Fink


U Freeky, 2012.........................................................................

31

Figure 7:

Snake as phallus in I Fink U Freeky, 2012...............................

32

Figure 8:

DJ Hi-Tel represents a subversive masculinity through a


monstrous appearance in Fok Julle Naaiers, 2012..................

33

Figure 9:

Helpless white male in Umshini Wam, 2012............................

35

Figure 10:

Roger Ballen, Man Shaving on Verandah, Western


Transvaal, 1986.......................................................................

36

Figure 11:

Dinner table in I Fink U Freeky, 2012.......................................

38

Figure 12:

Ninja and Yo-Landi surrounded by newspapers in I Fink U


Freeky, 2012............................................................................

39

Figure 13:

Yo-Lani illuminating Ninja in I Fink U Freeky, 2012.................

40

Figure 14:

Screen shots comparing Yo-Landis contrasting skin tones in


I Fink U Freeky, 2012...............................................................

41

Figure 15:

Ross Garrett, [Yo-Landis pale complexion], 2012...................

44

Figure 16:

Yo-Landi as a virginal figure, surrounded by rats in I Fink U


Freeky, 2012............................................................................

45

Figure 3:

Figure 4:

ii

Figure 17:

Figure 18:

Yo-Landi disappearing into black liquid, signifying death in I


Fink U Freeky, 2012.................................................................

45

Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, The Madonna in


Sorrow, c1600..........................................................................

46

iii

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION


1.1

Background and aims of study

As the default racial category, whiteness has been historically rendered the
invisible but privileged identity which was formed over centuries of white
oppression of non-white people (McDermott & Samson 2005:245). Studies of
whiteness posit the notion that the position of whiteness within discourses of
race is usually centralised, dominant, unraced and invisible that is, whiteness
is not directly addressed as a race, but functions as the norm (Dyer 19971-2).
Whiteness is thus the construct against which the non-white Other is measured
(Heavner 2007:65).
bell hooks, in the video interview Cultural Criticism and Transformation ([sa]),
argues that whiteness traditionally occupies a central position within cultural
discourses, which echoes Richard Dyers (1997:3) contentions. In his essay
White (1988) and book White (1997), Dyer argues that owing to the centralised
position of whiteness in discourse, whites have been left unidentified in terms of
race and whites are not of a certain race, theyre just the human race. In order
to address whiteness, Dyer (1988, 1997) attempts to problematise the
construction of whiteness by pitting it against the binary opposition of the nonwhite Other. In South Africa, however, whiteness has been pivotal to identity
construction, and as such has been historically acutely visible (Van der Watt
2005:121).
South Africas most recent musical export, rap-rave sensation Die Antwoord,
have achieved almost overnight international success1. Following the release of
their 2012 album Ten$ion, Die Antwoord have earned themselves the streetcred needed to reject a recording deal from Interscope Records, home to
artists such as Lady Gaga and Eminem. Die Antwoord is co-fronted by Ninja
1

After Zef Side (NINJA & Metelerkamp 2010) went live on the Internet in February 2010, Die
Antwoords Web site reportedly crashed after millions of hits. Interscope Records offered Die
Antwoord a record deal after flying them to Los Angeles. Their YouTube channel has thousands
of subscribers and their videos share millions of views.

(Watkin Tudor Jones), Yo-Landi Vi$$er (Anri du Toit), with DJ Hi-Tek (Justin de
Nobrega) providing next level rap-rave beats (Die Antwoord [Sa]).
The main objective of this study is to interrogate Die Antwoord as subverting the
myth of whiteness. The myth of whiteness, in terms of imperialistic rhetoric and
ideology, constructs whiteness as dominant, rational, ordered, contained and
controlled, advanced, clean, pure and moral (Dyer 1997:30-40). The premise of
this study situates Die Antwoord as embodying a whiteness that is contrary to
this rhetoric, and will draw specific reference to the subversion of conservative
Afrikaans identity construction. Through an engagement of a semiotic analysis,
specific focus is given to whiteness as performed in the music video for I Fink U
Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012). Die Antwoord are Giftge Misfits because their
subversive whiteness does not conform to traditional constructions of whiteness
in South Africa.
Contemporary South African culture demands closer attention owing to the fact
that cultures and cultural products have formed several subcultures which have
developed under the democratic dispensation. One of the most prevalent of
these subcultures is zef. Die Antwoord can be considered both creators as well
as products of the counter-culture of zef. Zef is a contraction of the name of a
popular Ford, the Zephyr, a car owned by many working-class people from the
East and West Rand of Johannesburg. The term zef became associated with
common trashy white people, but after Die Antwoord appropriated the term, it
has become trendy to be zef.
Ninja describes zef as the underbelly of Afrikaans; an embarrassing thing
they want to hide away (Hoby 2010:[sp]), while in the same interview, Yo-Landi
is quoted as saying:
Zef's kind of like you don't give a fuck and you have your own
flavour and you're on your own mission. It's associated with
people who soup their cars up and rock gold and shit. Zef is,
you're poor but you're fancy. You're poor but you're sexy, you've
got style.

I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) is codirected by world renowned


photographer Roger Ballen, and this video was chosen as the focus of this
study as Ballen and Die Antwoord represent whiteness in a context which is
subversive to South African conceptions of whiteness. Representations of
whiteness during apartheid are contemporarily understood in terms of the binary
of good and bad. In terms of post-apartheid mass media, Reid (2012:45) argues
that inscriptions of whiteness have undergone a remythologisation or countermyth construction. This study builds upon Reids (2012:57) assessment of flux
within the construction of the myth of whiteness which suggests the formulation
of a counter myth. This study endeavours to investigate this counter myth of
whiteness constructed by Ballen and Die Antwoord. Die Antwoords portrayal of
race, gender and class form part of what Marx and Milton (2001:734) call a
banal, nihilist notion, denying boundaries and celebrating a hybrid identity
that resists being named.
Die Antwoord is of particular significance to South African visual culture owing
to their extreme and often controversial representation of a new South African
whiteness. While Dyer (1997:4) argues that whiteness needs to be made
strange in order for it to be recognised, Van der Watt (2005) argues that in
South Africa, whiteness has historically been acutely polarised against nonwhiteness. Die Antwoord can be seen as a contemporary articulation or cultural
product of this hyper-visibility of whiteness, whilst also subverting the historically
and sociocultural norms of whiteness, which Dyer (1997) discusses at length.
Die Antwoord are embedded in South African culture and produce cultural
products that warrant investigation.
Rose (2012:4) posits that visual culture refers to the ways in which the visual
has become inextricable from contemporary social life and the emphasis on
ocularcentrism. Visual culture studies should, therefore, strive to encompass the
multisensory quality of contemporary cultural products. Rose (2012:15-16)
argues that the study of images is of importance owing not only to their
pervasive existence in contemporary culture, but as ideologically charged
conveyors of meaning, social difference, resistance and power relations.

In cognisance of Roses above theorisation, this study acknowledges the


importance of visual representation in South African media and contemporary
culture.

1.2

Literature review

Whiteness and white trash studies have been extensively unpacked in


American literature (see Oliver 2002; Watts 2005; Brattain 2006; Twine &
Steinbugler 2006) with particular focus given to notions of whiteness and
poverty. Analyses of whiteness and white trash from international academia
form the background of this section of the literature review.
Dina Smiths (2004) investigation of identity politics of white trash finds
grounding in American white trash studies and argues that many of these
discourses, both academic and popular, are a derealisation of the real lives of
Southern poor-white and working class populations. Smith (2004) contends that
white and trash are metonymic for blackness, and that poor white is gendered
as feminine. By tracing the evolution of the term white trash, Smith (2004:375)
notes how white trashness has become a celebrated term and consumable
identity, as seen in Ernest Matthew Micklers White Trash Cooking (1986), a
cookbook which, according to Evans (in Smith 2004:372) parodies the upperclass cookbook genre. Smith (2004:376) concludes that there exists a need for
an interrogation of the roles played in class designation in American cultural
imaginary, and consideration must be given to how these analyses inform
American understandings of class and mobility.
Richard Dyers (1988) essay White interrogates the films Jezebel (Wyler 1938),
Simba (Hurst 1955) and Night of the Living Dead (Romero 1969) in order to
show the contestation of whiteness. Dyer (1988) argues that whiteness is made
visible only when in contrast to blackness, and that the films relate to situations
where white people are materially dependent on black people, whilst
maintaining power over them. Simba (Hurst 1955) polarises blackness by
making black people appear savage, while the narrative is organised around

rigid binaries of white/black, modernity/backwardness, order/irrationality and


stability/violence (Dyer 1988:48). Dyer (1988:53) argues that the film suggests,
however, a failure of white efficacy when the characters lose their rationality
and adopt irrational (black) violence. Dyer (1988:55) argues that Jezebel (Wyler
1938) contests whiteness by representing black people as with more life than
white people in their closeness with nature. Julie (Bette Davis) transgresses
white norms and her role of a proper white woman by losing her fianc due to
her stubborn behaviour. Dyer (1988:58) suggests that the point of the film is not
to show that whites are different from blacks, but that they live by different rules.
Night of the Living Dead (Romero 1969) is a horror film unusual in the genre
owing to its strong political allegory and the positive male protagonists (Dyer
1988:59). According to Dyer (1988:61) the film contests whiteness by upsetting
the binaries of white/black, good/bad, light/darkness that are antinomies of
Western culture. In the film, all of the zombies are white. The living whites and
the zombies look the same, and the narrative suggests a link between the
zombies urge to kill and eat brains and consumerist tendencies in America.
White rationality is replaced with white irrationality when the white characters
lose control while alive, and return as uncontrollable monsters. Dyers (1988)
discussion highlights the contestation of whiteness that has been present for
many years, arguing that whiteness is no longer invisible, and no longer the
default position.
Dyers (1997:xiii) book entitled White continues the interrogation of the
representation of white people in (white) Western culture, with particular focus
on film and photography, but makes reference to film posters, oil paintings as
well as magazine adverts and illustrations. In an attempt to deconstruct white
hegemony by making whiteness strange (Dyer 1997:4), Dyer (1997) questions
the simultaneous ubiquity and invisibility of whiteness, ideologically constructed
over centuries. Dyer (1997) considers whiteness as no longer invisible but
argues that white people remain un-raced in opposition to non-white people. For
Dyer (1997:47) whiteness marks absence of colour, and is, as such, a hue.
Dyer (1997:75) continues with the theme of absence by noting that cleanliness
is an absence of dirt, virtue is an absence of sin; spirituality is an absence of
5

