Hollywood’s ‘Pirate Hero’

Talk about dramatizing the issue: it turns out Samuel L. Jackson’s company has secured the rights to the story of Andrew Mwangura, a local negotiator who “heads the non-profit East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, which works to free ships held by Somali sea raiders.” I don’t know about you, but personally I’m fascinated to see what kind of representation they produce. I guess it’s not surprising that Hollywood is seizing on the dramatic potential of the Somali Pirate situation, although to be honest I thought the recent hostage situation with Captain Richard Phillips would be the first story translated to the big screen. One more interesting note – “He was arrested at the time of the hijacking for suggesting the arms on board were bound for South Sudan, something the Kenyan government denied.” This movie just might be a platform for a more truthful account of piracy in Somalia


Aargh, maties! Swashbuckling across the globe…

The first time I heard about modern piracy was in 2007, after in the Gulf of Guinea, of the coast of Nigeria’s oil rich South. I remember watching the news that day and turning to my parents to ask “We have pirates in Naija* ?” My mom said yes, detailing a few incidents that had occurred around the world over the past few years.

I tried to check out some more information about the  phenomenon and eventually hit Forbes.com. They had a slideshow showing 10 of the world’s most dangerous waters, which I found rather helpful. Check it out here.

The slideshow is actually 2 years old (though Forbes has reposted it in the light of the recent events off the coast of Somalia). My only question is: why is the phenomenon only coming into international consciousness now, if it has been a threat for over a decade?

*Naija = Nigerians’ slang (nick)name for Nigeria…

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!