Iain “Ewok” Robinson provided an introspective look on the institutionalized racism that pervades our society as he premiered his hip hop/rap social commentary “Unentitled” at the Black Box Theatre at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts this past Saturday, Sept. 30. “Unentitled” explores the aspect of being white in a society that favors the lack of pigment in a person’s skin. Robinson is from Durban, South Africa, so he has some firsthand experience growing up in the system of apartheid and the injustice it created.
Performances based around social justice tend to leave a sour taste in the mouths of its attendants if the right steps aren’t taken to grab their attention. Robinson held the crowd in rapture right from the beginning. Grabbing their attention from the very beginning by throwing himself, symbolizing some person throwing him out of a country and his suitcase onto the Black Box Theatre’s floor, he jolted the crowd awake and directed their focus solely on him.
He started the show by examining the statement that most xenophobes say to people they don’t think “belong” — “Go back to where you came from.” He asks where that place is and how far back he should go to find it, a minute ago, a day, a year, an era? He answers this by saying “I came from a woman, a womb” and that “I came from bacteria that floated in the oceans millions of years ago.” He breaks apart this line that people throw around by aiming at the weak points of that argument.
The most political point he raised during the performance was the removal of statues. He compared the statues “still standing standing still” to the ideas they stand for standing still in time and how a statue can’t be a symbol for a movement because statues themselves are the antithesis of movement, criticizing those who use those statutes as a symbol for their movement.
It felt like there was only one point in the performance where Robinson pondered what white people could do to ameliorate the plague of racism and inequality in our society. At one point, he started rapping over a Wu-Tang Clan back track, beginning a comparison to chess and how the white pieces always move first. He then used this metaphor to try and inspire the white members of the audience to be the agent of change. If white people use their social status to bring awareness to the problems that don’t affect them, they can alleviate the pressures that are put on people that fit the preconceived notion of white heteronormativity. The performance mainly offers a path to solutions by white people looking introspectively at their place in society and how they can use that to help the downtrodden.
There were a few sections that could’ve been cut down or cut out completely from the performance. At one point, there was a five-minute span where it felt like all he said was “not this white ou but that white ou,” (Ou being an Afrikaans word that can be translated as guy) talking about the person that threw him out in the beginning. There was also a point where he was talking about walking a trapeze wire that seemed a bit confusing. He was repeating words often, so the meaning got lost a little.
This performance can be a very good conversation started for those that need to hear it. Hopefully with the mainstream popularity of other hip hop/rap projects, like “Hamilton,” and the rhythmic and melodic rhymes Robinson performs, the people that need to listen to this will enjoy it and take away something they can do to better their society.