flesh; chastity is an absence of sex. This absence translates into the invisibility
of whiteness, and the manner in which whites come to connote not an ethnicity
but the human race (Dyer 1997:3). Dyer (1997:145-183), through a series of
case studies, examines the representation of ideal white male bodies in films
such as Conan the Barbarian (Milius 1982), Rambo: First Blood Part II
(Cosmatos 1985) and Predator (McTiernan 1987). Actors such as Sylvester
Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolf Lundgren are shown to possess the
ideal white bodies, muscular, toned, tight, hairless and oiled. These bodies,
Dyer (1997:164) argues are products of careful planning, restraint, discipline
and mind triumphing over aching body. White women in imperial narratives,
Dyer (1997:184-206) argues, are set to take the fall for the failure of the empire.
Dyer (1997:186), with focus given to The Jewel in the Crown (OBrien &
Morahan 1984), argues that the introduction of women into colonial territory
disturbed the pattern of homosociality and native prostitution, bringing to an
end the white males use of native women. Theirs is a role of conscience, of
liberal commentary on imperialism, and as such are positioned as a threat, thus
needing to be delegated to a position of doing nothing (Dyer 1997:206). Dyer
(1997:207-223) draws the concluding chapter around the relationship between
whiteness and death longing for and bringing death to non-whites. In order to
illustrate the point of whiteness being death, Dyer (1997:211) turns to films as
discussed in his essay White (Dyer 1988), and includes the Alien films, as well
as Blade Runner (Scott 1982). Central to the films discussed, Dyer (1997:215)
argues, is the issue of inability to reproduce the vampires, androids and
zombies cannot reproduce sexually, while the alien is capable of monstrous
reproduction. Dyer (1997:216) draws the parallel between these reproductions
and inabilities to reproduce with white paranoia about non-white reproduction
and that whites are going to be swamped and engulfed by the non-white
multitudes. Dyer (1997:222-223) concludes by considering the function of
extreme whiteness in relation to ordinary whiteness. The majority of white
people, and the representations of whiteness, are not virginal women or hypermasculine, and the characteristics of whites drawn throughout the book of
tautness, tightness, rigidity, controlled and controlling are not representative of

ordinary white people (Dyer 1997:222). Extreme whiteness, Dyer (1997:222223) is utilised in order to establish whiteness as superior, but this extreme
whiteness has left residue on contemporary whiteness, particularly the nonparticularity of whiteness and how whites have come to be humanitys most
average and unremarkable representatives.
bell hooks ([sa]), in her criticism of whiteness, maintains that there exists an
interconnectedness of racism, sexism and capitalism in systems of oppression
and class domination. In the video interview Cultural Criticism and
Transformation, hooks ([sa]) argues that the representation of blackness in
contemporary popular culture should be viewed in terms of white supremacist
capitalist patriarchy. Through the term white supremacists capital patriarchy,
hooks ([sa]) attempts to create a discourse through which all cultural products
should be viewed. hooks ([sa]) argues that the term is meant to emphasise the
interlocking systems of domination which inform how we function and
understand in daily life.
hooks ([sa]) posits that images and situations are traditionally only viewed
through certain lenses, such as age, race and gender, and that there is a need
for a new lens through which to understand. The term racism, hooks ([sa])
argues, does not allow for a discourse of colonisation and decolonisation, nor
does it allow for internalised racism in people of colour racism keeps
whiteness at the centre of the discussion. hooks ([sa]) states that white
supremacy as a term does not just invoke white people, but a "...political world
that we all frame ourselves in relationship to...". White supremacists capitalist
patriarchy is therefore a way in which one can consider not only the
implications of representation of women and of blackness, but also how to
consider internalised racism, such as black on black violence. Popular culture,
hooks ([sa]) argues, is a site which deserves consideration through the lens of
white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

hooks ([sa]) argues that cultural products, specifically films, are a prime mode of
pedagogy. hooks ([sa]) posits that the representation of femininity and
blackness are created in terms of white capitalist interests, with a focus on
misogynism and racism. These representations, for hooks ([sa]), are created by
a capitalist media who has control of the imaginations of the masses. This
media, hooks ([sa]) argues, refuses to admit conscious construction of a
blackness which is transgressive and commodified. hooks ([sa]) states that the
reason for this oppressive construction stems from young white liberals who
have control over the production of cultural products (such as rap music and
films). hooks ([sa]) goes so far as to argue that white culture is not transgressive
enough for it to be exciting, and thus young white suburban males are singled
out as the perpetuators of the commodified blackness. In terms of feminism,
hooks ([sa]) argues that women have been represented as sexual objects in
order to subvert feminism, which she considers as the most important political
movement of the last century. hooks ([sa]) parallels her argument with postWorld War Two mass media which encouraged women out of factories, back
into the domicile. hooks ([sa]) states that contemporary popular culture is
working to reposition women, which is a backlash to feminism, ushering in a
new version of an old version of the desirable woman. By way of example,
hooks ([sa]) notes that this motivated representation of women can be seen in
Leaving Las Vegas (Figgus 1995), where Sera (Elisabeth Shue) exploits her
self, telling Ben (Nicolas Cage) that for $500 he can get pretty much whatever
you want...you can fuck my ass; you can cum on my face. Smoke (Wang
1995), hooks ([sa]) argues, shows how filmmakers consciously construct
blackness as transgressive. The film is based on a story by Paul Auster who,
hooks ([sa]) notes, does not racially identify the young thief, but Wang made the
character black. hooks ([sa]) believes that this is a device used in order to give
the movie more zip, and to enhance the good white man/bad black man binary.
Images such as these, hooks ([sa]) argues, perpetuate white supremacy,
misogyny and racism.

All of these images, in both film and in (specifically rap) music videos are based
in racist, capitalist, patriarchal and misogynist construction which, hooks ([sa])
argues, no one will admit to consciously constructing.
Several American studies deal with white trash and whiteness in relation to
Eminem. Russell White (2006) discusses Eminem in relation to the
carnivalesque, and suggests Eminem is a post-industrial take on blackface
minstrels of the nineteenth century. White (2006) continues to note how
Eminems different personalities, Marshall Mathers III, Slim Shady and Eminem,
have come to represent different aspects of his personality, but also of society.
Eminem uses these personas for credibility, identifying with the poor white trash
so as to fit into the American rap genre, where white trash is linked with
working-class blackness. White (2006) plays Eminem off against Vanilla Ice,
who was exposed as a fraud, ending his career, while Eminem has maintained
his credibility by being from a poor background. In terms of post-industrial white
masculinity, White (2006:70-71) contends that Eminem adopts the persona of
Slim Shady as a form of self protection, a mask to hide behind, allowing him to
say whatever he pleases. Slim Shady is, for Bozza (in White 2006:71) a
disenchanted white youth, marginalised by society and emasculated by
feminism, articulating a perceived crisis of American masculinity. White
(2006:65;78) argues that these personas, and the often misogynist, violent and
profanely homophobic lyrics are intended as a parody, and that through these
personas, Eminem exemplifies linguistic play and performance inherent in the
signifying tradition. This concept of personas corresponds with Watkin Tudor
Jones and Anri du Toit adopting the personas of Ninja and Yo-Landi. Watts
(2005) also addresses identity construction in relation to Eminems semiautobiographical film 8 Mile (Hanson 2002).
In South African academic literature, whiteness studies have been unpacked in
terms of Die Antwoord and zef by authors such as Marx and Milton (2011) in
their investigation of the reconfiguration of Afrikaans identities, mediated
through zef. Marx and Milton (2011) argue that zef artefacts articulate a
perceived marginal and liminal experience of white Afrikaans youths in South

Africa. Through an overview of the evolution of Afrikaans music, including David


Kramer and Koos Kombuis as well as the Volvry movement, Marx and Milton
(2011) arrive at musicians such as Karen Zoid, Fokofpolisiekar, Jack Parow,
and Die Antwoord. These former two artists, Marx and Milton (2011) argue,
adopt zef culture in a deconstructive attempt to redefine ideas about whiteness
and being Afrikaans. Jack Parow and Die Antwoord construct a bastardised
whiteness (Marx & Milton 2011:740) through a hybridity of cultures,
emphasising Halls notion of new ethnicities (Marx & Milton 2011:743) which
are increasingly disenchanted with politics and white guilt and have thus turned
to creating new identities.
Liese van der Watts (2005) investigation of post-apartheid South African
popular visual culture negotiates the changing notions of whiteness and
masculinity. Van der Watt (2005) traces international theories of whiteness as
normative, non-raced and invisible, but contends that South Africa presents
exceptions to this invisibility (2005:121). Van der Watt (2005:122) argues that
the making visible of whiteness in South Africa has been repeatedly covered in
analyses and in histories of apartheid and colonial settlement. Van der Watt
(2005:122) contends that whiteness has been made strange and has been
contested throughout the years of the anti-apartheid struggle, and draws on
performance artists Steven Cohen and Peet Pienaar, and comic strip
Bitterkomix to demonstrate the often satirised performances of alternative
versions of masculinity in South Africa. Van der Watt (2005:129) concludes that
the hypervisibility of whiteness in South Africa is in crisis under the new
democratic dispensation, as well as it being a position that has long been
contested. Van der Wattss (2005) investigation suggests that white
heteronormative masculinity as been dethroned, but that masculinity is itself a
performance which is not inherent.
Amanda du Preezs (2011) discussion on liminality, the monstrous and the
carnivalesque directly addresses Die Antwoord as a site of examination. Du
Preez (2011:102) argues that the adoption of liminal aspects of the monstrous
and the carnivalesque by Die Antwoord converts the liminal into a suspended

10

moment of consumption, advancing Die Antwoord into a consumable entity.


