M.I.A borders caption

Sunday Vibes: M.I.A. and Borders

This videoclip, as all the work of M.I.A spread controversy and hate.

M.I.A., who also directed the video, features shots of masses of people climbing barbed wire fences and overflowing boats. In one scene beige-clad people form a human boat aground on a beach. M.I.A. has never been subtle, but she brings the refugee crisis to the forefront in a way that cannot be ignored as easily as CNN. This videoclip, as all the work of M.I.A spread controversy and hate. 

Maya Arulpragasam is a famous rapper, singer, designer, producer, and refugee. When she was 9, her mother and siblings fled violence in Sri Lanka and came to London, and the experience was formative for her art. As she explained to The Guardian in 2005 after the release of her debut Arular, “I was a refugee because of war and now I have a voice in a time when war is the most invested thing on the planet. What I thought I should do with this record is make every refugee kid that came over after me have something to feel good about. Take everybody’s bad bits and say, ‘Actually, they’re good bits. Now whatcha gonna do?’”

According to Time.com, she’s been making music about the refugee experience since her very first album in 2005, but M.I.A. says she felt particularly inspired by current events while making “Borders,” a song she wrote in two hours—the quickest she’s ever written something. “I always felt that I wanted to make a video around that subject,” she tells TIME. “We’re at some sort of turning point. Society was gearing up to become more closed off than it has been.”

The video for “Borders,” a song off her forthcoming album Matahdatah, features images recalling all sorts of migrations from the developing world—there are people crossing deserts, fences, and bodies of water. Though much of M.I.A.’s work has been about women and children, this video is filled with brown men: the ultimate bogeyman for many in the West, stereotyped as terrorists, criminals, and job-takers.

The most powerful thing about “Borders” is that the mantra of “what’s up with that?” is not a condemnation. It’s a question. Standing calmly in front of representations of the most desperate populations in the world, M.I.A. asks it again and again. What’s your answer?

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Sources: Theatlantic.com, Time.com, Youtube.com

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