Maya Arulpragasam has not been an artist to stay away from controversial issues. At one time Maya was denied entry into the United States allegedly because of her father’s ties with the Tamil Tigers and that her lyrics have been interpreted as being sympathetic to certain oppressed groups that the US government does feel sympathetic towards. With her new single, “Born Free” and its accompanying video, M.I.A. has again sparked controversy.
Romain Gavras’s video for “Born Free” was removed from youtube for a time and then reappeared with a mature content warning. The video show US paramilitary types—Black Water?—abducting redheaded boys and taking them out into a field to be slaughtered. The video is unapologetic and gruesome. Everything is depicted—sex, drug usage, murder. From the video we see a redhead resistance movement has formed and upon a wall the military bus passes a mural showing three redheads raised guns in hand with the slogan “Our Day Will Come,” which is Tiocfaidh ár lá, a slogan of the IRA. The boys are all brutally killed in the field and the viewer cannot be but stunned by the visual accompaniment.
This is a video that forces the viewer to question what is going on and what statement is trying to be made. Why do the soldiers have US flags on their uniforms? Why are they rounding up redheads? Why is the violence so graphic?
The thing is all art should make us ask “why?”.