Dookoom Rises Up

A Cape Town hip hop group causes a huge stir with its music video "Larney Jou Poes" (roughly translated: Boss, your cunt.) depicting an uprising by farmworkers.

Finally South African hip hop is spurring national debate, and it’s not Die Antwoord.  No it is Dookoom, the new Cape Town hip hop outfit fronted by local legend Isaac Mutant, which has caused a huge stir with its video “Larney Jou Poes” (roughly translated: Boss, your cunt.) Much has been written about the video, from the likes of radical black consciousness intellectual turned Member of Parliament, Andile Mngxitama, to constitutional law professor, Pierre de Vos. Even Vice’s music blog Noisey ran an extensive piece on the video.

“Larney Jou Poes,” directed by young white filmmaker Dane Dodds, is an awe-inspiring work of black rage – farmworkers who down tools, revolt and burn the word “Dookoom” onto the side of a hill. The word originates from the Afrikaans word dukun / doekoem, referring to a spiritual healer. The word became a sort of negative term in the Cape, and signified a distrust of the Cape Malay population, and the “dark magic” they brought on the slave ships from the east. The video is aesthetically quite dark – a muddy black and white treatment endures throughout, every shot almost underexposed.

While the video does not overtly call for violence, the anger is palpable and it real – it draws on hundreds of years of oppression and exploitation. The director said in an interview with film industry publication Biz Community that he chose the song out of a few from Dookoom’s “A Gangster Called Big Times” EP because he found it challenging. “It made me feel uncomfortable and I felt that it expressed something that should not be real, but probably was.”  Unbeknownst to young Dane, this shit is all too real.

Isaac Mutant was inspired by the De Doorns Wine Farm strike of 2012, where workers demanded an increase of their meager daily wage of R69 to a more liveable R150. South Africa has a long history of oppression and abuse on wine farms, from slavery to indentured labor, where white farmers paid workers in alchohol–a devastating practice which has led to generations of alcohol addiction and dependence.

When Dookoom pulls the middle finger and says “fuck you, boss!” it is this continued history of violence that they are raging at. But as Pierre de Vos put in his analysis of the Dookoom backlash, not everyone understands or acknowledges that structural racism exists today. When you call out white racism in South Africa, you get labeled a racist (which Isaac cleverly anticipates in the song.) Much to the advantage of Dookoom, Afrikaner rights group Afriforum (who claim to promote the interests of minorities in South Africa, but generally care only for white Afrikaans speakers) labeled the song “hate speech” and have made an application to have it banned. This will only give more credibility to those that are buying into the message, and the authenticity and cool that comes along to it.

Perhaps the only critique of the song that I agree with was Adam Haupt’s suggestion to change the name of the song to “Larney, Jou Piel” – (Boss, your dick) thus subverting  Cape Town’s age old misogynistic insult. However that’s a discussion for another day. In the meantime, turn the bass up and nod your head to Dookoom’s beat, and imagine a day when all Larney’s, regardless of race, will have to share their ill gotten gains.

Further Reading

A power crisis

Andre De Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, has presented himself as a simple hero trying to save South Africa’s struggling power utility against corrupt forces. But this racially charged narrative is ultimately self-serving.

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.

Resistance is a continuous endeavor

For more than 75 years, Palestinians have organized for a liberated future. Today, as resistance against Israeli apartheid intensifies, unity and revolutionary optimism has become the main infrastructure of struggle.

Paradise forgotten

While there is much to mourn about the passing of legendary American singer and actor Harry Belafonte, we should hold a place for his bold statement-album against apartheid South Africa.