Among these readings I was impressed with Hall’s considerations of identity “as a ‘production’ which is never complete, always in process, and always constituted within, not outside, representation.” (Hall 234). By highlighting the multiple ways in which difference matters (both unifying and challenging) Hall seeks to place identity within its originary context as a source of connection and meaning, but also simultaneously always undergoing transformation. I’d like to pair this consideration of identity as both placed and in flux with Harrell’s description of orature which, via the work of writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Harrell describes as consisting of the twin aspects of “the embodied aspects of its performance, and the fact of a commitment to a set of shared values in processes of cultural production” (6). Harrell is seeking here to describe orature as an expression of a world view, but I’d like to highlight ways in which “the embodied aspects of its performance” might be paired with Hall’s transformative characteristics which are always in process. The very act of giving-voice-to offers the opportunity to affect and alter (or perhaps inevitably will alter) what is said, while also offering the opportunity of repeating or replicating what already existed. “Meaning,” Hall claims, “continues to unfold, so to speak, beyond the arbitrary closure that makes it, at any moment, possible” (240). We might say then that the meaning within any utterance goes beyond the utterance. “It [Meaning] is always either over- or underdetermined… There is always something ‘left over’”(Hall 240). And while Harrell emphasis in his description of orature ways in which orature “takes on particular importance in the African diasporic context because crucial bodies of knowledge, for example ontologies of ancestry, of deep cultural and religious significance in many diverse African cultures, have traditionally been transmitted orally” (5), there is also in this a tacit acknowledgement of the ways in which such orature is altered in its diasporic contexts.
With all that being said, I’d like to turn to Majah Hype, a Brooklyn based comedian whose youtube videos, mostly starring himself in various guises and disguises, pokes fun at, but also in other ways honors, his Caribbean heritage. Furthermore his Caribbean personalities feel very contemporary. For instance in one the Rastafarian character Di Rass attempts to get bike insurance from Geico. At the beginning of the clip Di Rass is singing a modified version of “Rude” by (angsty) (white) (pop) “Canadian reggae fusion band Magic!”(from Wikipedia, I’ve included their youtube video). Di Rass here is reappropriating an appropriation, and in the process presenting his own identity as acting within a particular cultural environment- one which is contemporary with Geico lizard commercials, pop music reggae, and a Geico employee with musical aspirations. Here “the embodied aspects of its [Di Rass’s] performance” though still reflect “a commitment to a set of shared values” (Harrell 6)- Di Rass is evincing values (and modes of speaking) shared with a community, perhaps even a community he is largely absent from. I realize, of course, that Di Rass is a trope and perhaps one which is not without its own shortcomings. That being said, I think Majah Hype’s motivations in his various characters are in earnest, and we could similarly consider and address Majah Hype’s work more broadly as an example of the sort of orature which Harrell claims represent “ontologies of ancestry, of deep cultural and religious significance in many diverse African cultures, have traditionally been transmitted orally” (5), except here perhaps we are witness more overtly to ontologies (an awkward and perhaps imprecise term) of the Caribbean rather than Africa. And while such representations may not be religiously significant, I would say that judging by the youtube comments, they remain culturally significant.