Black Fringe Dwellers
By Taju Tijani
Inside stuffy jazz club houses, on the trains, university campuses, football fields, testosterone-fuelled gyms, ornate offices and in the consecrated temples of our holy places, there is a new embrace for the life on the fringe. The chant that is fast becoming a social mantra in the West is the love for the bohemia and the rejection of the norm. Welcome to the world of the black fringe dwellers! The new light beaming its rays onto our lightless century is the growing numbers of black young men and women who are becoming anti-society, nihilists, new age zealots and head bangers.
Wherever you turn, the monstrous attraction for the weird, the shocking, and the vulgar is without doubt a loud and lofty contempt for the sane, the safe, the norm and the continuation of polite society as we know it. The new metropolitan elites are the gaudy specie of our humanity who have decided to live on the cusp of shallow lifestyles of dark oddity. And because our modern culture and fashion are becoming anti-normal, anti-history and even anti-African, it is fast becoming difficult for black people to make a disconnection from western fashion that is turning mothers against daughters, fathers against their sons and friends against friends.
Fringe dwellers, in their mushrooming like swampy algae, come in different moulds. Many of these fringe dwellers have passed from salvation to despair. There are those who have imploded into the grunge universe. There are those who have dis-configured the unvarnished beauty of black body with generic tattoos, body piercing, navel piercing, mouth and tongue piercing. You have to include upper eyelid, nipple, penis and vaginal piercing. This sacrilegious assault and body abuse transcend culture and racial boundaries. This lethal self-inflicted pain has become a sort of marker and the worst exemplar of how blacks are losing their cultural identity to the mammon that controls the fringe.
Many of the fringe dwellers bear similarity with you. Worse, their first and last names signal that they are from your tribe, your nation and your continent. Ade, Osita, Yemi, Tochukwu, Emeka, Eno, Imabong, Nnamdi, Awele, Titi, Wale, Nwaneka and Ukpong are the new fringe dwellers. They are the transnational tribe of nomadic grunge who are looting the artefacts of the new age. They dress in black. They wear Doc Martens, military boots, Chuck Taylor or skate shoes. They dye their messy hair in muted pink, purple, celestial blue or flaming red. They wear tie and dye. They tie ream of colourful ribbons on the wrist. They wear ripped jeans and leather jackets. They wear T-shirt emblazoned with skull, dragon, fire or the image of the horned devil. There is the inner desire to evoke the spirit of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Curt Cobain, Courtney Love, Amy Winehouse and Charly Boy. They wear chavette make up. There is an inner demon asking to be the edgy one from the crowd. They complement this with a starving canine companion in the event of assault from the non-fringe dwellers.
The philosophy of the fringe dwellers is simple enough. They want to object to societal ideal by not participating in realising it. They believe that fame and popularity are the very worst form of self-validation. So, what is of value is the imported urban styles from the covens of heavy metal-rock-gangsta rap and hip hop. At social gatherings, dry, lotionless knuckles point toward you in gangsta handshake.
In a demoralised and morally-starved western world, our children are becoming sucked into a strange and venomous culture that has seen families ripped apart. Many of our sons and daughters are becoming fringe dwellers. Many of them are becoming apathetic towards the boring, authoritarian, be-a-good-boy/girl culture of their African parents. The limitless freedom of the west has become a byword to chart the vulgar. Freedom has given Titi, Ngozi, Ade, Rashidi, Emeka and Imabong the choice to live as a scruffy grunge, metal head, gangsta, badass, rocker chic, hip hop raver and the ghetto diva.
Western freedom aside, we could also link the emerging triumph of fringe lifestyle to other factors like the dumbing down of smart appearance. Some people are uncomfortable when your sartorial perfection becomes too obvious. Clean skin is becoming dated. So you are expected to tattoo up your flesh. There is peer pressure from husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends and ordinary friends. There is rebellion against societal orthodoxies. Include the desire to be odd and different. Our younger ones see celebrity grunge heroes and heroines as role models. Move over sagging trouser, the newest street cred is body piercing from the head, nose, ears, chin, lips, tongue, breasts, navel, bottom all the way to the penis or vagina.
African parents of grunge hipsters who have decamped from the norm to embrace the fringe are sidelined into becoming fatalists in a broken Britain that has lost authority and control over its sons and daughters. African parents are wailing secretly over the sense of their own impotence. The yawning cultural dissimilarity between black African and the West is profound and the disaster of western social experiment with the odd and weird on our "fringed up" children is indexing into tragedy for most parents.
When our future fathers and mothers are lurching disasterly to embrace the odd, the weird, the abnormal, the subculture of glam rock, the degenerate lifestyle of gangsta rapper, the pin up Essex girl, the anarchic Cobain grunge look, the smash head (orifokasibe) heavy metal style, then the scars of displacement, the pain of diaspora's racial certitude, the long suffering in a cold climate all turn out as generational waste. Parents are becoming saddened bystanders in a whitewash, white ruled, white led culture war that is conscripting the most gullible of our men and women and shipping them into the outermost edge of society- the forbidding colony of the fringe dwellers.