The best reappropriation I've ever heard of is M.I.A's mudra.
M.I.A.'s fourth album, Matangi, is out today. The title, she explains, derives from her birth name, Mathangi Arulpragasam.
what's on the passport but I haven't used it since I was very young,"
she says. "When I came to England, people had a hard time pronouncing it
at school. So my auntie told me to call myself Maya, after her
Yugoslavian skiing instructor."
What M.I.A. didn't know about
her real name until recently is that she shares it with a Hindu goddess —
and, as she tells NPR's David Greene, it's one with whom she's grown to
feel a particular kinship. Greene recently spoke with M.I.A. about
talking her way into art school, collaborating on Matangi with
Julian Assange and why a raised middle finger isn't necessarily obscene
to her. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read more of their
Matangi is, as you've come to
learn, the name of a Hindu goddess of music. Did you feel a deeper
connection with this goddess when you learned more about her?
basically a goddess of inner thoughts — the outward expression or the
outward articulation of inner thoughts. She was really interesting
because she lived in the slums; she lived with the untouchables and
represented them. So it was really cool to find a goddess that was not
considered clean and pure, and was not on a pedestal.
Remind us who the untouchables were.
untouchables were basically the lowest caste in India. They were
considered so dirty, they even weren't allowed to go inside the temples
to pray. The Brahmans were the highest class and they controlled
knowledge, spirituality, the temples. They were sort of considered the
sacred, clean people. And the untouchables were the opposite of that.
They were considered the dirty people that did the dirty jobs: They
cleaned the streets, hunted, did things that were considered unclean.
dad was called Matanga, and he was the first person to gain
enlightenment as an untouchable, without being reincarnated as a
Brahman. So he was given the gift of the goddess of music — who then had
this part-time job of representing the untouchables, because her father
I want to ask you about the Super Bowl halftime show in 2012.
This was a huge audience, an American audience, a world audience. And
on camera, you gave us all the middle finger. Why did you do that?
It's the Matangi mudra.
What is that? Why does that explain it?
you know gang signs — in America you have gang signs, and people throw
up initials and stuff like that. Well, 5,000 years ago, there was thing
called a mudra, which is your sitting position when you do yoga
or you're meditating or praying or whatever. And you have different
ones based on what you're meditating over. There's not a lot of them
that are named after gods and goddesses, but the middle finger is
specifically named Matangi — the Matangi mudra.
So you were not giving America the middle finger? This was the Matangi symbol?
Yes. Do you like that? (Laughing) It's good, isn't it?
Something tells me that there might have been another meaning in that.
It's cultural! In my country, it's godly. OK?
Is the NFL believing that? I know they're suing you.
course the NFL is not believing that, because the NFL does not believe
in any other culture outside of the NFL. But it's true; you can
Wikipedia it. You can just say "Matangi" and "mudra," and you'll see
it's the middle finger.