M.I.A. is, at this point, well-known for making poignant and, therefore, controversial statements. The latest video for a single called “Borders” from her highly anticipated forthcoming fifth album, Matahdatah, is everything you would expect of a woman who has always stood firmly for the rights of refugees–regardless of how unpopular such a stance is at this particular moment in time.
Although refugees fleeing to Europe has long been a hotbed issue, it’s particularly unpopular to advocate for their journey into Europe in the wake of the Paris attacks. The generalizing contempt for refugees who had nothing to do with the terrorists that claimed the lives of over a hundred innocent victims is not only unwarranted, but incredibly naive. Thus, it seems especially timely that M.I.A.’s “Borders” video, which features her taking the same grueling trip out of Africa as the refugees, should come out now.
The use of repetition and simple, yet thought-provoking questions punctuate the lyrics of the song. M.I.A. demands in earnest, “Borders, what’s up with that? Politics, what’s up with that? Identities, what’s up with that? Your privilege, what’s up with that? Broke people, what’s up with that? Boat people, what’s up with that?” While the responses to these queries might seem complicated, the manner in which M.I.A. delivers her inquest is such that one can’t help but want to give a straightforward answer.
Because, if you really think about it, borders are as illusory as the division caused by race or uniforms or class structure. Their implementation is strategic to those in power, not those who must live in the world without an ivory tower forged on hypocrisy. Considering M.I.A.’s own refugee background (her family had to flee to London during the Sri Lankan Civil War), the visuals of her calmly standing in front of frantic refugees scaling intensive fences or sitting with them on cramped boats that recreate the process of getting to a European country for sanctuary prove all the more powerful as a result of her personal experience. The discrimination endured, the dirty looks given–all of these are things M.I.A. is familiar with, thereby lending “Borders” even more credence.
And, as only M.I.A. can, a subtle bit of ironic humor is thrown in to the video as she walks on water wearing a “Jesus Saves” tee, as well as a shirt modeled on the Fly Emirates logo that says “Fly Pirates” instead. Because if anyone can laugh to keep from crying, it’s M.I.A., who rightly declares, “This is North, East, South and Western.” All borders are one in the end (and were in the beginning).