M.I.A in South Africa: Meeting Maya

Singer-songwriter-rapper M.I.A has landed in South Africa. Her stay is aimed at promoting her highly acclaimed documentary, with screenings and performances. I was fortunate enough to attend a screening at Cape Town’s Labia Theatre and meet the icon herself.

Matangi / Maya / M.I.A covers the life of Maya through a collection of candid videos. Viewers experience intimate parts of her journey, from being an immigrant in the UK to developing as an artist and taking trips home to Sri Lanka.

We learn that for Maya, having a stage meant having a platform to speak about important issues. One of these issues hit close to home: the war in Sri Lanka and the suffering of the Tamil people. This sense of activism and standing up for her beliefs transcends all bounds, enabling her to stand up against all societal ills, including racism and sexism.

When asked if she is still documenting her life, Maya responded by saying: “I stopped filming when they started filming.” This leads us to figure out, as a society, what the future of activism looks like.

I arrived at the Theatre with a friend eager to watch the documentary. We were told it was sold out, but after some begging, we managed to get in – with front-row seats!

I watched the film, trying to see how Maya finds balance, as someone who is constantly between different worlds. Trying to vouch for your space within either and to be recognised, all while staying true to oneself is no easy feat. She discovered that people care more for following rules, fluffy news and societal upsets rather than real suffering and stories that extend beyond unpleasantries.

On a personal note, I love M.I.A’s music (throw back to Paper Planes, Bad Girls and the Madonna collaboration) and her fierce dedication to the causes she believes in. Her story is one of inspiration, one that is very real and reveals the truthful portrayal of a brave woman.

I identified with her in her relentless fighting spirit that is always centred around activism. There were times that I, as a blogger, on my own small stage, stood firm in pushing for what I know and believe to be right.

This transpired in my personal decisions (like boycotts and attending protests) and academic ones, during both my fashion and journalism degrees: neither attempts were received well. To me, being part of the movement for the Palestinians or students during Fees Must Fall came first. I could not have had it another way and for that, I am proud.

M.I.A is performing in Johannesburg and Cape Town: information and tickets



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