Have you ever heard of a dance called Mapouka? According to Wikipedia, it’s a dance that is similar to what originated in the Dabou area of Southeast Côte d’Ivoire with the Aizi, Alladian and Avikam people. It’s often referred to as “la danse du fessier” or “the dance of the behind.” This is a dance seen preformed at festivals by many West African identifying people . Mapouka has been used as a way to select partners for men and women as well as a way to talk to spiritual deities. Now-a-days dance moves that have been pulled from African dances are now performed in the united states. Mapouka being one of them is now labelled twerking after DJ Jubilee merged the words “twist” and “jerk” in his 1993 song, Do The Jubilee All. Twerking is mostly performed by Black women even though mainstream didn’t notice it until a skinny Disney star appropriated it for a little street cred as most white celebrities do.
The only thing about cultures moving from one country to another is that often it has colonized connotations attached to it especially if it’s come from the motherland of Africa. Many cultural stamps that come out of the Africa and into the Black american community are labelled ghetto by some Black Americans and many non-black americans until mainstream white people say it isn’t. Twerking is a prime example.
It’s so crazy how we put our own labels on things before even knowing where they’ve come from historically. The labels I’m referring to are not just the typical “twerking,” “booty poppin’,” or “shakin’ sum.” I’m referring to labels like “unladylike,” “trashy,” or the idea that “sexualized” dances like twerking are something that is undesirable for a woman to do. It’s no coincidence that a dance popular in the Black woman’s community is scrutinized and judged so harshly that it affects the way men view and respect Black female artists like Janelle Monáe, Ari Lennox, Jill Scott, Janet Jackson, ‘Lil Kim, Trina, Mulatto, Megan Thee Stallion, Beyoncé, Jhene Aiko, Lizzo, and many other Black woman identifying entertainers, who are not afraid to embrace their curves, the shake of their hips and butts, and the power of twerking in the faces of mysogynistic, colorist, and racist bigots.
On July 31 Beyoncé’s Black is King was released on Disney Plus. I don’t know about anyone else, but I felt so much joy rush through my body when watching the scene where they performed My Power by Beyoncé ft. Nija, Tierra Whack, and Moonchild Sanlley. Watching those Black women twerk and perform African inspired choreography while simultaneously be power houses felt as if our ancestors were looking down on us smiling at the fact that we kept the tradition going. Stomping our feet and shaking our behinds for the joy of our spirits and not the approval of a man or a hyperfeminine woman.
The song WAP by Cardi B ft Megan Thee Stallion came out Aug 7, and many Black women got our hype anthem to lead us out the summer and uplift our spirits after months of fighting for society to Say Her Name after months of the murders of Black women being pushed under the rug. There are so many people on the internet claiming that women who aren’t afraid to express sexual dominance as seen in the WAP music video filled with twerking and other “sexualized” movements have “low class” and “don’t have father figures.” It’s interesting how that’s what many people are worried about.
There was a quote in Black is King when the man behind the voice over said, I learned how to be a King through my mother. I learned a lot of what I know about masculinity through a woman. Through out Black is King there were very subtle yet powerful symbols, quotes, and imagery that shows the power of Black women even when we aren’t in the spotlight. One of the most powerful pieces of imagery for me would have to be the symbolism of the Queen in chess. The Queen is the most powerful piece on the chess board. The Queen can move in all directions across as many spaces as it so desires. Without the Queen the King could not win the match. Putting that into perspective Black women always have these subtle flexes of power that show that we are the ones to point to when credit is given to the glory of the Kingdom. It’s very disrespectful to sit here and judge the same women who helped build your Kingdom in the first place. It’s also disrespectful for other hyperfeminine Black women to discredit and judge your own kind. It’s embarrassing. We have been power houses for long enough with or without father figures and the approval of men. We deserve to at least give ourselves that credit. We have embraced our curves way before getting feedback about it on the internet. There is no need to start caring what the internet thinks now.
Black women don’t need anyone’s approval to practice our ancestral rituals. Black women don’t need anyone’s approval to shake our butts for the fulfillment of our spirits and the uplifting of other Black women. Twerking has always been spiritual, tribal, and powerful read up on your history.