Gender and Sexuality Discrimination

Gender and sexuality is one of the main elements in the music video “Unite & Litre” by Baloji. The use of a woman as the main dancer in the music video is clearly a statement about gender. Throughout the video she is shown dancing to the music gracefully and care-free, and sometimes the choreography shifts to a much more heavy and fierce dancing with sharp movements. In addition to this, at one point in the video, Baloji is singing amongst a crowd of people all dancing to his music. Within the crowd there is shown to even be a transgender woman. She is shown standing proudly with her chin up looking at the camera. This is also clearly a statement about the treatment about the LGBTQ community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

To gain a better understanding of the history of these issues in Africa, I did some additional research. I found an article from the London Times that discussed a case where a gay couple in Malawi were convicted of committing a crime by the court. The article states that, “They were arrested in December after testing Malawi’s anti-gay laws with a public ‘engagement ceremony’,” (Clayton). The couple were arrested from almost a decade, simply for holding a public ceremony. This arrest occurred very recently, just 8 years ago in 2010.

The incident described in the article clearly shows that some African countries still have a serious problem in regards to the discrimination of the LGBTQ community. The fact that laws such as these are even in place in the first place shows a clearly misguided view of the LGBTQ community. The reason for the appearance of a transgender woman in the music video as well as the use of a woman as the main dancer is likely to empower these groups and a way for Baloji to show his support for them.

I think that the transgender woman being shown amongst the crowd is Baloji’s way of stating that transgender people are no different than the rest of us, and should be treated as such. The woman is not shown separated from the rest of the crowd or in a group with other transgender people, but rather is shown amongst a crowd of ordinary people. By showing the woman in this way, Baloji is attempting to get rid of the negative connotations and discrimination that has been associated with the LGBTQ community throughout African history, and which still exists today as shown in the article from the London Times.

The use of a woman as the main dancer is also a very important choice in the music video. Women are another group of people who are often oppressed in society, not only in African society but in the entire world today. By using a woman as the main dancer in the video, I believe Baloji is showing that not only woman but all of these oppressed groups deserve to have a voice in society. The dancing that the woman does throughout the video is in effect her using her voice to communicate her feelings. By using this woman as the main dancer in the video, Baloji is giving a voice to woman and other minority groups in society that are so often oppressed and discriminated against.

Further Reading:

Jonathan Clayton. “Gay activist couple are convicted of ‘unnatural acts’.” Times [London, England] 19 May 2010: 33. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 12 Dec. 2018.

The Effect of African Dance

One of the main features of the music video “Unite & Litre” by Baloji is the emphasis on dance. Throughout the video a young woman is shown dancing to the music, with her style and choreography changing as the tone and beat of the song changes. It is clearly one of the main points of the music video, as most of the video is simply showing the woman dancing to the music. I did some research to attempt to find out what message could be behind this dancing.

I found an article titled, “Effects of hatha yoga and African dance on perceived stress”. In this article, the author explains how they conducted research to attempt to find if their are any effects of African dance on stress, as well as other factors. In order to accomplish this, they took a sample size of sixty-nine college students, had them participate in a 90 minute African dance class, and then monitored any differences on their individual Perceived Stress Scales, which is a way to determine the amount of stress a person is under. The results were, “There were significant reductions in PSS….such that African dance and Hatha yoga showed significant declines,” (West). The African dance class showed a clear effect that reduced stress in the college students.

So what could this mean in terms of Baloji’s music video? The video is largely about the struggling economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is clear through the lyrics of the song that Baloji is stating how poor the economy is. Despite this, the young woman in the video is shown dancing in a seemingly care-free, positive way. Perhaps, as the article stated, this was a way for the woman to reduce her stress of the struggles she has to go through with the economy in such a poor state.

I think that the woman in this video shown dancing represents all of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is shown throughout the song dancing gracefully to an upbeat tone. I believe Baloji included this to try to send a message to the people of the DRC that they need to stay positive, that better times are ahead. Despite the negative connotations of the lyrics, the tone of the song is upbeat and positive as well as the woman’s dancing. This shows how the woman is letting her stress go and staying positive through the hard times. The woman is also shown at one point dancing with two beers in her hands, which could be another indication of her relieving stress, in this case by drinking.

The woman’s dance also seems to change to a more fierce, sharp choreography at the point in the song where the beat also becomes much more heavy with bass. At this point in the song, I believe Baloji is expressing his anger about the state of the economy, as the beat is extremely different from the upbeat tone it once was. This is reflected in the dance of the woman, which is much more sharp and fierce. I believe this part of the song is a brief break from the message of “stay positive” to show Baloji’s true anger of the state of the DRC. After this part, the beat and dance switch back to be much more positive and upbeat, which shows that despite the anger people may be feeling, they must stay positive.

