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Babes Wodumo is the original carefree black girl. Give her the credit she deserves

by: Buhle Lindwa - 4 August 2016

Babes Wodumo (1)

This talk of Babes Wodumo being ratchet or over-hyped is exposing our own hypocrisy when it comes to the narrative around the carefree black girl.

Babes Wodumo’s image is kasi flair

The current conversation about the singer and dancer made me think back to a tweet I read a few weeks back: “ghetto black girls are the original carefree black girls, not the lil suburban flowers in the hair hoes…” Which made me wonder about the underlying narrative around the criticism of Babes Wodumo’s image. We look down on the carefree girls from ekasi and regard them as ghetto. Yet these are the same girls who are pioneers of the music we all dance to, and are copied by middle class suburban flowers-in-the-hair black girls.

 

As a gqom artist (a house music subgenre that originates from Durban townships), with kasi dance styles, and rachet lyrics, she is associated with ghetto culture. With her sometimes untamed weave, broken acrylic nails and banging crop tops, she represents many “don’t give a fuck” fearless girls from the ‘hood. The 22-year-old from the township of Lamonti in Durban is the personification of the original carefree black girl. Yet some of us don’t celebrate this authentic artist.

Why are we always trying to erase the “ratchet” black township girl from the narrative and celebrate the one with a toned-down image?

 

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Before Babes, there was Brenda Fassie, Lebo Mathosa and Chomee

Many carefree ghetto black girls have influenced South African pop culture, but never get the credit they deserve, and Babes is not the first. Chomee came before her, and we loved to hate her because of the wild blonde hair, her crop tops and booty shorts. Yet we copied her daring outfits of really short mini skirts and “Jaiva Sexy” moves. When Lebo Mathosa went solo, many wrote about her risque dance moves and “promiscuous” clothing.

And today we see her influence on everything, from the blonde weaves to the “less is more” mantra in clothing style. Growing up, Brenda Fassie was inspired by Yvonne Chaka-Chaka, who was more modest than her, but still a carefree ghetto black girl. But it’s Brenda who left a lasting stamp on pop culture, with her fearless ways and styles.

This is because, like Lebo, Chomee and now Babes, Brenda had a unique aura, and was not afraid to be authentic, raw and risque in her music, moves and life. We, as the public, are hypocrites for shaming these artists and then going on to copy them. It’s cultural appropriation.


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A trending topic

In the age of social media, this “copying” happens fast, and the influence is instantaneous. Artists, like Somizi, Nomzamo Mbatha, Cassper Nyovest and ordinary people have been posting videos of themselves dancing to “Wololo“. Some people have even changed their Twitter handles to acknowledge the effect of this young woman. Ghetto black girls don’t get enough credit for being the original trendsetters.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @MsBLindwa