It’s the renowned Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei who said that ‘art can be used to change society’. The test of an artists worth is their ability to speak about or use their influence to cause societal change.
For many, Ebony’s new song and video ‘Maame Hwe’ may be a surprise for the simple fact that, she may be the last person to use her music to draw attention to such an important subject as domestic violence.
Ebony divides attention. Her adoption of a ‘bad girl’ image as an artistic brand seems to split opinions in this conservative society of ours.
Her costume, raunchy videos and highly sexualized lyrics have been a subject of debate over a couple of weeks leading to some men of God calling on her to dress decently or risk incurring God’s wrath. Some lawyers have suggested to the police to arrest her for indecent exposure.
To hear a song and video that drift far away from the ‘bad girl’ image of Ebony may cause of some of her critics to have a change of heart. Or, have a rethink of who she is and stands for.
‘Maame Hwe’ translates as ‘My Mother, Look’ (or see). It’s a Twi expression used to confirm an earlier concern raised or observation made by someone before it became manifest. On this song, Ebony echos the sentiments of an abused lady who rejected her mum’s advice.
One day you’ll know/ These are the words of my mother/ As I’m getting old/ Ebi now wey I dey remember…/ A young girl like me shouldn’t be caught with an old school fool – Ebony, “Maame Hwe”
The mum advised her daughter against marrying a man she thought had questionable character. The daughter, blinded by love, ignored this motherly advice and ended up marrying him. The outcome of this relationship: violent abuse.
In a country where little attention is given to issues of domestic violence, the figures available shows how prevalent this act is across the country. Research figures by the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre shows that, 28% of women are abused in relationships. (Their first sex experience was forced).
Globally, the figure, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in their November, 2017 report reveal the following:
i. 35% of women (1 in 3) have experienced either physical or sexual intimate violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
ii. 30% of all women in relationships have suffered physical or sexual abuse but intimate partners.
iii. 38% of murders on women were by male intimate partners.
Some of the reasons contributing to the continuation of these abuses in marriages include the patriarchal establishment- which is predominant in our society, lack of education, poverty and more religious attachments, where the Christian and Islamic vows prohibit divorce.
The justifiable grounds for divorce notwithstanding, the advocates of these religions and family members would prevail on the victim (the woman) to stay in and pray for a miracle. The cause of some of these violence are often ascribed to the ‘work of the devil’ rather than acknowledging it as a character flaw.
In the lyrics of the song, Ebony reveals some of the character traits of the man in question: a drunk, drug abuser, a robber and gangster who takes to beating her
Now, e dey beat me every night and day/Maame Hwe/ Used to warn e but I didn’t wanna know
As gleaned from the video, all these traits- drinking, smoking, gambling- are excellently captured by the director, Prince Dovlo. The wife is seen getting smacked by her husband despite playing her part as wife- she cooks for him, which he refuses to eat; she cleans the house as a ‘submissive’ wife should.
One thing that this video aptly points out, and which is often conveniently overlooked is the fact that, being a submissive wife doesn’t guarantee you a ‘safe pass’ against abuse. That is, the argument posited by some that, some women are violently abused because they aren’t submissive women in marital relationships is moot and ridiculous.
And who could forget the rape scene in the video, especially the facial expression of the wife? Her face was as bland as one could imagine; an emotionless soul who has endured such despicable, exhaustive treatment that she has lost all the energy to fight her abuser (husband).
What ‘Maame Hwe’ has over her other songs is this: the lyrics are clear, educative and reflect a societal ill. These would open another window for people to realize the other side of this young female artist.
Often, the lyrics of her songs are overshadowed by her brazen display of her sexual self. That is, her lyrics are interpreted through the prism of her personality albeit, they promote women empowerment and the recognition and embracement of ones ‘femme-ness’. (Same fate befell archetype of sexual liberation, MzBel). In Ebony’s case, it’s like the wrong messenger carrying the right message to the public.
I hope the visual outlook projected by Ebony- her costume especially- would appease the many who have over these couple of weeks severely criticized her dressing. She definitely looked glamorous in that outfit; an African Goddess.