Further Reading:

West, Jeremy, and Christian Otte. “Effects of hatha yoga and African dance on perceived stress”. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 2004.

Economy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

One of the main themes of the song “Unité & Litre” by Baloji is the focus on the economy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Throughout the song, his lyrics reference the struggling economy, and the song as a whole seems to be Baloji’s thoughts and feelings on the state of the economy. Lyrics such as “The economy is low batt, low batt,” repeat throughout the song. The beginning of the song even starts with the lyrics, “They used to say, if you sleep you eat, if you sleep you eat,” followed by, “Now it’s, if you drink you eat, if you drink you eat”. With these lyrics Baloji is addressing the changing state of the economy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Baloji points out how everyone used to be able to eat and afford basic needs of food, but now the economy is struggling and less are able to afford such necessities.

In an essay from the Black Studies Center website titled, “Economic Inequality and the African Diaspora,” this issue of the struggling economy is covered in depth. The essay discusses how the problems in the economy can be linked to racism and structural obstacles. It explains how some people think the problem in the economy is due to collective dysfunctionality, which is when a certain group of people (in this case, black people) experience inferior outcomes (struggling economy) due to cultural and/or genetic deficiency (Darity). Reading how some people even today believe in this theory was shocking to me, as it clearly racist and wrong. It just goes to show how black people in the DRC are still being treated unfairly, and their struggles because of this are then blamed on them. It seems to be an unfair cycle that they are unable to break free from.

Looking more closely at the music video, we are able to see what Baloji is trying to convey about this subject through his song and the choreography in the music video. The song begins with an upbeat, happy tempo, while the lyrics still discuss how the economy is struggling. This to me seems to be Baloji’s way of trying to encourage the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to stay positive despite their struggles, and that better days are ahead.

At one point in the song, the beat shifts to a very heavy bass, almost angry sounding beat. The tone of the singing also shifts to a more determined, seemingly angry tone. To me, this signifies Baloji stating that he and the other people of the DRC are fed up with their unfair treatment, and are demanding that change be made. The choreography of the dancer during this part in the song also shifts to sharper, quicker, and harder movements, as opposed to the free flowing movements in the previous part of the song. This also conveys to the viewer the anger the people of the DRC are feeling, and shows that they are fed up with it, and just want to let their emotions out (as the dancer seemingly is doing with her movements).

These two themes of the song are quite different, but repeat back and forth throughout the song. When put in combination with each other, Baloji’s message can be seen. I believe through this song and dance he is encouraging people to stay positive because better days are ahead, but is also encouraging people to not allow themselves to be mistreated. This music video has a powerful message that is conveyed in a unique way through song and dance, and was very interesting to look into and dissect.


Further Reading:

Darity, William. “Economic Inequality and the African Diaspora .” Black Studies Center, ProQuest LLC, 2007.

The Exploitation of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Throughout history, many African countries have been exploited by Europeans who are only interested in their own personal gain. This is a trend that may have seemed to be left in the past, but in reality it still continues today.

As we learned in class, European and American organizations have a history of taking advantage of Africa during vulnerable times. Neocolonialism existed all throughout Africa as many African countries began to gain independence from their European powers. European organizations would attempt to gain influence in these newly developing countries in order to further their own personal agenda, rather than help develop the struggling nations.

An article from the New York Times written in 2012 shows how this trend still continues today. The article, titled, “Behind the Blood Money”, discusses how Americans still today are taking over certain areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that are rich with minerals and using them as mining sites. The minerals mined their are being used to supply the military, and even build new cell phones. They are not concerned with whether or not the DRC allows them the permission to mine their land, they simply take what they want from them (Wyatt).

The song and music video, Unité y Litre by Baloji, discusses this subject a lot. The song is mainly about the economy of the DRC, and coming from Baloji, who has lived in the DRC for most of his life, it is sure to be an accurate depiction.

Throughout the song, Baljoi’s lyrics stand out to me. At one point, he even sings about how the cost of beer is less than vegetables. This was shocking to me, and further shows the exploitation of African countries. The big beer companies, which are likely to be largely European based or influenced, know that the economy is struggling in the DRC. Rather than find a way to help the struggling people, the beer companies proceed to advertise their product heavily, as shown by the short commercial played in the middle of the music video. They know that since the price of common goods are so high, by selling a cheap beer, people are more likely to buy it. They are not concerned with the fact that people will be spending money on beer that they should be on vegetables, they are only worried about the money they will make from it.