Du Preez (2011:107) reflects on the impurity of the zef culture, and notes
that the language used by Die Antwoord is a mixture of several of South Africas
eleven official languages. With a focus on sexuality and grotesque strange
bodies, Du Preez (2011:110) likens Die Antwoords performances to the
spectacle of a troupe of circus freaks. Informed by Scott Lashs (2007)
discussion on affect and post-hegemony, Du Preez (2011:114) concludes that
Die Antwoords post-hegemonic potential lies in the carnivalesque affect of their
performances, which stir moods of the audiences.
Julie Reids (2012:45) study examines the construction of good/bad white
collective identities in films of the post-apartheid area, with specific focus on the
creation of myth and counter myth or remythologisation of white identities.
These apartheid inscriptions of whiteness, Reid (2012:49) argues, had to be
reconfigured both locally and internationally. Reid (2012) investigates films the
majority of which are produced and directed internationally in order to
demonstrate how whiteness has been re-described for international audiences:
Cry the Beloved Country (Roodt 1995), Drum (Maseko 2003), Promised Land
(Xenopoulos 2003), Stander (Hughes 2003), Forgiveness (Gabriel 2004), Red
Dust (Hooper 2004), In My Country (Boorman 2005), Catch a Fire (Noyce
2007), Goodbye Bafana (August 2007), Skin (Fabian 2010) and Invictus
(Eastwood 2010). Reid (2012:51) discusses the representation of white men in
terms of bad and good white perpetrators. Bad white perpetrators, Reid
(2012:51) suggests, are presented through characters that show varying
degrees of violence, coupled with retrospective remorse, disingenuous or none
at all, for their involvement in apartheid atrocities. Good white perpetrators,
conversely, show genuine and unquestionable remorse (Reid 2012:52). This
genre of films, which Reid (2012:45) terms post-apartheid history films,
highlights the difference between the good and bad white perpetrators by
navigating the characters remorse, allotment of guilt and whether or not they
deserve forgiveness. Good white perpetrators, Reid (2012:53-54) hypothesises,
are portrayed as people that were not necessarily directly involved, but are
implicated by their inaction against apartheid, and people that engaged with
11

black people and are thus ostracised by their community. These two categories
are problematised, Reid (2012:56) suggests, when the new white identity
construction is broached. In Invictus (Eastwood 2010) the protagonist is nonfictional, and the representation of his whiteness is thus complicated. Francois
Pienaar (Matt Damon) is shown to be in no way implicated in the past, and the
myth of the good white perpetrator is evoked, but it is not the myth of a
perpetrator he is not burdened with guilt and remorse. Reid (2012:57-58)
argues that this could suggest a new identity under construction, noting that the
myth of the good white and bad white perpetrator is currently in flux. Reid
(2012:59) suggests that this flux indicates a remythologisation in the mythic
narrative of South African post-apartheid whiteness.

1.3

Theoretical framework

This study hopes to begin to understand the change of representation of the


white self in post-apartheid South Africa. By application of a postmodern
paradigm involving semiotics and theories on whiteness in light of postapartheid (white) identity construction under the myth of the Rainbow Nation,
post-colonialism, this study will discuss the manner in which whiteness in South
Africa has been traditionally constructed as visible (van der Watt 2005), and
since heteronormativity has been destabilised, whiteness is no longer the
default.

1.4

Methodological framework

This study of Die Antwoord will be a qualitative analysis of their music video
I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012). Their performances will be placed into
the context of contemporary South African culture, and specific attention will be
given to the manner in which they represent their whiteness. Consideration will
be given to their dress style, mannerisms, language and intended meaning of
their performances in order to investigate their construction of strange
whiteness.

12

A semiotic investigation will be undertaken in order to unpack the meaning of


the music video I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012). Semiotics can be
considered qualitative method of research, and is concerned with how images
make meaning; that is, semiotics is not simply a descriptive method, and is
concerned with how images interact with the broader social context within which
images are received and understood (Rose 2012:106-107).
Mainstream semiology deals with the site of the image itself, with less concern
for the site of the audiencing (Rose 2012:112). Its focus is the compositional
modality, but also has concerns based within the social modality. The
compositional modality refers to the specific material qualities of an image or
visual subject (Rose 2012:147). This study will employ mainstream semiology
for its focus on the composition of the image and the ideologies at work within
the images as they relate to broader systems of meaning.
The music video for I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) was chosen owing to
Roger Ballens body of work having been instrumental in the reconfiguration of
the myth of whiteness. Ballen, together with Die Antwoord, are at the cusp of
destabilising entrenched myths of whiteness through the popular medium music
videos. Marx and Milton (2011:724) argue that the reconfiguration of Afrikaans
identities in zef cultural products, such as Die Antwoords music video, are
deliberate in that they engage in a discourse which speaks to a perceived
sense of marginal and liminal experience of white Afrikaans youth in postapartheid South Africa. The complex imagery of the music video, as well as
the photographs taken while shooting the video, makes for an apposite semiotic
case study of whiteness.
Rose (2012:109-110) contends that in semiotics there is rarely a justification for
the selection of images as there is no interest in finding images that are
statistically representative. A semiotic analysis, Rose (2012:109) maintains, is
often concerned with a detailed case study of a few select images, thus it
stands on the theoretical framework and analytical integrity rather than its ability
to relate to a wide range of images. Rose (2012:123) suggests that it is

13

necessary to look at the methodological implications of adverts in relation to


other adverts, but in terms of this study of Die Antwoord, it will be outside the
scope to compare them to other performers in similar genres.
Semiotic signs are, for Rose (2012:139), multimodal. In terms of this study,
consideration will be given to the medium of communication, that is, music
videos, with brief reference to lyrical content. Rose (2012:120) posits that an
image may have what Barthes (1977:38-41) terms anchorage. Anchorage is
the text leads the reader to a prescribed reading of an image. In terms of music
videos, Rose (2012:120) notes that spoken words offer a relay function
(Barthes 1977:38-41) which is complementary to the image. Die Antwoords
music videos are anchored by the lyrics, as well as the use of dialogue and the
subtitles which translate the Afrikaans in their skits2. Consideration will also be
given to the mise-en-scne and the cinematography (including but not limited to
props, lighting, as well as choreography and composition).

1.5

Outline of chapters

This chapter has formed the introduction to this paper. Included above is a
review of literature pertaining to whiteness studies, imperative to understanding
the broad scope of whiteness studies; an outline of the theoretical framework as
well as the methodological framework is given above in order to situate this
study in the broader discourse in visual culture studies of whiteness studies and
semiotic analyses. Chapter Two turns focus to the discourse of whiteness
studies, with specific focus on Richard Dyers (1997) conception and
interrogation of whiteness. The chapter outlines the main theories of whiteness
and of myth and the construction of the myth of whiteness, both internationally
and locally. Counter theory is discussed in terms of bell hooks ([sa]) discussion
of whiteness. The chapter then moves focus to the construction of myth in terms
of South African whiteness, and specifically Afrikaans whiteness. Chapter Three
comprises of the in-depth semiotic investigation of I Fink U Freeky (Ballen &
Ninja 2012). A brief outline of Roger Ballens work is given in order to
2

As seen in the music video for Babys On Fire, (Die Antwoord 2012).

14

contextualise the music videos construction of a new whiteness in terms of


abject and deviant representations of whiteness, which are major themes in
Ballens corpus of work. Chapter Four draws conclusion to the study,
highlighting key arguments made throughout.

15

CHAPTER TWO: THE DISCOURSE OF WHITENESS STUDIES


In this chapter an overview of the discourse within whiteness studies will be
given in order to situate this study within the broader discourse surrounding
whiteness as a theory. Whiteness theory is an interdisciplinary academic inquiry
concerning ideologically charged notions of social, historical and sociological
aspects of people defined as white.
Whiteness studies, Thompson (2001:sp) argues, treats whiteness as a social
construction, not as a biological classification. Dyer (1997:9) similarly contends
that whiteness is invisible insofar as whiteness is normalised, taken for granted
and white people are not raced. Race is something applied to only non-white
people, and as long as whites are not seen and named in terms of race, Dyer
(1997:1) argues, white people will continue to function as the norm, as
representative of the human race. Whiteness studies therefore should address,
amongst others, notions of gender, class, nationality/ethnicity and power.
Whiteness as social superiority can be said to have been constructed in order to
emphasise white supremacy and to justify discrimination against non-white
peoples. Whiteness has historically been constructed as a privileged position.
Dyer (1997:15) traces the history of the construction of ideal whiteness as
shaped by Christianity. The representation of people is the representation of
bodies, and Christianitys sensibility is focused on the body (Dyer 1997:14-15).
Western culture, Dyer (1997:15) argues, finds foundation in Christianity and
Christian iconography. In the turn from the medieval to Renaissance art, a new
consideration of skin tone is shown, and this marking of difference through skin
tone can be noted in depictions of Christ and the Virgin Mary (Dyer 1997:66).
Dyer (1997:67) notes that their renderings showed increasingly paler and whiter
complexions than other figures, so much so that they became so white that
they give off light which illuminates the darker coloured faces of the
shepherds. The epistemology of light situates light as pure and moral.
The presence and the direction of light within representations not only focused
attention on certain figures, but elevated the status of the person in the light.

