There’s a disturbing scene in director Kyle Lewis’s latest music video for rapper Riky Rick’s ‘Fuseg’. It is fragmented, frenetic: a woman wrapped in plastic breaks free and emerges wearing underwear, fishnet stockings and a balaclava. She is wriggling about on a bed when a thick rope appears around her neck and body.
It’s hard to tell if this scene is intended to be erotic or an attempt at a drug-trip scenario but it leaves me uncomfortable and concerned about the depiction of women by one of the country’s biggest hip-hop directors.
The video, which was nominated for a Sama this year, is so visually striking that the scene could’ve escaped the attention of those who nominated it for the award. Or maybe not. Last year, another one of Kyle’s videos was nominated for a Sama. In the video for Tumi Molekane’s ‘In Defence of My Art’, the rapper holds two scantily clad black women by their hair as they stand on all fours, like dogs. The images went viral and Tumi bore most of the brunt of the negative criticism, while Kyle went on to receive a Sama nomination.
‘In Defence of My Art’
‘I try to diverge from the typical hip-hop video where the women are objectified,’ Kyle told Marie Claire. ‘The scene in the Tumi video is a statement on how women are shown in hip-hop videos.’ When questioned about the ‘Fuseg’ scene, he said, ‘It’s an empowering scene for women and depicts a powerful image of a woman who is in love with her body and herself.’ He added that the model shared how good she felt about herself after shooting the scene.
But from these two videos, it is hard to see how Kyle’s videos break away from misogynistic depictions of women in music videos or ad campaigns, or even how they set out to portray an empowered woman. These videos could instead be part of the misogynoir – a term that describes misogyny aimed at black women – in the media.
This misogynoir is also evident in Khuli Chana’s ‘9 Shots’ video, aslo directed by Kyle. In the video, a few of the black women are represented as fetishised objects in servile and compromising positions.
At one point, two women are seated in their underwear, hands tied behind their backs and wearing pointed masks. The video also includes racist imagery, such as blackface (which has a painful history of being used to reinforce demeaning stereotypes of black people).
Kyle, who happens to be a white man, admitted to darkening the actors’ skin because he believes that ‘black is beautiful’ and did it to ‘celebrate black skin’.
Whether it’s the demeaning portrayal of women in hip-hop videos like Action Bronson’s ‘Brunch’, or black people in advertising, like the Chinese detergent ad, Kyle’s ‘Fuseg’, ‘In Defence of My Art’ and ‘9 Shots’ irresponsibly entrench racist, misogynistic agendas – no matter the intention.
And in a society like ours – where every day about 150 women report rape to the South African police and racism on and off line still make headlines – the imagery presented in these videos are insulting and does nothing to combat rape culture, racism and misogyny.