Rapper M.I.A is hoping her new documentary Matangi/Maya/M.I.A will offer an insight into the struggles she and her family faced when they lived in war-torn Sri Lanka.
The Paper Planes hitmaker, real name Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam, has teamed up with director Stephen Loveridge to document her rise from Sri Lankan refugee to global star, after she fled civil war in the country at the age of 11 and moved to the U.K. in 1985 with her mother, sister, and brother. While her father – reportedly a founding member of the Tamil resistance - remained behind.
Speaking with filmmaker Deeyah Khan in the latest issue of Marie Claire, Maya said she hoped the fly-on-the-wall documentary, which uses footage shot during her return to the country in 2001, will provide Sri Lankan refugees, like her family, with a voice.
“He used to say when fruit fell off a tree, they had to race the animals to get to it first,” she explained, referencing the plight of her cousin who remained in a Sri Lankan refugee camp for 13 years after her family fled. “I didn’t think life could be any worse than what he’d been through. He’d suffered so much that I wanted it on tape, because it was important to tell his story.”
During the chat, Maya, who studied film at art school before turning to music, added that filming had been difficult due to Sri Lanka’s strict ban on cameras, and revealed she continues to face criticism over her suitability to tell this story outside of music.
Recalling a comment made by a Sri Lankan official who said she should “just stick to what she is good at, which is music,” the 43-year-old insisted it was her duty as a figure of prominence to use her platform responsibly.
“Who are they to say I can’t? If you take away that voice, you give it to a politician who doesn’t come to the war zone, he sits in an office writing orders,” she explained. “You need to evolve in different directions.”