16

Morality, virtue, cleanliness and purity in paintings of the Virgin Mary are
associated with her light complexion, a white complexion (Dyer 1997:74). In
binary opposition to this white pureness, non-whites are associated with
corporeal impurity, dirt and faecal matter, amongst others (Dyer 1997:76). To
look white, Dyer (1997:76) emphasises, is to look clean. However, difference in
skin tone was not considered in terms of race until the Crusades (Dyer
1997:67). The Crusades are understood as a struggle of Christianity against the
non-Christian (specifically opposing Islamic possession of the Holy Land), Dyer
(19997:67) states, which brought with it a tradition of black:white moral dualism
to bear on an enemy that could itself be perceived as black. In effect, the
Crusades played an integral role in the heightened awareness of skin tone
difference which perpetuated the black/white, moral/immoral dualisms.
Whiteness can therefore be understood as clarity, cleanliness, enterprising,
controlled and controlling (Dyer 1997:21,72). White as a colour signifies virginity
and innocence, morality purity and divinity, thus whiteness as a race is more
clean, more moral and closer to the divine than the blackness/darkness/colour
of non-whites who, by way of opposition, come to represent dirt, immorality and
evil (Dyer 1997:73-76).
Under imperialism, Dyer (1997:38-39) argues, the construction of white identity
was less important than obtaining a position of disinterest in order to maintain
superiority. This position of distance, abstraction, separation and objectivity is
the position that Dyer (1997:38-39) takes interest in owing to the position it
affords the viewpoints of texts a philosophical position of everything and
nothing. Dyer (1997:39) argues that the formal organisation of texts may be
characterised as white, male and upper or middle class, and no other gender,
class or ethnicity may aspire to it. This is Dyers (1997:39) conception of
whiteness being without properties, which is important in visual culture.
In order to further separate white bodies from non-white bodies, Dyer
(1997:145-183) argues that whiteness had to be represented as superior and
possessing certain qualities, such as muscular bodies. Dyer (1997:146) states

17

that it was rare to see a semi-naked white man in popular culture and mass
media until the 1980s. Dyer (1997:146) discusses the presence of semi-naked
bodies in art galleries, sports and pornography offered socially acceptable or
restricted images, but the 1980s introduced the champion or built body in such
films as Conan the Barbarian (Milius1982), and First Blood (Kotcheff 1982).
These bodies are shown as undergoing strict training, diets and anguish in
order to achieve their perfection, and as such, these characters were portrayed
as being able to master, control and transcend the white body (Dyer
1997:23,27). Tasker (1993:79) echoes this sentiment when she notes that built
bodies in mass media films and body-building magazines specifically such
as those of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, are commodified,
sexualised, and made the ideal to which (white) men should strive. Tasker
(1993:79) argues that these bodies, within the action of cinema, tell stories of
subjection and resistance, so that muscles function to give the action hero the
power to resist, at the same time as they confirm him in a position that defines
him almost exclusively through the body.
bell hooks ([sa]) contends that the impact of whiteness is wide spread and
profoundly influences every facet of daily life: from politics to representation
within films, from feminism to misogyny, hooks ([sa]) argues that whiteness is at
the core of every debate. In the video interview Cultural Criticism and
Transformation, hooks ([sa]) outlines her concept of white supremacist
capitalist patriarchy as a discourse which should inform critiques of, amongst
others, everyday life, popular culture, mass media and considerations of the self
(specifically the black self and the black female self). hooks ([sa]) contends that
the term racism perpetuates the centrality of whiteness in discourse, and as
such uses white supremacist capitalist patriarchy to decentre whiteness and
highlight it in the interlocking systems of domination which control us. hooks
([sa]) argues that whiteness, patriarchy and capitalism drive depictions of
women and of non-whites in order to oppress and control. hooks ([sa]) states
that Girl 6 (Lee 1996) is a movie that challenges (white run) Hollywood. Spike
Lee, according to hooks ([sa]), comments on what blackness has come to mean
with reference to the character Director #1 - NY (Quentin Tarantino).
18

Director #1 -NY symbolises the idea that the image of blackness can be
negotiated by any maker of culture and cultural products. hooks ([sa]) continues
by stating that Lee was only labelled as a failure because he is black. Lees
films were not highly grossing, nor were they very popular, but hooks ([sa])
maintains that white directors who have the same grossing and popularity ratio
are not considered failures because of their colour. hooks ([sa]) argues that this
is a mechanism used in order to maintain the privilege and legitimacy of white
directors over representation. Similarly, hooks ([sa]) argues that mainstream rap
music is made for the young white male target market as they are the
economically empowered. This, hooks ([sa]) argues, perpetuates the notion that
whites can appropriate cultures that are not their own simply because they are
white. Nakayama and Krizek (in Giroux 2010:382) echo hooks insofar as their
argument that the primary tasks of whites should be to demystify and unveil
whiteness as a mode of domination. Giroux (2010:382) argues, however, that
the correlation between whiteness and domination, oppression and privilege is
based on a singular assumption. Giroux (2010:382-383) argues that such
theories work to abolish whiteness as a racial category as well as a marker of
identity. But Dyer (1997:3) argues that whiteness is indeed invisible and
privileged, and it is necessary to make whiteness visible. However, whiteness
as a construct in South Africa can be understood as historically visible, even
hyper-visible, as seen in the racial segregation of apartheid (van der Watt
2005:122).

19

2.1

The construction of the myth of whiteness in post-apartheid


South Africa

Myth is ideological and, for Barthes (1973:117), myth is not defined by the
object of its message, but by the way in which it utters this message: there are
formal limits to myth, there are no substantial ones. Barthes (1973:123)
argues that instead of being content specific and substantive, mythologies are
defined by form. Myth, Barthes (1973:123) argues, is a second-order
semiological system which builds on denotative signs. Denotative signs have
meaning as signifiers at a second mythological level. When meaning becomes
form, history is evacuated and the sign empties itself (Barthes 1973:127). Myth,
therefore, over-simplifies and naturalises the way things are.
The myth of the South African Rainbow Nation3, Habib (1996:[sa]) reasons,
focused efforts to consolidate democracy in South Africa on a race variable
many people of many colours living in harmony. However, Habib (1996:[sa])
notes that the political and ideological assumptions made by the term Rainbow
Nation did not factor in class variables, thus resting its focus on the presumption
the predominant conflict in South Africa is racial antagonism. The myth of the
Rainbow Nation is therefore meant to naturalise the racial integration under
democracy, which in turn naturalises the occurrence of cross-cultural synergies.
Die Antwoords adoption and appropriation of several cultures, particularly Cape
Coloured culture in terms of language and cultural signifiers such as tattoos
is an acceptable practice under the myth of the Rainbow Nation. However,
critics such as OToole (2012:398) argue that Die Antwoords pastiche of
cultures is inauthentic. Perhaps the inauthenticity of their parody of South
African cultures breeds the authenticity of their remythologisation (Reid
2012:45) of a post-apartheid whiteness.
The construction of the myth of whiteness in post-apartheid South African films
forms part of the investigation undertaken by Reid (2012). Reid (2012) notes
that there are binary constructions of good white characters and bad white
3

The term Rainbow Nation was coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1991, and the term
encapsulates the multilingual and multicultural diversity of South African citizens.

20

characters present in the narratives. These myths have implications for the
understanding of post-apartheid whiteness and are implicit in the construction of
a new white South African collective identity.
Reid (2012:48) considers the primary functions of myths to reinforce beliefs and
values; to function as escapism, romanticising settings which are removed from
daily life; to emphasise certain aspects of life, which reinforces Barthes notion
of myth emptying and making remote the signified history (Rose 2012:132);
myth may also function to serve patriotism. Myth, Reid (2012:47) argues, is a
system of self-definition whereby identity is encoded with norms attributed to
members of certain groups, which in turn defines boundaries for that group and
determines its otherness from another group. Reid (2012:48) posits that political
myths work to counteract social contradictions within society, making certain
beliefs more coherent and help an individual understand society, where the
group originated from, how it became what it is presently and why it is in its
present predicament. This is done through orientating the present situation in a
narrative. Reid (2012:48) argues that political myth and counter myth are
paramount to considerations of contemporary South African mass media. Reid
(2012:48-49) argues that contemporary South African films are political in
nature, and can be considered to encourage reconciliation and the adoption of a
new national identity while reconfiguring white identity construction; the counter
myth construction stems from their opposition to previously dominant myths
of apartheid-type oppression and social separation. It can thus be considered
that the counter myth of white Afrikaners is constructed by Die Antwoord in the
form of a pastiche, and are forming part of a backlash to puritan Afrikaner
idealism and the construction of idealistic masculine identities. Du Pisani
(2004:80) identifies tropes within idealistic Afrikaans masculine identity
construction in the media, and argues that three categories exist: the Boer
warrior, the farmer and the hunter. Du Pisani (2004:80,92) notes that these
three categories possess strong puritan characteristics and that the essence of
the Afrikaner identity can be found in Puritan insistence on, amongst others,
assiduousness and a sense of fulfilment in physical labour, strong work ethic
and placing responsibility before pleasure.
21

The ideal Afrikaans man, du Pisani (2004:92) respects the traditions of his
forefathers, and is of resolute moral integrity. In reaction to this myth of
Afrikaner masculine identity, perhaps Die Antwoord are engaging in the
subversion of white identity that Reid (2012:49) identifies. Die Antwoord perform
Afrikaans identities which subvert the Puritan traditions and moral integrity
insisted upon in the construction of Afrikaans identities their lyrics often
include explicit references to sex, their performances are not in line with
emphasis placed on fulfilment though physical labour and they seem to place
materialistic wealth ahead of family values. Locally and internationally, Reid
(2012:49) argues, there is a need to reconfigure the characterisation of the bad
white Afrikaans-accented figure in popular media. Ninja, Yo-Landi and DJ HiTek offer a reconfiguration insofar as they purport to be good whites with
Afrikaans accents: not racist and accepting of all classes, races and sexual
orientations, subverting the popular construction of the bad white Afrikaans
racist that Reid (2012:49) identifies.

