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Acting in the Manner of the Insane

Anthropologists and sociolo¬gists inform us that sexual ex¬pressions through song and dance form part of various cultures and are considered the norm. How¬ever, cultures that do not permit manifestations of sexuality con¬sider them not only alien but also hostile to their socio-cultural set-ting. Well before the advent of satellite television, it can be said that cultures outside the western societies faced almost no chal¬lenge–except colonialism–that might jeopardize their existence.


The proliferation of satellite television and the Internet that followed on the heels of previ¬ous electronic media has created the media space whereby one culture—mostly western culture through Hollywood—easily per¬meates multiple others that do not have the resources to fight back, much less to influence. As a re¬sult, a number of them began to unfurl at the seams.

The mention of the western art industry calls to mind Hollywood, and it is common knowledge that the origin of Anglo-American movies is traced to that very place or industry. Anglo-American ar¬tistic products, by virtue of their use of the dominant language (i.e. English), easily find their way beyond their realm into societies where English is not the mother tongue.

Critiques, including feminist groups advocating women’s right vis-à-vis women’s objectification in various genres, argue that nu¬merous Hollywood movies and other artistic works produced in cooperation with Hollywood are a cause for concern, for they are deliberately made to corrupt, de¬stroy, and undermine cultures across the world. The magnitude of Hollywood’s reach and domi¬nation in the world is further fa¬cilitated by the advent of the In¬ternet, which has brought social media to the fore. The Internet, with its easy access to highly ex¬plicit sexual content, has become an important source of informa¬tion. Worse still, entertainment media of whatsoever type and size work hand in glove with producers in promulgating erotic images by objectifying women in society.

One possible motive for this is the intoxication of the young into incapable and irresponsible citizens. This trend has taken its toll not only in the west– the very place where all started–but also on conservative cultures by deni¬grating their cultural bases that bound their societies together for centuries.

A number of studies suggest that the more the media use sex¬ual content regarding women, the more viewers seem to buy into them. This media action is allowed to proceed because sex sells and the objectifica¬tion of women is what society has proven they want to see in entertainment media. Scant¬ily clad or almost nude women singers perform an accompany¬ing erotic dance to the rhythm of their songs. The worst is they dis¬play or are made to display body parts that are capable of arousing sexual messages among the male audience. But in the eyes of their proponents, this is democracy in artistic self-expression. The det¬rimental effect of these mediated products on teenage audiences, in particular, is subtle; the damage they cause in a society at large is intractable.

Nowadays viewership of songs and stage performances of erotic nature involving women singers and dancers is rising in places where there is the Internet. It rag¬es like wildfire. Consequently, it has become difficult to fight off the raging evil because music art¬ists in the industry are making large profits with their music and music videos. They have found their way into what were once stable, pristine cultures, poison¬ing the minds of their young. The worst is the emulation or adoption of this distasteful performance by many singers in the develop¬ing world where performance of dances of this nature are not prac¬tised as original culture. Eritrean society is a case in point.
My informal review of stage performances and, mostly songs recently produced inside and out¬side Eritrea points to this unset¬tling situation. A considerable number of our recent songs (Ti¬grigna) feature girls/women in skimpy clothes (seems the sight of bare thighs in our songs has become the norm) whose effect on teenage/young Eritreans is be¬yond dispute.

My words are in the best inter¬est of our tradition, which has kept us together for centuries be¬cause it is disturbing to the core to see repugnantly hostile foreign culture seep into and possibly di¬lute our age-old tradition.

I am quite certain that many among the youth who are kept in the dark would consider this trend as a positive change and addition¬al touch to our cultural dances and deem it necessary in accor-dance with artistic sexual liberal¬ism which has its roots in western democracy (I would like to make clear that there are various tribes/ ethnic groups who practise simi¬lar performance as their culture, hence no fault). This segment of the generation might be unaware of the dangerous and demean¬ing motive behind portrayals of women in films, magazines, tele¬vision and music videos. Studies note that the idea that women are merely objects is an extremely wrong message to deliver to so¬ciety.

Artists of the sixties and sev¬enties, men and women, dressed modestly and decently and sang and danced in the same manner. Male and female singers followed suit even during the armed strug-gle and after independence. I am not saying that we should rigidly emulate those of the past. Change is welcome, but it should come in a manner that does not dilute and sully it through unwholesome performance.

It takes conscience, conscien¬tiousness, integrity, and responsi¬bility on the part of some of our singers, performers and directors to desist from emulating and prac¬tising harmful and alien practices and strive to preserve the culture of the country. It also takes same qualities to combat harmful ones by admonishing unpleasant devi¬ations before unbridled emulation and practice of hostile culture be¬come a norm hard to reverse.

At last, critiquing does not mean insulting or demeaning; therefore, I also would like to express my appreciation for the emerging and old artists who are still exerting their efforts with a view to preserving our tradi¬tion and bequeathing it almost untainted to the next generation. Good job!

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