“You wanna me be somebody who I’m really not.”

That line from M.I.A.’s ‘XXXO’, the lead single from her third album Maya in 2010 could be short-hand for the friction that Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam has come up against with in her 12 year career as a recording artist and explored in the documentary film Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.

The film, directed by her old St. Martin’s college classmate Steve Loveridge makes use of a large archive of personal home video recordings, and the story goes that Loveridge, upon receiving that trovel, refused M.I.A editing rights. She was shown rough cuts but was not allowed to edit the results, and told The Guardian that “it’s not the film I would have made.” Loveridge says he kept his distance from her in the four years he was making the film, and it wasn’t primarily about her music.

What Matangi/Maya/M.I.A is about though, is her music career, her family, her background and the tumultuous time that Arulpragasam experiences while making agit-pop music informed by her Sri Lankan immigrant upbringing in the Western world.

The home video footage is revealing in Arulpragasam’s preoccupations with questioning and exploring her upbringing. As is already documented, her father is a founding member of the Tamil Tigers, a resistant group fighting for independence in Sri Lankan’s north and east Tamil Eelam region.

When her father reappears 10 years after she last saw him in London, where her family moved when she was nine, M.I.A. is seen discussing his absence with her siblings. Her sister bemoans his lack of communication with her family, and particularly her mother, while the footage of M.I.A. showing a film to them of the Tamal Tigers and the Sri Lankan civil war suggests that she understands why he was absent.

After escaping a war-torn country, she is confronted with a new identity crisis. “One day in Sri Lanka I was getting shot at for being a Tamil, then I came to England and I was being spat at for being a…

This Article was written by Nialler9

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