2.2

Sub-conclusion

This chapter has outlined the discourse within whiteness studies, and has
situated this study within the broader context of whiteness studies. Primary
focus was given to Dyers (1997) study of whiteness owing to its consideration
of a wide range of media and discourse. Whiteness and white identity have
been delineated to express concerns of corporeality, morality, cleanliness,
control and social superiority. bell hooks ([sa]) conception of white supremacist
capitalist patriarchy provided a counter argument which serves to demystify
whiteness and reveal ideologies of domination. The myth of whiteness in postapartheid South Africa was discussed in terms of Reids (2012) investigation
into myth and identity construction in South African films. Traditional narratives
and tropes in Afrikaner culture was discussed in terms of du Pisanis (2004)
investigation into the construction of Afrikaner masculine ideals. This section
concludes by stating that Die Antwoord are engaging in a subversion of the
myth of whiteness in South Africa.

22

CHAPTER THREE: I Fink U Freeky


3.1

Enter Die Antwoord


Dear Mr Ballen,
When we first discovered your work a few years ago our minds
got totally blown and we have never been the same since. I
remember clearly that when me and ninja saw your photographs
we decided right there and then to put an end to all the music and
art we had been working on up till that point. Immediately we
began working on a new project called DIE ANTWOORD.
(Artforum 2012)

Die Antwoords elaborate identity construction parallels Marx and Miltons


(2011:743) assertion that South African performers have turned to creating
new ethnicities owing to their disenchanted view of politics and white guilt.
Ninja, Yo-Landi and DJ Hi-Tek are obvious in their disproval for the African
National Congress4, but more importantly can be understood to be engaging in
a subversion of the myth of whiteness, one that does not display white guilt.
The myth of (Afrikaans) whiteness, in terms of Calvinist and puritan rhetoric and
ideology, constructs whiteness as dominant, rational, ordered, contained and
controlled, advanced, clean, pure and moral (Dyer 1997:30-40, du Pisani
2004:80-93). The National Partys policy of white supremacy lead to a
construction of Afrikaner identity which called for Calvinist ideals of whiteness
and these ideologies extended to contemporary Afrikaans identities (Marx
2008:194; Giliomee 2003:256,664).
However, Die Antwoord embody the opposite of the construct of whiteness:
their lyrics are distasteful, their behaviour could be read as irrational, their
performances are erratic, and their bodies are not contained, controlled,
advanced, clean, pure or moral.
4

Many of their songs, particularly Super Evil (Die Antwoord 2010), denounce the ANC, as well
as images in music videos, such as Fok Julle Naaiers (Garrett & Ninja 2012) where hot bum
sex is advertised next to Viva ANCYL. The scene also shows a cell phone number,
assumedly to call for the hot bum sex - the cell phone number belongs to Mail & Guardian
online editor, Chris Roper (who gave a less than shining review of Die Antwoords 2010 album
$O$).

23

The advent of democracy coincided with the publishing of world renowned


photographer Roger Ballens controversial images in Platteland (Ballen 1994).
The images in Platteland (Ballen 1994) showed whites as derelict victims of
illness and abject poverty, despite the privileged position afforded to them by
apartheid (Ballen 2012). New York born Ballen has lived in South Africa since
1970, and began documenting dorpe (towns) in rural South Africa (Figure 1),
but his lens soon turned to the aberrant inhabitants of the dorpe (Figure 2).
From the late 1980s, Ballen began documenting psychologically challenging,
uncanny and transgressive whiteness in surreal settings. Ballens uvre
systematically captures sublime images, many of which focus on confronting
notions of transgressive whiteness in South Africa. His work consistently
represents whiteness as abject, and therefore can be considered an auteur.
Ballens works have been exhibited internationally, and his museum collections
range from Johannesburg Art Museum to New Yorks Museum of Modern Art
(Roger Ballen 2012).

Figure 1: Roger Ballen,


Early Morning, Napier, 1985.
(Roger Ballen).

Figure 2: Roger Ballen,


Dresie and Casie, Twins, Western Transvaal, 1993.
(Roger Ballen).

Ballens enigmatic photographic style was adapted for video in 2012 when
Ballen collaborated with Die Antwoord for the music video for I Fink U Freeky
(Ballen & Ninja 2012). The video has positioned itself as an art piece, and has

24

created a name for Die Antwoord and Ballen in the respective worlds of art and
popular culture. Ballen says that working with Die Antwoord introduced [his]
work to endless people that would have never seen or been interested in it
before, so it got into all sorts of peoples heads through the music and through
the images that would have never experienced it (Schiering 2012). The video
functions to signify the subversion of the myth of whiteness through the
intertextuality of the images which constantly reference Ballens uvre.

3.2

I Fink U Freeky A formalist reading informed by Dyers


whiteness theory

I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) conforms to Du Preezs (2011:102)


assertion that Die Antwoord represent a monstrous carnivalesque
extravaganza. With his stylistic emphasis on the display of bodies and the
spectacle, Ballen masterfully renegotiates or remythologises (Reid 2012:45)
that which whiteness has come to traditionally represent. In this section,
discussion will turn to the complexity of the mise-en-scne in I Fink U Freeky
(Ballen & Ninja 2012) which amplifies the angst of the psychological backdrop,
and effectively renders whiteness as a culturally specific and ideologically
charged prop. Through a semiotic analysis of the music video, this investigation
endeavours to engage with a myriad of possible meanings in images in order to
reveal constructions which may be considered subversive of the myth of
whiteness by Die Antwoords performance and by the manner in which Ballen
represents whiteness.
Dyer (1997:146-183) discusses the portrayal in films of white male bodies, and
posits that until the late 1980s it was rare to see a semi-naked white man with
the exception of two genres: the boxing film and the colonial-set adventure film.
These, Dyer (1997:146) argues, set the terms for looking at a white males
naked body. The naked body, Dyer (1997:146) argues is a vulnerable body:
vulnerable to the elements as well as in a social sense. Dyer (1997:146) notes
that clothing stand as markers for prestige, wealth, status, and class. Dirty
clothing in I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) amplifies the display of
strange, unclean white bodies, as discussed later on. Performers in the music
25

video are in white clothing, but not pure white clothing. The pants, underwear
and shirts are all dirty, some are torn, and some have drawings on them that
mirror the recurring aesthetic trope of art brut (Ballen 2012/09/05) prevalent in
Ballens works mise-en-scne (Figure 3, first frame).
Whiteness in I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) is placed within and comes
to be a symbolic sign of disorder, disarray and chaos, both literally and
psychologically. The white bodies in I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) are
semi-naked, uncontrolled or erratic, and unclean. The display of bodies
(specifically white male bodies) in I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012)
importantly symbolise impurity as they are dirty, covered in what appears to be
soot or dirt, and they are never fully clothed (Figure 3). Nakedness also reveals
the inadequacy of the body on display in relation to social ideals. In the scene
with the bath (see Figure 13), Yo-Landi is seemingly naked, thus rendered
vulnerable as well as socially inadequate or inappropriate, in terms of Dyers
(1997:146) argument that clothing marks status. In terms of Bergers (1972:54;
2003:39) distinction between nakedness and nudeness, to be nude is to be
modest to be nude is to be clothed in art. However, to be naked is to be
submissive and revealing, without disguise, which involves nakedness in a
shameful and inauspicious display of the body. In I Fink U Freeky (Ballen &
Ninja 2012), performers are naked rather than nude because they actively
engage in the display of their made-strange bodies. Their nakedness, however,
is not shameful as they seem to proudly display their bodies. This nakedness of
performers in the video connotes disruption of modesty, and signifies the
subversion of social adequacy and conformity to conceptions of moral selfdisplay and self-representation.
Viewers understand the myth of whiteness through markers, or signs, such as
the controlled, clothed and clean body. The bodies in I Fink U Freeky (Ballen &
Ninja 2012) are signs that connote the subversion of this myth.

26

.
Figure 3: Screen shots of unclean and uncontrolled white bodies in I Fink U Freeky, 2012.

