Everything but a plug for K’naan

For those of you who don’t know, K’naan is an amazing Somalian artist. He came to America in 1991 while his country was sinking rapidly into chaos, on the  last commercial flight out of Somalia. His lyrics are incredibly poignant. He has fanfare across the world, in nearly every demographic- from those in his homeland in Somalia to the viewers of BET and MTV. 

Our discussion today about Somalian pirates reminded my of one his songs which is entitled “Somalia”. In this song, K’naan talks about his homeland and what it was like to grow up in the political chaos of today’s Somalia. I think that his lyrics can be helpful to our discussion because it allows us to look at the Somalian piracy issue as well as the larger governmental issues of Somalia through someone who is Somalian. It offers a us a sample of self-representation. 

In the song “Somalia”, K’naan mentions Somalian piracy in the chorus. I recommend listening/ watching to the entire song. In class we were talking about the use of the word “piracy”, do we call it piracy because the west calls it piracy or because it IS piracy? What is interesting is that K’naan refers to it as piracy. In his video, he actually depicts animated pirates (the cartoon version of pirates that we all spent time with back in the day on Saturday mornings). 

Also, in the “Somalia” video there is a scene from Black Hawk Down. Why would K’naan think  this a fitting representation of his own country? And if he thinks it is fitting, is there room for conscientious westerners to object?

Is K’naan just accepting western definitions/terms in his understanding of his own homeland? Or does he use these terms because they are the terms that his audience understands and he is trying to make a bigger point? One of the lines from this song is “… [I] learned the English language just to share [my] observation”. Perhaps he is using the terms and rearranging them in lyrics that communicate a very unique perspective.

I have also attached a clip from vimby.com, where K’naan talks about growing up in Somalia. I highly reccomend watching it, its only 5 minutes long- great procrastination material, at least!



Silence and Communication in Amistad

Amistad is a film in which the themes of communication, language, translation, and silence function at the forefront of understanding. This is first evident in Spielberg’s choice not to subtitle the first 15 minutes of the film.  The audience hears a foreign language, Mende, from Sierra Leone but can not understand it, thus establishing the void of communication that will continue throughout the film.  The barrier of communication continues into the trials, making the slaves difficult to defend unless they can find a way to communicate.  This comes in the obvious form of a translator.  In addition, translation is also present in more subtle ways in other aspects of the film such as its cinematic techniques.  Spielberg’s choice to translate meaning both in flashback and in storytelling allows the audience to know/understand more than the characters in the film.

The following shots depict defining moments of communication throughout the film:

38:31 - The useless translator

38:31 - The useless translator

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