The music video showcases a woman who dances throughout the entire song. I found that her dancing carried messages throughout the song. When the beer ad played, right after it was done, the woman was seen dancing with two beers in her hands. She was clearly not drinking the beers though, and was holding them in a unique way with her hand near the top. I believe this was Baljoi’s way of showing how he felt about the big companies trying to exploit the DRC. The way she was dancing with the beer seemed to be reckless and careless, like she didn’t care if she dropped and broke them. To me, it seemed she was saying, we don’t need these beers, and we don’t need you (the big beer companies). She was showing her distaste toward the companies through her dance, which I thought was very unique and subtle, yet powerful.

Another scene where this is shown is near the end of the video. The woman is shown dancing between two tight walls, with little space to maneuver, as the song begins to play a darker and lower tone. This I believe was Baloji showing how not just the big beer companies, but all people who have been exploiting his country are taking a tole on his people. They feel trapped, and just want to break free and dance, but cannot. The expression on the woman’s face and her movements within these walls show her trying to break free, but she cannot. This part of the video is a sharp shift in tone, and was quite saddening to watch.

The music video ends darkly, with the women lying motionless near a window. I believe that this could mean a lot of different things, interpreted differently by different viewers, but to me it was something along the lines of this. The woman, who represents the people of the DRC, has grown tired and weary of trying to fight against the abuse and exploitation she faces, and slowly slides down the wall until she is motionless. This to me represents what Baloji believes will happen to the DRC if something is not done to stop it. Throughout the song, he sings about how the economy is struggling, and repeats the line, “Survivor, hold your breath”. I believe this is Baloji telling the people of the DRC that they need to “hold their breath” because changes need to happen soon. They need to “hold their breath” because of the anticipation of this, because if something does not happen soon, the DRC will collapse, represented by the woman slowly stopping dancing until she is lying on the floor motionless.


Further Reading:

Wyatt, Edward. New York Times (1923-current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]20 Mar 2012.

A “Never-Settle” Culture

After listening to the song “Ojuelegba”  by Wizkid again and again, one main theme stood out in the song. That is the theme of working hard to achieve your goals, and that anything is possible through hard work and faith. Wizkid discusses throughout the song how he has grown from a young man hustling on the streets of Ojuelegba to a world famous singer. He claims that he was able to accomplish this through faith, prayer, and of course hard work. He never settled for a life of hustling on the streets, and was constantly striving for something better, until he finally achieved it.

This idea of hard work and never settling seems to repeat itself throughout African history. In class, we learned about the conflict between the Algerians and the French. The French had colonized Algeria, and Algerians lived under their rule for much of the early 1900’s. The French treated the Algerians unfairly for much of this time. This continued until the 1950’s, when Algerians decided to resist and fight back. They had had enough of the unfair treatment, and decided to take matters into their own hands. This resulted in the Algerian War. Ultimately, in 1962, Algeria became independent from France.

An article I found goes into even more depth about the start of the Algerian War. In 1955, France had identified the Algerians were becoming restless with their unfair treatment, and declared that Algeria was, “the most urgent problem for the next National Assembly and Government,” (NY Times).  In an attempt to maintain peace with Algeria, France offered to change their election process to be fair to Algerians. This however was not nearly enough for Algeria, as they knew that the mistreatment would continue if they accepted this deal. Thus, they continued to rebel, which led to the Algerian War and eventual victory and independence of Algeria in 1962.

A similar conflict between the United Kingdom and South Africa occurred in the early 1900’s. Racial segregation existed both informally and formally throughout the country. During the early 1910’s, this segregation became worse and worse. Laws were passed restricting the ability for black Africans to own land in their own country. At this point, the people of South Africa had had enough, and the conflict began. An article from the London Times showcases how South Africans felt about their situation with the United Kingdom during this time. “Thousands looked forward to a time when South Africa would be out of the Empire,” (London Times). Finally, in 1931, South Africa was fully independent from the United Kingdom. This conflict is another example of African people fighting for what is right, and not settling for unfair conditions.

The Algerians, South Africans, and Wizkid all have something in common. They refused to settle for mediocrity, and worked hard to achieve a better life. These ideas that Wizkid preaches in his song appear throughout African history. The country has a culture of working hard and never settling. It is fascinating to see what Wizkid sings about repeatedly represented throughout African history.