To be white is to be clean, expunged of dirt (Dyer 1997:76) yet the dirty bodies
in I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) may connote a transformation into a
colour that can be charted because, as Dyer (1997:207) notes, whiteness
denotes a colour that signifies absence of colour. To be white is to be restrained
and in control of emotions and bodies, in a kind of Cartesian mind/body split
where the superior intellect of the white man is able to transcend corporeality
(Dyer 1997: 28,150). However, the white males performances in I Fink U
Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) are characterised as erratic and energetic in their
movement, which suggests a lack of control over emotions and the body. Du
Preez (2011:105) echoes this when she notes that the energetic performances,
specifically of Yo-Landi, signal danger. The energetic performances in I Fink U
Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) can also be understood signs signalling literal and
psychological danger through disorder and chaos. The disorder and chaos
represented here threaten to undermine and subvert the myth of control of
whiteness and the ideal white body.
Dyer (1997:147) posits that whiteness is related to spirit and transcendence of
corporeality, and that this may have led to a belief that non-white bodies are
better and stronger. Importantly, an albino man features in I Fink U Freeky
(Ballen & Ninja 2012), and he appears to be a powerful and aggressive body-

27

builder. The body of this man is white by virtue of a congenital disorder, but he
possesses the most built body. His is a stark contrast to the biologically white
yet gaunt body of Ninja (Figure 4). Ninjas body is riddled with tattoos which are
indexical signs, mimicking culturally specific markers that signify allegiance to
several Cape Flats gangs and prison-gangs. Haupt (2012) notes that his
tattoos make reference to the knife as well as Richie Rich and the graffiti image
of Casper the friendly ghost wielding a large penis [are] reminiscent of prisongang tattoos and gang graffiti. These indexical signs depend on the viewers
understanding of the intertexual references, and serve to subvert the myth of
law abiding white culture, pure and untarnished by non-white culture.

Figure 4: Screen shots of muscular congenital whiteness compared to gaunt biological whiteness in I Fink
U Freeky, 2012.

Much like Ballens arresting portrait Dresie and Casie, Twins, Western
Transvaal, 1993 (Figure 2), medium close-up shots form an intertextual theme
in the music video. The spectacle of strange faces seems to be put on display;
their eyes are fixed directly on the camera as if they are judging the viewer, or
perhaps challenging the viewer to turn their gaze introspectively.

28

In I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) many of these portrait-like frames are
of peculiar looking, semi-naked children (Figure 5). The nakedness once again
emphasises the display of their bodies and their inferred social inadequacy, and
their unusual appearances draw the viewers attention to the perverse desire to
observe the carnivalesque extravaganza (du Preez 2012:102).
The children are all displayed against a light background, save Sixteen Jones
(Ninja and Yo-Landis daughter) who is painted black and appears against a
dark background, underscoring the contrast of her white Yo-Landi mullet and
the whites of her eyes. She is shown with a ball python wrapped around her
shoulders and, as discussed later, a snake connotes evil. This darkness of
Sixteens skin may point to the impurity and death of white innocence and
femininity, as discussed later in relation to Yo-Landi.
Two of the children are shown screaming silently, with sharpened front teeth
which make them appear animalistic, while a third defiantly gives the viewer the
finger5. These images create an amplified sense of insolence owing to the fact
that these are children as children symbolically represent innocence and purity.
Ballen states that his work is meant to unsettle the viewer, arguing that arts
purpose is to have an effect on the viewer, one that sits within their
consciousness and changes the way they think (Lynch [sa]). These images of
children serve to subvert the myth of innocence in (white) children.

An offensive gesture, showing the middle finger straight up as a sign of derision. (The Free
Dictionary [sa]).

29

Figure 5: Screen shots of white children in I Fink U Freeky, 2012.

Insofar as white bodies are effectively theatrically displayed in the music video,
it is interesting that all but one of the white performers show their faces in a
portrait-style shot. The child performers, majority of white, all show their faces
directly, whereas the three black boys in the video are not shown as natural:
one is painted completely white; the second has a box over his head which
transforms him into a kind of monster; the third has an elephants trunk attached
to his face, bestowing him with bestial attributes (Figure 6).

30

Figure 6: Screen shots of black boys represented as unnatural in I Fink U Freeky, 2012.

Ballens work often features animals and he explains that his use of animals is
connected to the fact that animals are mysterious, more complex in some
ways; you cant put your finger on the animal, what he thinks or what he means
(in Sandals 2009). However, some animals can be interpreted as symbolically
or metonymically connotative of certain notions or ideas. Ninja is shown in
several frames with a ball python, either slithering over his face or as a phallus
(Figure 7). In Judeo-Christian traditions, the serpent is a symbol of evil and, in
the Book of Revelation, it is implied that the Serpent is Satan (Harris 1985).
Ninja is thus associated with not purity and virtue, but sexual impulses and evil.
Ballens work regularly features animals, wall paintings, objects and people
(Guadagnini 2010), symbolic tropes which all become props in the anxious
backdrop of Ballens exclusively black and white jarring images.

31

Figure 7: Snake as phallus in I Fink U Freeky, 2012. Screen shot by author.

3.3

Masculinity

Conceptions of masculinity under the apartheid era were designed to challenge


English-capitalist versions which had dominated since the beginning of British
occupation (Morrell, Jewkes & Lindegger 2012:16-17). Du Pisani (in Morrell et
al 2012:16) notes that the cultural ideal was associated with puritan values of
rigid austerity and strictness in conduct and morals. The firm emphasis on a
hierarchical social order and glorified militarism, as well as the Afrikaner frontier
history, played an important role in the construction of the masculine ideal
(Morrell et al 2012:17). Noyes (1998:149) states that after the advent of
democracy, the collapse of white male authority left white men disorientated. Du
Preez (2011:104) echoes this notion stating that that Ninjas marginalised and
abject white masculinity and his parody of white heterosexual masculinity
may be understood as denoting a backlash to established ideals of white
Afrikaans masculinity in South Africa.

32

With heterosexual masculinity in mind, it is interesting to note that DJ Hi-Tek6


represents a monstrous disruption of heteronormative masculinity. Van der Watt
(2005:125) suggests that performance artists such as Steven Cohen used
transvestitism in order to subvert hypermasculinity in Afrikaans culture. DJ HiTek, never seen without a monstrous and contorted mask, insists, violently at
times, that he is homosexual (Figure 8). Pieterse (2012:1), in discussing
discourses of deviance, argues that the word moffie stands central to the
changing representations of abnormal or deviant Afrikaner masculinity in
apartheid South Africa, a representation which finds grounding in contemporary
acts such as comedian Casper de Vries and DJ Hi-Tek.
In DJ Hi-Tek Rulz (Die Antwoord 2012), DJ Hi-Tek references Mike Tysons7
rant, and claims that DJ Hi-Tek will fuck you in the ass...Ill fuck you til you love
me, faggot. Historically, homosexuality was seen as posing a threat to a
gendered patriarchal order on which the power of the Afrikaner rested, and did
not fit into the prevailing meta-narratives of Afrikaners as heroic volk or racist
scoundrels (Pieterse 2012:2).

Figure 8: DJ Hi-Tek represents a subversive masculinity through a monstrous appearance in Fok Julle
Naaiers, 2012.
6

DJ Hi-Tek does not appear in I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012). One of his masks makes
an appearance in the scene where Yo-Landi lies on the dirty mattress (Figure 16).
7
At a press conference in 2008, Tyson responded to a reporters comment with a verbal assault
(Romano 2012).

33

In terms of abject heterosexual masculinity, Ninjas brand of masculinity can be


read as denotative of the backlash to what is now a marginalised white
masculinity (du Preez 2010:104). Ninja represents a parody of Afrikaner
masculinity though his performances, but also through a false Afrikaans accent8
which reiterates the parody of pure Afrikaansness9. His lyrics often refer to his
penis, to (sometimes explicit) sex and sexual acts, to bodily fluids and often the
lyrics function to objectify women10.
Ninjas patriarchal affirmation becomes violent in Umshini Wam (Korine 2011).
Ninja and Yo-Landi are shown as disabled (white) people, rolling around in
substandard wheelchairs, toting guns and spewing obscenities. They are shown
digging through rubbish, sleeping in a cul-du-sac and murdering people for new,
fancy wheelchairs and hologram rims. The men they murder are both Afrikaans
and are both dressed in khaki which is denotative in South African narratives
and stereotyping as being typical of boere (farmers). The oom who shows them
the wheel chairs becomes agitated and calls them a waste of white skin, and
wit kaffirs, and the pair shoot him.
In the short film, Ninja is shown having fallen out of his wheelchair twice, and in
one scene Yo-Landi hits him and calls him fokken hond, niks, poes, fokken
doos, eter, kont, hond, poes, naaier. She then looks at him lying helplessly on
the floor, not moving and either having been spat on or having bird faeces on
his forehead, and rolls away (Figure 9).
This could indicate Die Antwoords commentary on the supposed helplessness
felt by white Afrikaans males under the new democratic dispensation where
they have been stripped of their power and feel victimised under affirmative
action. In Umshini Wam (Korine 2011), as van der Watt (2005:129) also notes
about characters in Bitterkomix, the white man is unable to stand up for himself

Watkin Tudor Jones matriculated from Parktown Boys High School in 1992, and as such,
much criticism has focused itself on the inauthenticity of their back stories and accents.
9
Du Pisani (2004) argues that the ideal Afrikaans masculinity is aligned with puritan ideals of
responsibility to the family and country, as well as morality and rejection of material wealth.
10
An apposite example is Beat Boy (Die Antwoord 2010).

34

(literally here), and unable to do anything about being literally beaten while they
are metaphorically down, with the exception of turning to violence.

Figure 9: Helpless white male in Umshini Wam, 2012. Screen shot by author.

