Mama Africa

The introduction to Mama Africa shows Queen Latifah, surrounded by (presumably) African artifacts in an art gallery, expounding on the influence of the idea of a strong, caring Mother Africa and its strong, maternal women. The Queen presents herself as a personification of this idea, something she has done throughout her musical career. In this representation, Africa is anthropomorphized and feminized as the original birthplace, the fecund womb that has created American blacks.  The packaging, title and introduction of the DVD emphasize Africa as a place to look backwards on, important only as part of the past. 

This idea of Mama Africa is reiterated in Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. The birthplace of humanity is Africa– the primitive beginning, the iconic past. Africa is not the future, it is not progressing or moving forward. In some way, Hang Time does this too– all of Africa is the hood, and Kwame only wants to escape from it. While the rest of the world evolved to Lara Croft status (technology, etc.), Africa remains the place of birth, full of ‘uncivilized savages’ (except  Djimon Hounsou who has a cell phone and a truck). The future moves away from the desexualized, affectionate mother figure to the nipple-baring, skin-tight clothes, kick-ass-and-take-names Lara Croft. Is Africa incompatible with this aggressive sexuality?

But wait! The other popular stereotype of black women is that they’re hypersexual Jezebels. 

This iconization of the idea of Africa leads, in turn, to commodification. Queen Latifah sells records by associating herself with the “authentic” past of African-Americans and Paramount sells movies by showing an easy-to-digest, popular stereotype of Africa. On the other hand, Lil’ Kim also sold records by taking the opposite persona. It seems like for black women in the entertainment industry, there is no middle ground–it’s the mother or the whore. 

All Hail the Queen
Lil' Kim

An interesting conflation: (This movie was also called Street Sisters)
Mother Hooker

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: