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And now a reader’s comment on Rihanna.

And now a reader’s comment on Rihanna.

posted on Sunday August 14, 2011 | in The Basin Jamet | 8 Comments

I am so glad you contextualized Rihanna’s carnival dancing in the wider culture of the Caribbean. I know this is off-topic, but I studied African history at Michigan State University under Nwando Achebe, the daughter of the great African writer Chinua Achebe. I took a study abroad trip to Jamaica where I used the historical archives at the University of the West Indies to study Queen Nanny, the former Ashanti queen who led her enslaved people to freedom in the mountains. While there I learned all about Caribbean attitudes toward sexuality. I knew from studying African history that female sexuality is celebrated in most West African cultures – not “degraded” as it often is in Western European cultures. I think white women like myself are quick to see any female doing anything remotely sexual as being “exploited” or “degraded” because of the ideas and references they themselves bring to the conversation. Since Western European culture is patriarchal, white women often tend to project that experience onto other cultures. As you show in this post, point-of-view is critical because people will always see a single action from a variety of perspectives, but it’s most important to consider the perspective of the person acting – in this case, Rihanna.

– Amy Creyer


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  1. Madame M (Reply) on Sunday 14, 2011

    I am a french reader, sorry for my bad english in advance.
    I am lucky to grow in bi-cultural environment too: I am european and african and my point of view on Rihanna behavior is paradoxal. In one hand, see her have fun as any independant woman in 21st century does not shocked me and I do not care but…I have to admit that Rihanna is not a girl like other! She conducts a business, allow a team to work and her public behavior can have an impact on her business results. Where does she sale most of her music? In USA, In Europe where the way of thinking about woman behaviour during parties is very conservative!
    And she is a specialist of shocking statements for several years now. I have the impress that her bootylicious dance was just a “coup marketing” as an another to create buzz around her again!

  2. Natasha Ndlovu (Reply) on Sunday 14, 2011

    I can see where Madame M’s viewpoint is coming from. I have been thinking about how Rihanna has progressed from her first album, doing what would be called ‘Pop’ songs like S.O.S to now with her latest song – Man down. It’s as if with this carnival photo, some people fear she is losing her western European audience. How succesful would she be now if ‘Man down’ had been her first release? It’s as if she had to fit a certain mould to be successful in those markets.

    I disagree that it is a “coup marketing”. Who knows right? But she is Bajan, let us not forget. Maybe that dance move is not appropriate at the Teen Choice Awards but it’s her culture, she is in her home country and celebrating part of what it is to be Bajan.

    Case and point: Notting Hill Carnival is coming up. Now that’s where you see of mix of cultural attitudes.

  3. malika (Reply) on Sunday 14, 2011

    Rihanna is so so young and yet Star, exceptionnel !

  4. Michal♥Josh (Reply) on Sunday 14, 2011

    I’m sorry if I may be ruining the whole festive atmosphere that was being sewn in the original post, but though I don’t think this pic has got anything to do with calculated marketing – as I agree that in this sense it’s a totally honest, joyful and a liberated act – I also don’t see how it can be disconnected from the broader context of things. I will try not to point out the obvious, and instead focus on one moment that for me was definitive & shocking at the same time. I mean this:
    That second, 00:54, in which devilish hands appear from the bottom of the stage in order to catch the female – and in a very specific area – I seriously don’t understand what ‘marketer’ could have come up with that. But hey, that’s the easy part. This is the world we live in and there’s no need to be surprised or morally appalled by the ‘evil culture’. We’re used to that, or at least – being continuously educated to get on with program and get use to it. No, the perplexing part here is the female’s role in this sight. I MEAN SERIOUSLY. Actually singing on stage, at the Billboard awards no less, STICKS AND STONES WON’T BREAK MY BONES BUT CHAINS AND WHIPS EXCITE ME? Is this a person allowed to walk free in the streets, instead of sitting in deep treatment of healing – not to mention, perform and use as a model of a activity for hundreds of millions of screaming girls and boys? Exactly the same way that I won’t be judging her act in Barbados as a smart move thought after by super-executives, I will not let this slide under the regular excuse of “managers’ decision”. This is NOT the case. I don’t what is. I am not a therapist, certainly not Rihanna’s therapist, so I have no clue what the hell went on there mentally speaking. But I do know that it was something VERY, VERY WRONG. And therefore, I cannot bring myself to see the cheerful, bright picture at the top of this post as nothing but dark and threatening. Not because I doubt that the documented moment was indeed cheerful and bright – but because the dark context darkens everything.

  5. Lucayan (Reply) on Sunday 14, 2011

    I am so happy that this was posted.. As a woman from the Caribbean I am happy that people around the world are actually opening up and NOT viewing it as something shameful but as something that is unique and vital to island culture. Historically it is a celebration of freedom and liberation. It may be hard to understand but actually taking part in something like this is not as sexualized as one may think. I attended university in Canada and when i went to parties i realized that my way of dancing was completely different from everyone else. While they thought i was dancing “provocatively” i thought it was normal. Its my culture.

  6. Ag (Reply) on Sunday 14, 2011

    Being a Nigerian born and raised in America and now currently living in the UK, I have been exposed to many different cultures and backgrounds. Even with that, at times I still struggle to understand various cultures, but because I have my own I can try to understand other people’s. With that being said, Rihanna was expressing who she is, it is her culture. She should not have to fully assimilate to western ways of life to meet the needs of the masses, she has gotten to where she is now for the most part because of being who and what she is. So because she is successful now she should always be calculated in what she does, in reference to things that have to do with who she is? She is a Bajan woman and Carnival has been and will forever be apart of their culture. I don’t want to pull the race card, but it is needed in this case.

    When White artist for example like Madonna or even Lady Gaga are over sexualized, wear ‘provocative’ clothing or dance provocatively, its acceptable. But when Rihanna does it because it’s her culture there is an uproar, seen as evil, or wrong? I find that the western world is still very backwards when it comes to understanding and excepting the culture of different backgrounds. Africans, Caribbeans, Indians and etc.. all have dances other people may view as ‘provocative’. People instead of always jumping to conclusions, should try to understand enlighten themselves instead of always thinking everyone thinks and behaves like them. The beauty of being human is that there are so many races and cultures to learn from. Now I may not personally dance in a carnival but it doesn’t stop me from being open minded and understanding the history and background of carnival and appreciating it.

  7. Treble (Reply) on Sunday 14, 2011

    That picture my dear people (the ones who know nothing of Caribbean culture) is simply an innocent way of dancing. I am from Jamaica and that particular pic depicts a very common occurrence at Jamaican, Trinaidadian and Barbadian Dance fetes as well as at their annual carnivals. People just need to stop being theorists and maybe should just mind their own businesses! Let the girl be – at least she has the guts to be true to herself! Thats what we do at Carnival – the good, the bad, the ugly, the rich and the poor! And you know what the day after we put on our dress suits and we get back to work!

  8. Tasja (Reply) on Sunday 14, 2011

    Great picture….pregnant with dynamic possibility. Of course..I Love it. More alive than any of the lifeless US market targeted images I’ve seen of Rihanna.

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