Bottomleys Poor White (2012) traces the history of poor white people in South
Africa from the Dutch settlers in 1880s. The idea of a new white poverty under
apartheid and Black Economic Empowerment is simply inaccurate. For
decades, white governments (both imperial and Afrikaans alike) have
systematically created a mythical collective past. This myth was perpetuated by
the National Party and, Bottomley (2012:140) notes, the myth worked to
suppress the existence of poor whites in order to maintain a veil of prestige
the poor whites vanished from public discourse. Attention in contemporary
media has situated white poverty as a seemingly new phenomenon. Following
the publication of Ballens Platteland: Images of rural South Africa (1994), the
white urban population recoiled at photographs such as Man Shaving on
Verandah, Western Transvaal (1986) (Figure 10), which undercut the image of
the colonial white in South Africa prior to the end of apartheid (Lynch [sa]).
Bottomley (2012:178) notes that poor white culture has recently been adopted
by white youth who ironically grow moustaches and wear threadbare clothes

35

with the most successful, and most strange [example] in the international
popularity of Afrikaans music groups such as Die Antwoordwho construct
themselves as members of this poor culture. Ballen has similarly been accused
of exploiting the marginalised subjects of his photographs. Ballen (in Enright
2011) responds:
When people look at one of my photographs, they don't have one
tenth of an idea about what went into it. The more the picture has
affected them psychologically, the more they scream exploitation.
I pry open the wound and it starts to leak pus. I don't know what
more to say. But I would certainly say that ninety percent of the
people in those pictures are proud they are in my books, and they
would be even more proud to see their pictures hanging in a
museum or gallery.
Whiteness, in the corpus of Ballens and Die Antwoords work, has come to
represent psychological disorder, chaos and angst. Ballens evocative formal
elements and provocative visual language may be considered by some as
psychologically disturbing.

Figure 10: Roger Ballen, Man Shaving on Verandah, Western Transvaal, 1986. (Roger Ballen
Foundation).

36

Ballen (in Pryor [sa]) states that his images were shocking because they were
contrary to the myth of whiteness as controlled and ordered:
Those people didnt symbolise an aspect of white culture that the
government wanted to promote at that time-a symbol of white
people being in control, being ordered, being authoritative, being
confident. These pictures showed a group of white people being
just the opposite of that[i]t wasnt exactly what the white
government and a lot of middle-class South Africans wanted to
see of their country.
Die Antwoord offer a similar disruption of popular narrative of whiteness,
specifically in terms of Afrikaans critics, owing to how they seem to pride
themselves on being as offensive and as anti-conservative Afrikaans as
possible. OToole (2012:398) argues that what is offered by Die Antwoord is
[a]t best, a temporal and spasmodic sense of South African whiteness, but is a
sense driven not by the will to clarify, rather to profit off an impoverished, ersatz
entertainment aware of its own unavoidable obsolescence. Yet, as Krueger
(2012:406) posits, Die Antwoords mockery through zef of the poor white
Afrikaner may be read as an attempt to reconcile unsettling qualities inherent in
a new South African white identity in opposition to the elite white Afrikaners
who instigated apartheid. In line with this thought, consideration should be given
to how Die Antwoord navigate their cultural hybridity11 and their apparent
disavowal of moral Afrikanerdom. Such an investigation cannot be undertaken
here as it falls outside the scope of this study.
Their lyrics are riddled with expletives and their performances are sexually
suggestive, as well as often employing male-on-female violence most notably
when Ninja punches Yo-Landi during live performances of the song Doos
Dronk, such as the performance at RAMfest (Lambrechts 2009). This behaviour
undermines the traditional construction of Afrikaans culture which is traditionally
concerned with the religious, patriarchal nuclear family paradigm as discussed
by Viljoen and Viljoen (2005:97-98,101).

11

As seen in Ninjas insistence that he represents all of South African culture, and that his body
is covered in tattoos which are recognised as Cape Flats gang tattoos.

37

In the scene where Ninja and Yo-Landi sit at a table in a grimy kitchen, a
subversion of this paradigm may be argued. The scene assails the notion of the
religious Afrikaans dinner setting, where their use of God se Jesus in the lyrics
accompanying the visual the images anchorage12 are not so much an
exaltation of the Christian God as purely blasphemous (Figure 11). As an
indexical sign, the food in this scene refers to a culturally specific understanding
of the walkie talkies and skop13 (offal) being not necessarily the kind of meal
the contemporary, advanced and pure (white) Afrikaans family would be eating.
The scene may be understood as a denotative synecdochal and iconic sign,
one that suggests that these whites, rapping in Afrikaans and looking
dishevelled, are the new configuration, the remythologisation (Reid 2012:45)
of the Afrikaans couple.

Figure 11: Dinner table in I Fink U Freeky, 2012. Screen shot by author.

In I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012), one scene shows Ninja and Yo-Landi
on a couch covered in what appears to be news papers (a traditionally black
and white medium), the walls are covered in newspapers with two headline
12

Barthes argues that when text accompanies an image, the viewer, or in this case the listener,
is lead to a prescribed reading of the image (in Rose 2012:120). The lyrics in this case offer
what Barthes terms a complementary relay-function (in Rose 2012:120), suggesting a parody
of religion.
13
Skop is boiled head, usually of a pig, sheep or cow, and is a delicacy favoured by African
men (Joburg 2012). Walkie talkies is a popular dish consisting of boiled chicken feet and
beaks.

38

boards alluding to bestiality and HIV/AIDS, and their clothing is made out of
newspaper (Figure 12). The headline boards come from Cape-based, Afrikaans
daily tabloid Son (sister paper to the English The Daily Sun). Son is modelled
on the British tabloids, and includes the same kind of sensationalist gossip and
celebrity news, as well as the scantily clad Page Three Girl (visible on closer
inspection of the newspapers on the wall). Crouching in the left corner is a white
rabbit which, along with the snake discussed above, form one of the themes of
Ballens canon.
The significance of this frame can be seen in the debased consumer culture
that Son represents. The readers of this publication could be condescendingly
understood as less educated and more concerned with corporeality and
sexuality (the Page Three Girl representing the latter), that is, not the white ideal
of educated and having control over their sexual urges14. Interestingly, The
Daily Sun, the English version, does not include the Page Three Girl. This may
suggest that the conservative and morally ideal Afrikaans culture has been
corrupted by deviant sexuality.

Figure 12: Ninja and Yo-Landi surrounded by newspapers in I Fink U Freeky, 2012. Screen shot by author.
14

Dyer (1997:27) argues that white people, with the emphasis of the mind in the mind/body
dualism, have control over their sexual impulses through will power. Sexual drives, Dyer
(1997:28) notes are characterised as dark, a darkness that white men have to struggle with,
and ultimately master.

39

Dyer (1997:132) discusses the white heterosexual couple as the bearers of the
race represented in a variety of films, paintings and photographs, contending
that white women are used to illuminate the men in the images. Yo-Landi,
submerged in a bath with a white duck, naked and vulnerable, seems to be
illuminating Ninja (Figure 13), and in general she is shown as lighter than Ninja.
Ninjas face is cast half in the shadows, possibly connoting his half-evil nature,
which it can be assumed means that his only chance at redemption is through
the light, and its inferred implication of morality and purity, of the white woman.

Figure 13: Yo-Landi illuminating Ninja in I Fink U Freeky, 2012. Screen shot by author.

The bath is filled with a black liquid, and skin is marked with black dirt, which
contrasts her iconic pallid complexion (Figure 14). The idealisation of angelic,
glowing and pure white women in the nineteenth century, Dyer (1997:127)
contends, was the symbol of white virtuousness. Yo-Landis whiteness,
however, is the opposite of this ideal of white as aesthetic superiority. While she
is white to the extreme white hair, white eyebrows, white clothing, white rats
her demeanour is decidedly dark, sexual, challenging and threatening.
Yo-Landis language, movements and clothing all connote danger and
hypersexual sex appeal through the intertextual understanding of the
construction of the myth of whiteness as virtuous and controlled.

40

Figure 14: Screen shots comparing Yo-Landi's contrasting skin tones in I Fink U Freeky, 2012.

3.4

Mise-en-scne

Monaco (in Rose 2012:69) notes that in considering the mise-en-scne of


video, particular attention needs to be paid to the construction of the shot
framing. When considering the composition of I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja
2012), it is important to note that emphasis is placed on the aesthetic of
documentary. Performers are filmed straight on in an eye-level long shot, with
the only exception being the shots of Yo-Landi in the bath and on the mattress
which are high angle long and medium long shots which create a sense of
vulnerability or weakness of the subject. In terms of the compositional
interpretation, the two scenes show her suggestively writhing on a mattress and
naked in a bath, respectively, which may be connotative of her sexual
availability, or her submissiveness under a patriarchal gaze of the viewer.
Where the camera is placed in relation to the subject greatly affects the
interpretation of the image, and medium long shots place equal emphasis on

41

the subjects and the set. Ballen employs the full range of shots15, with the
majority being long shots (70). Medium shots are the second most prevalent
(26) and interspersed are close-ups (25), medium long shots (9), medium closeups (5) and extreme close-ups (4). Whereas the other kinds of shots place more
emphasis on the subject suggesting the shots function in a documentary
fashion it is significant to note that the long shot consists of one or more
subjects, but emphasis is placed on the scene. These shots repeat themselves
throughout the music video, repeating the eight different scenes.
In I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) the complex mise-en-scne entices the
viewer to look past the performers in what Monaco (in Rose 2012:69) terms a
closed screen frame because no reference is made to what is happening
outside the mise-en-scne. Closed screen frames, Monaco (in Rose 2012:69)
discusses, suggests particular moods or emotions. The sets in I Fink U Freeky
(Ballen & Ninja 2012) are, in keeping with Ballens highly stylised canon of work,
sublime yet grimy abject in-door spaces, which suggest the music video intends
for the viewer to consider this the video as an internalised psychopathological
navigation of abnormal behaviour in emotionally fraught milieus.
The editing is fast paced, with an average of 1.6 seconds per frame which
amplifies the psychological tension. Known as post-classical editing, or the
MTV style (Mathis-Lilley, Sternbergh, Yuan & Eells 2006), this style creates a
sense of angst as well as intrigue as the viewer is not afforded the chance to
get a prolonged look at the videos construction and display of strange
whiteness.
Whiteness is construed as unsettling and jarring, unfamiliar and anarchic, and is
effectively rendered as a theatrical prop, utilised in the construction of a counter
myth of traditional whiteness; a culturally specific prop that propels the notion of
a remythologisation (Reid 2012:45) of traditional (Afrikaner) whiteness. As a
15

The music video consists for 149 shots: three shots introducing the music video much like a
film (firstly Die Antwoord in association with Roger Ballen; secondly presents; and finally I
Finky U Freeky), 145 shots in main music video and the final frame showing credits. Of the 145
frames, this study counted 139 as having significant content, while the remaining 6 were left out
owing to their content of inanimate objects.

