The nigerian singer Temi DollFace claims womanhood as a source of strength. Her song «Pata Pata» is a lively example for deconstructing patriarchal norms and clichés with a lot of humour, that stays critical. From the Norient book Seismographic Sounds (see and order here).
Think retro scenes reminiscent of the Mad Men era, visualize fierce azonto dance moves, subversive pidgin lyrics flying across your screen. Think various outfit changes from 1950s-style suburban American housewife frocks to strapless print tops and pale chiffon layered skirts that could have been lifted straight off a contemporary African catwalk. Think of the pop culture visuals of the likes of Andy Warhol mixed with the vibrancy of contemporary Nigerian youth culture. Now add to this mix an infectious beat, catchy lyrics, and a refrain of «Pata Pata» that brings to mind the hit song of the legendary South African singer Miriam Makeba. Yet this iteration of «Pata Pata» is firmly Nigerian singer Temi DollFace. Her four minutes long music video mixes American retro with contemporary Nigerian and African culture, feeling fresh whilst referencing the past. A self-described «vintage dreamer», Temi spoke about the motivation for the video’s imagery: «I knew I wanted elements from the past but fused with my West African influences. I wanted a concept that would effectively communicate the song and brand minus clichés.»
Half a Man Is Better than None
Temi succeeds in turning clichés around. She introduces «PataVac», a vacuum that sweeps the relationship away; a Pata Pata shampoo that washes the man out of her hair; and, of course, the ultimate symbol for the independent woman, a Pata Pata getaway car. The consumerism of the American 1950s and 1960s (and arguably of today) is turned on its head: the products in the video do not help women keep their men happy, as the ad men of old claimed. In a radically feminist twist, the «Pata» objects get rid of an unwanted man. This was Temi’s kickback against consumerism, and the patriarchal norm that professes: «half a man is better than none.»
«Pata Pata» is about a relationship that has run its course. The song made me think of a type of subversion sometimes exemplified by women, wherein they maintain the appearance of adhering to patriarchal norms, whilst fuelling internal rebellion toward an eventual external revolution. Temi explained: «Where gender politics is concerned, my stand is one of equality and advocating female empowerment. To me, an empowered female takes the characteristics of her gender and allows them to make her powerful, confident, and secure despite the sexism that may exist around her in a society where being male is inherently empowering». As a feminist who is politically from the social constructivist school of thought, the notion of taking on the characteristics of one’s gender, and using that as a basis of strength and power is contradictory to my own views. At the same time, I can recognize the power in claiming femininity and womanhood as a source of strength. Most importantly I appreciate that Temi’s music has a clear agenda that is uplifting and inspiring to girls and women everywhere.
This text was published first in the second Norient book «Seismographic Sounds».