It is interesting to see how this theme repeats throughout history, and still exists today. Despite enduring many hard times and struggles, the people of Algeria, South Africa, and Wizkid alike persevered. It is truly an attest to the strength and will power of African people. Throughout history, as we have learned, they have been mistreated and abused, but they continued to fight back until they succeeded.

Even today, African people are going through hard times. Many parts of the city of Lagos are overpopulated, causing a lot of poverty. But the people of Lagos are not discouraged. As is emphasized in the upbeat theme of the song, “Ojuelegba”, despite hard times and struggles, the people of Lagos continue to have a positive attitude and work hard. It truly shows your life can be whatever you choose to make it. Despite living in poor conditions, the people of Lagos, South Africa, and Algeria all worked and are working hard to make their lives better. It is awesome to see this theme of perseverance, and never settling for anything, repeated throughout African history, and still existing today.

Further Reading:

“French Rivals Give Priority to Algeria: PARIS RIVALS GIVE ALGERIA PRIORITY.” The New York Times[New York, N.Y.] 1955: ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times with Index. Web. 21 Oct. 2018.

“Nationalists In S. Africa.” Times [London, England] 10 Aug. 1928: 12. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 14 Oct. 2018.

Living Conditions in Ojuelegba

Ojuelegba is a suburb located in southwest Lagos, Nigeria. Ojuelegba is connects the mainland of Lagos with the Islands. Because of its unique location, Ojuelegba is known for being an extremely busy and overcrowded area.  It is one of the busiest places in all of Lagos.

One of the most popular singer/song writers in the world today, Wizkid, was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. He documents much of his upbringing in the song, “Ojuelegba”. In the song, he goes into depth on his life of hustling on the streets on the suburb. He expresses how much he prayed during these times and how thankful he is to be much better financial situation today. He preaches working hard, praying, and staying humble in order to accomplish your goals.

This song by Wizkid gives the listener great insight into the living conditions of poorer areas of Lagos. He talks about how he had to hustle on the streets in order to survive, and how other people who live there suffer in the same way. “My people dey there, my people suffer. Them dey pray for blessing,”. Wizkid is giving his audience an idea of what his life was like in Ojuelegba, and how many people are still living in the suburb.

An article written by The Times in London in November of 2012 goes into further detail about the living conditions of southwest Nigeria. The article, titled, “Women Deserve Safe Sanitation,” discusses how one in three women in this area do not have access to adequate sanitation (i.e. toilets, clean water, etc.). “Lacking access to this basic necessity is not just an inconvenience; it impacts on all aspects of life,” (The Times).

A recent study conducted in July of 2013 shows the living conditions of Lagos, Nigeria from a statistical standpoint. The study, by Hemodialysis International, examined how people with end stage renal disease (ESRD) were being treated and cared for in Lagos. The study concluded that, “The patients with ESRD who entered into the maintenance hemodialysis program of our hospital were poorly prepared for dialysis, under-dialyzed, had inadequate treatment of anemia and were frequently transfused with blood. All these factors combined lead to poor outcomes,” (Hemodialysis International).

These sort of living conditions are not new to Africans. As we learned in class, throughout history, many Africans were mistreated and abused by Europeans. From Europeans unethically colonizing their land, to the French forcing them to fight in their armies, this sort of unethical treatment has existed in Africa throughout History.

What does all of this mean? Why is it important?

These documents as well as the personal experiences documented by Wizkid in the song, “Ojuelegba”, give us an idea of what life is like for some Nigerians. Work is often hard to come by, sanitation is neglected, and medical care is bare minimum. Perhaps more could, and should, be done by other governments to help improve conditions, as The Times calls upon them to do.

But this does not discourage many Nigerians from prospering. As Wizkid emphasizes in his song, working hard and praying can and will go a long way. Wizkid himself went from hustling on the streets of Ojuelegba to one of the most famous singers in the world. Other Nigerians such as Hakeem Olajuwon, a former NBA superstar, and John Boyega, a lead actor in the new Star Wars movie, have achieved great success. The achievements of these people are admirable, and are a clear representation of the fact that hard work pays off.

Further Reading:

Baroness Jenkin, Baroness Kinnock, and Annette Brooke. “Women deserve safe sanitation.” Times [London, England] 19 Nov. 2012: 20. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 5 Oct. 2018.

Babawale T. Bello, Yemi R. Raji, Ibilola Sanusi. Challenges of Providing Maintenance Hemodialysis in a Resource Poor Country: Experience from a Single Teaching Hospital in Lagos. Hemodialysis International, July 2013,