42

counter myths prop, whiteness in I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012)
represents disorder and dirt, a subversion of the traditionally constructed
ideology of whiteness. Ideologies work to legitimate social inequalities, and
whiteness as an ideology works to legitimate the supremacy of whites over nonwhites. In I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012), whiteness becomes an
ideology that works to subvert social inequalities by undermining traditional
configurations of whiteness. Die Antwoord, Ballen, and the zef counterculture
have effectively created a whiteness that is made strange, something that can
be designed, constructed and mass produced through an artifice of soiled,
derelict and scarred settings, minimal clothing and expletives.

3.5

Death

Colour connotes life as well as presence, whereas whiteness, as an absence of


colour, is symbolically akin to death (Dyer 1997:207). Whites not only embody
death through their lack of colour, but whites are also characterised as the
bringers of death (Dyer 1997:210), the ones who hold a terrorising position over
non-whites (hooks [sa]). With this in mind, it is important to consider that I Fink
U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) is shot in black and white. The black and white
emphasises the different skin tones between the black and white performers,
but also the different skin tones between the white people. Yo-Landis pallor, as
discussed earlier, is iconically pale, even more so in colour images (Figure 15).

43

Figure 15: Ross Garrett, [Yo-Landi's pale complexion], 2010. (Gabrielle de Gersigny).

In several sections of the music video, Yo-Landi lies on a dirty graffiti covered
mattress as discussed previously, seductively writhing and being touched by a
dark hand on her pale, white skin. Considering the mise-en-scne, Yo-Landis
white (not blonde) hair and petit figure symbolically casts her as the virginal
white woman yet she is surrounded by rats, which connote decay and disease
(Figure 16). Du Preez (2011:105) notes that Yo-Landis appearance veers
between traditional categories of submissive female beautyand overwhelming
female prowess. Even though she is dressed in white, her clothing barely
covers her body, and she does not conform to the ideal, angelic, virginal,
virtuous white female (Dyer 1997:122-142). It could be understood that these
images represent the death of purity, the death of virginity, and the death of
what it means to be a white (woman).

44

Figure 16: Yo-Landi as a virginal figure, surrounded by rats in I Fink U Freeky, 2012. Screen shot by
author.

The music video ends with Yo-Landi submerging herself into a shimmering
black liquid. Her wide eyes, almost entirely eclipsed by black contact lenses,
close and she disappears under water, her face surrounded by a halo-like
reflection of light (Figure 17).

Figure 17: Yo-Landi disappearing into black liquid, signifying death in I Fink U Freeky, 2012.
Screen shot by author.

The white halo-like light stands in stark contrast to the black liquid on which it
finds its reflection, emphasising the intense distinction between light and dark,
45

white and black. Throughout the video, Yo-Landi is symbolically constructed as


the innocent, blonde virginal figure, and in this scene she is rendered angelic
through the intertextual understanding of an angelic halo. Dyer (1997:118)
notes that Northern light (lighting from above) is symbolic of celestial qualities.
The light causing the halo-like reflection comes from above, thereby signifying a
transferal of celestial qualities onto Yo-Landi.
Parallels can be drawn between Yo-Landis depiction and those of the Virgin
Mary. As mentioned previously, the epistemology of light situates like as
connotative of morality, virtue, cleanliness and purity, especially in relation to
the lightness of complexion in representations of the Virgin Mary (Dyer
1997:74). These attributes are amplified by the inclusion of the angelic halo-like
glow surrounding her, contrasted by a dark veil, as seen in Giovanni Battista
Salvi da Sassoferratos The Madonna in Sorrow (Figure 18).

Figure 18: Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, The Madonna in Sorrow, c1600. Oil on canvas, 62 x
58 cm. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy (Artflakes).

The symbolic halo gains syntagmatic meaning when it is followed by an allusion


to death. Since whiteness is metonymic with life, the binary opposite of
blackness is associated with disease and death. Whiteness dies and
46

disappears into a sinister black liquid that engulfs her. Yo-Landi can be
understood to transcend corporeality as well as the miasma of mayhem and
psychological angst by disappearing into the black liquid, but it could also
connote whiteness as weak, succumbing to blackness, disappearing and losing
its relevance.

3.6

Sub-conclusion

This chapter has discussed the diegetic construction of I Fink U Freeky (Ballen
& Ninja) as a cultural product which constitutes a remythologisation of the myth
of whiteness, one that is subversive of the traditional understanding of
whiteness in South Africa. The chapter began by situating Roger Ballens
images within the discourse of whiteness studies, and then continued on to an
in-depth semiotic analysis of the music videos mise-en-scne. Consideration
was given to the subversive representation of whiteness throughout the
investigation, with specific mention given to constructions of masculinity, as well
as the relationship between whiteness and death.

47

CHAPTER FOUR: CONCLUSION


4.1 Summary of chapters
Chapter One of this study discussed the background and aims of this study,
situating the need for the study in contemporary international studies
concerning whiteness. Chapter One includes a review of literature which
outlines the formulation of whiteness studies in relation to white trash studies in
international academia as well as South African considerations of whiteness
and Afrikaansness. Also in Chapter One is an outline of the theoretical and
methodological frameworks within which this study situated itself.
Chapter Two focuses on an in-depth analysis of literature surrounding the
discourse in whiteness studies, with particular focus given to contrasting
postulations of Dyer (1997) and hooks ([sa]). Discussion then turned to the
construction of the myth of whiteness in post-apartheid South Africa, and the
construction of white identities in terms of Reid (2012) and du Pisani (2004)
respectively. The chapter concludes with the assertion that Die Antwoord are
engaging in a subversion of the myth of whiteness.
Chapter Three discusses Roger Ballens imagery in general, and specific focus
is given to I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012). Firstly, Ballen is discussed in
terms of the subversive content of his images, and consideration is given to how
these images constitute a shocking and psychologically challenging version of
whiteness. The study then turns to an in-depth formalist reading of I Fink U
Freeky (Ballen & Ninja), engaging in a semiotic analysis of stills from the music
video. Chapter Three includes investigation into masculinity, the videos
complex mise-en-scne, and concludes with reference to the relationship of
whiteness to death.

48

4.2 Contribution of study


Whiteness studies in South Africa is a necessary and pertinent avenue of
academic investigation owing to contemporary interest in the evolution of white
identity under the myth of the Rainbow Nation. The study of zef subculture was
shown to be an important component in the remythologisation or counter myth
construction of whiteness in South Africa. Roger Ballen and Die Antwoord have
engendered extreme responses from critics and fans alike. The collaborative
outcome of I Fink U Freeky (Ballen & Ninja 2012) has injected into South
African music videos an intensified focus on theatricality. I Fink U Freeky
(Ballen & Ninja 2012) is an intricate and complex art video; one which if paused
on any frame can be taken as a carefully composed photograph. The video is
both repelling and attracting: either causing the viewer to recoil in disgust or
drawing them into the abjection. The music video is, ultimately, a diegetic sign
which culminates in enforcing the notion of the subversion, and a
remythologisation, of the myth of whiteness. This study has shown that there is
indeed a need for academic investigation into the construction of subversive
white identities in South Africa, and that there is a shift in the understanding of
the myth of whiteness. Contemporary young South Africans are currently
forming a plethora of subcultures, and these subcultures and their cultural
products warrant investigation.

4.3 Limitations of study


Within semiotics, it is necessary to look at the methodological implications of
images in relation to other, but in terms of this study of Die Antwoord, it is
outside the scope to compare them to other performers in similar genres. Due
to constraints, this study could not relate the findings to other music videos,
skits, and images of Die Antwoord. This study limited itself to one example of
Die Antwoords music videos in order to draw parallels between their and Roger
Ballens conceptions of subversive whiteness.

49

4.4 Suggestions for further research


Suggestions for possible further research include the consuming power of this
new sector; the trends, including but not limited to fashion, art and cultural
products, that have been influenced by zef and bands like Die Antwoord.
Another possible avenue is research into the effects of cultural hybridity in terms
of racial identities Ninja purports that he represents South African culture
when he says: I represent South African cultureBlacks. Whites. Coloureds.
English. Afrikaans. Xhosa. ZuluIm like all these different things, all these
different people, fucked into one person (Die Antwoord 2010).

50

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