To the untrained eye, that thing M.I.A. is doing with her middle fingers above on the red carpet of the YouTube Music Awards may seem offensive. But really, the Sri Lankan-raised Matangi-maker is just doing her part to promote best yogic practices. You see, Hindu culture includes a series of specific hand-gestures used during meditation, and Maya Arulpragasam is merely paying tribute to the goddess Matangi when she (frequently) flips the bird.
In case you were living under a rock or not yet born in the year 2012 (welcome!), M.I.A. got into hot water during Madonna’s Super Bowl XLVI halftime show when she raised her middle finger to the camera. Some people cared. Most probably didn’t. But as we learned in September, the NFL has been after the rap star since, hoping to hold her accountable to the tune of $1.5 million via breach of contract and damage to the league’s rep and goodwill.
Now, in a fresh interview with NPR, Maya has “explained” that she was not saying “fuck you” to America’s television-bound citizens — she was merely shouting out Matangi, the spirit guide of her just-out dazzling (and infuriating) fourth album. Never mind the fact that the last time she explained the offending gesture, she called it a “punk rock” “display of female empowerment” in the face of so much “corporation dick-shaking.”
“In America you have gang signs, and people throw up initials and stuff like that,” she says. “Well, 5,000 years ago, there was thing called a mudra, which is your sitting position when you do yoga or you’re meditating or praying or whatever. And you have different ones based on what you’re meditating over. There’s not a lot of them that are named after gods and goddesses, but the middle finger is specifically named Matangi — the Matangi mudra.”
Which begs the question: Did M.I.A. name her new album Matangi as a bid at creating additional circumstantial evidence that this whole hubbub is really about a millennia-old four-armed deity apparently born from a pile of left-over food? Or is Ms. Arulpragasam merely hitting the NFL back with ridiculousness in turn, because we’re pretty solidly on board with that whole wiener-wagging assessment, even if the middle finger has lost some potency over the years.
And during the interview, M.I.A. seems to acknowledge the joke. “So you were not giving America the middle finger? This was the Matangi symbol?” NPR asks. To which she responds, “Yes. Do you like that? [Laughing] It’s good, isn’t it?” Of course, either way she’s got nothing to worry about because Y.A.L.A. In other news, Hollywood Reporter says the previously in-question M.I.A. documentary is back on with new funding.