12 January 2018

Tanzania: Women Objectified in Music Videos

Photo: GIGY PAPA
Tanzanian artist Gift Stamford, famously known as 'Gigy Money'.
opinion

Seems like every song that gets released these days comes under great scrutiny for some reason. In the recent past we've witnessed a list of tracks get banned in the country for having sexually explicit content - both audio and visual.

Let's admit it, some of us are guilty of ogling; once or twice we sneak a peek at somebody's body, and just wander off into unchartered territory where only our imagination gets a front row seat.

Being privy to our thoughts, this presents no problem to society, but what happens when women stay half naked on tv screens - flaunting their bodies to all and sundry?

Where do we cross the line to treating a human body like an object of pleasure? Being a video vixen in Tanzania means you're exposed to the filth that has become part and parcel of our entertainment industry. National Arts Council of Tanzania (BASATA) has tried to curb the level of sexually explicit content that finds its way into bongo music videos.

Just this week, Deputy Minister of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Juliana Shonza wreaked havoc on bongo flava as she ordered for a reinstatement of decorum by identifying 'bad seeds' in the entertainment industry who are allegedly ring leaders of promoting sexually explicit content.

She summoned Gift Stamford famously known as 'Gigy Money' to her office, and cautioned the artiste against being at loggerheads with the government, for it will only end in the artiste's detriment.

Gigy Money, though now seemingly reformed (maybe due to her baby-bump), gained popularity for posting nude photos that left nothing to the imagination on social media platforms. She later capitalized on her fame by becoming a musician, releasing a few successful songs along the way.

But it looks as though her past has come back to haunt her. This comes at a time when the government, following President John Magufuli's comment on decay of morals among our entertainers, is on a heated crackdown of any artiste associated with objectifying the female body in the name of doing music, seems like it's no longer 'business as usual'.

A few artistes have fallen victim to the detailed BASATA rules that compel artistes to conform to a certain level of modesty in their music content. Successful songs such as Zigo remix by AY featuring Diamond Platnumz was hit with a daytime ban even though the song in particular was positively received by fans.

The video, shot in South Africa, featured a number of women in skimpy clothes exposing their bodies. Chura, a very popular song by Snura was the talk of town upon its release due to the raunchiness of the video. It too did not survive BASATA's surveillance and was consequently banned.

Some artistes have had to make two video versions for their songs; one that adheres to the level of modesty permitted in Tanzania, and another that aligns with international standards. Shetta, a local rapper says that strictly conforming to rules set by Tanzania's arts council would mean that artistes miss out on the international market, a market perceived to be more welcoming to bouncing bosoms on screen. "We need to set the standard for our songs and videos to match the international market," he said.

Video director Hanscana, whose résumé boasts some of the biggest names in bongo fleva, is of the opinion that the rules set in our local music industry are very limiting. "As video directors, we need to diversity our way of thinking and adjust our perception. Art is a field that requires expansive imagination so I think we shouldn't be confined to a particular set of rules when trying to express ourselves artistically," he said.

Men the perpetrators

Even though men can be objectified as well, most often, it seems the art of objectification occurs at the hands of men. Objectification can cross the line into unquestionable misogynistic territory.

From sexy dressing, dancing to speaking in seductive tone, it is very apparent that women are being objectified in music videos. Music fan Nyabulima Aggrey questions the motive behind women exposing their bodies by staying half-naked in music videos. Is it to make the song popular, or further promote the ill-fitted notion that women are sexual objects with the purpose of pleasuring the man? "Why does society condone such acts? Why do we let these women lose their identity by being belittled to nothing but sex symbols?" she queries.

Women have become the face of nudity and obscenity in Tanzania's entertainment industry. Take the current crackdown on entertainers who expose their bodies online and in music videos; almost all of them are women. The president himself said it at a podium, in front of dignitaries. He said that women are the culprits of exposing their bodies in the entertainment industry. "Men do not expose themselves as much, they can be seen in vests or shirtless but women go to the extreme," he said on national television. This shows that women are at the centrestage of the nudity narrative.

Some claim that women do it for the money, but in an interview with a local television channel, video vixen who goes by the name Badgirl Lisah said that models in music videos in Tanzania are unfairly paid. "Most of them do it for the fame, especially when the artiste who requested for a model has a big name in the industry," she said.

National arts council's move to curb the rise of nudity in the entertainment industry has to a great extent contained such content from being the main feature in music videos. And as we saw tears freely flowing down the cheeks of a heavily pregnant Gigy Money this week, it is clear that gone are the days of nudity in our entertainment scene.

But the effect of this is that big names in bongo flava now produce songs targeting the international market, forsaking the Tanzanian market - perhaps we'll catch on with time.

The African culture does not favour women exposing their bodies publicly with the purpose of pleasuring unidentified men, that's why banning sexually explicit videos has been witnessed in other African countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.

Recently in Kenya, Sauti Sol was dealt a heavy blow when their song 'Melanin' featuring Nigeria's Patoranking, even with its infectious tune was banned by Kenya's arts council. In Nigeria, artistes like Wizkid and Davido, two of the biggest names in Africa's entertainment industry have also been at the receiving end of bans from their government following excessive nudity in their music videos, much to the dismay of their fans, an inclination to society's role in promoting sexual objectification of women.

mthomson@tz.nationmedia.com

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