Written by Efe Plange
My dear Yemi, let me first begin with a disclaimer. I totally love and admire you, as you are one of my favorite female African artistes. You are spontaneous, charismatic, energetic, hardworking and seriously talented. Your Johnny hit single currently stands at over 40 million views on YouTube and you have toured Africa through—you are definitely a force to reckon with. However, in reaction to your latest hit single “Ferrari,” I am afraid I have to overlook my fanatic love for you and be a little blunt.
In recent times, I have joined other entertainment critics to call out the overly material nature of our Afro beats. To wit, I have constantly made the case for our video producers to attempt promoting other sides of our culture through content and great visuals and stop aiming at the westernization of our cultural products. Another issue I have had is the constant sexualization and objectification of our women. Due to the male dominated nature of our industry, fingers tend to be pointed at the males. However, this your Ferrari song makes me convinced that we women also have a huge part to play in unlearning sexism. I would spell out my disappointment with Ferrari by touching on two main features: the over glorification of foreign brands and locations, and your somewhat shallow representation of the African Woman.
I think it is extremely sad, not to say unfortunate, that we keep glorifying foreign brands, businesses, and locations over our own. I keep emphasizing, it is a serious trait of Internalized White Supremacy. The West should no longer be our standard! In Ferrari, there is an overdose of this: Ferrari, Netherlands, Chicago, Gucci, Louboutin, etc. It is very unfortunate, that your Mama Africa brand has taken on an additional agenda of promoting Europe and the West—quite contradictory if you ask me. Well, I also guess it is about time we began some real luxury brands in our continent (that’s if there isn’t any already). Yemi, you have become a world-wide phenomenon therefore I think more caution has to be taken as regards the material you churn out there, knowing that many young women like myself look up to you.
The content and storyline of the video seems to be one of the biggest issues I have with the production. Yemi, your Mama Africa title poses a huge responsibility for you to promote African women positively, considering that you are stepping into the shoes of Miram Makeba as Mama Africa-You have a huge space to fill. While I learn songs really fast, I cannot bring myself to repeat after you in this song which revolves around a woman making demands on her lover.
Now, there is nothing wrong with us women demanding to be treated right in a relationship but I think it is very problematic when all one asks for is monetary and material demands. For instance, lyrics like “if you love me pay me salary”, “open supermarket for me in Amsterdam”, “buy me Ferrari” “holidays in Chicago” make it difficult to appreciate this otherwise beautiful video. Significantly, they go a long way to pose relationships as transactional (sex in return for money).
My dear Yemi, “I love you no be for mouth,” but eno be for Ferrari either. Women need to know that a man is not a financial plan and success is not sexually transmitted. Financial satisfaction in a relationship does not take care of emotional needs. As women, emphasizing these, reduces our role in a relationship and this actually makes it easier for the man to meter any treatment he wishes.
While I do agree that the content in this song might not necessarily reflect your personal views, I do realize that the influence of icons of your stature is immeasurable and you need to be always cautious of the things you endorse directly or indirectly as a cultural producer.
The video on the other hand is a masterpiece! The smooth transition of key stages in the African society (from traditional, colonial, 90s) pushes its creativity, while costumes and choreography beautifies the entire piece. While I wish you success on this new project, I hope my letter generates some useful dialogue on the issues I have raised here too.
Let me drop the video here for the latecomers.
Efe Plange is founder and editor of Sankofa Reviews. She is a Graduate Teaching Instructor, and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Technical Communication at Michigan Technological University. She is passionate about the Arts and Cultural industry and her background in the field is fueled by a longstanding dream of seeing theory work together with practice. Connect with Efe on social media: efplange_gh on both Instagram and Twitter, and Efe Plange on Facebook.