Die Antwoord: Challenging White Afrikaans Identies


Die Antwoord, a South African rap-rave band that started in 2007 (and ends next year, with their album ‘Mount Ninji and da Nice Time Kid’) has a way of suggesting new white identities in South Africa through challenging the old discourses.

Figure 1: Ninja performing in South America 2015. At the back DJ Hi-Tech is visible wearing his infamous mask. 

White South Africans are tired about feeling guilty  about Apartheid and continuing material legacies. Through this tiredness emerges a need to recreate by overlapping, alongside and depending upon the young, Afrikaans, South African narratives and stereotypes to evolve into a new white South African culture. But artists such as Die Antwoord have used music to change their identity as music is a powerful tool to blur the lines of race, class and social constructs.

Figure 2: Jo-Landi challenging the ‘black and white’ stereotype in Die Antwoord’s video ‘Fatty Boom Boom‘. 

The transgression into democracy in 1994 implied defeat and failure for many Afrikaans with that many Afrikaans lost their right to state protection and were brought into poverty. These white people are now referred to as ‘trailer trash’ which is marginalised by race and class.

‘Trailer trash’ (seen predominantly in their video ‘I fink u freaky‘ as well as ‘Zef’ is what the Afrikaans rap (eg. Die Antwoord and Jack Parrow) industry has now made credible as well as being highly influenced by photographer Rodger Ballen. (The new) Zef is a way of breaking against the old afrikaans tradition and styles to make the common a glamorous experience.

Figure 3: Die Antwoord in their music video ‘I fink u freaky’. 

The idea is to create a platform for white identities to be negotiated. The negotiation is made easier by the fact that Die Antwoord’s characters are fictional, both are intended as personas to make new ethics. In their first viral video “Enter the Ninja” Ninja introduces himself and Yo-Landi Vi$$er as two personas that embody “zefness”. The characters and the zef style transverse the lines between racial and social boarders. Ninja is often associated with Cape Flat gangsters because of his tattoos while Yo-Landi is has her faux innocence and seductiveness blended with aggression, crudeness and her fascination with rats. The combination is fascinating and allows the viewer to identify something of themselves within them. Zefness is often associated with the pleasure, performing youth identities, and experimenting with sexuality that comes with music festivals. Music is a way of spreading ideas on a contemporary South Africa to young people.

Figure 4: Die Antwoord perming. Jo-Landi is wearing a dress with patterns inspired by Rodger Ballen, Ninja is wearing overalls inspired by the prison attire. 

To conclude, Die Antwoord  has created their own identity of being white and Afrikaans in South Africa post apartheid. Their personas have created a platform where these new identities are negotiated and explored. While the platform of music is utilised to spread the message to young South Africans. The message of the new identity is to create a space where Afrikaans people do not need to feel apartheid guilt and can become africans.

Sources Consulted 

Antwoord, Die. ‘‘Enter The Ninja (Official).’’ YouTube video (5:24). Posted by ‘‘stewartridgway,’’ January 14, 2010, http://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=wc3f4xU_FfQ (accessed October 15, 2016).

Antwoord, Die. ‘‘Zef Side (Official).’’ YouTube video (2:25). Posted by ‘‘stewartridgway,’’ January  14, 2010, http://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=Q77YBmtd2Rw&feature=player_ embedded (accessed October 16, 2016).

Antwoord, Die. ‘‘Rich Bitch,’’ from $0$, Interscope Records, 2009.

Antwoord, Die. ‘‘I Fink U Freeky (I Fink You Freeky),’’ from Ten$ion, 2012, ZEF Recordz. Video

directed by Roger Ballen, director of photography Melle Van Essen, and edited by Jannie Hondekom, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Uee_mcxvrw (accessed October 20, 2016).

Exclaim, 2016. Die Antwoord: the complete interview. [O] Available: http://exclaim.ca/music/article/

die_antwoord_the_complete_interview full_transcript_reveals_ninja_explicitly_declaring_the_end_of_the_band. Accessed on 25 October 2016.

Jardin, Xeni. Interview with Die Antwoord, Coachella festival (2010). Die Antwoord website, http:// dieantwoord.com/tension.html#videoz (accessed October 20, 2016).

Kruger, A, 2012. Part II: Zef/Poor White Kitsch Chique: Die Antwoord’s Comedy of Degradation. The Journal of South African and American Studies, 13:3-4. 

Marx, H and Milton, V, 2011. Bastardised whiteness: ‘zef’-culture, Die Antwoord and the reconfiguration of contemporary Afrikaans identities narrative? University of South Africa.

News24, 2011. ‘‘Interview with Die Antwoord,’’ http://www.news24.com/Multimedia/

Entertainment/Interview-with-Die-Antwoord-20110916 (accessed October 20, 2016).

O’Toole, 2012. Part I: Die Antwoord’s State of Exception. The Journal of South African and American Studies, 13:3-4.

Scott, C. 2012. Die Antwoord and a delegitimised South African whiteness: a potential counter-narrative. Unisa. Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, 17:6.

Van de Watt, L, 2012. Part III: Ask no questions, hear no lies: Staying on Die Antwoord’s surface. The Journal of South African and American Studies, 13:3-4.

Zef-is-as-die-antwoord-does/. Antwoord, Die. ‘‘Enter the Ninja.’’ http://dieantwoord.com/ tension.html#videoz (accessed October 20, 2016).

Cover image: http://www.rogerballen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Shack-scene-2012.jpg

Figure 1: http://youredm.youredm1.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/die-antwoord.jpg?x98500

Figure 3: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/54b931c9e4b07e9224fabda9/54b935a8e4b0876afab116d4/5509d938e4b0e179c5ba37b4/1428333136159/?format=1000w

Figure 4: http://www.billboard.com/files/media/die-antwoord-performance-2015-billboard-1548.jpg