Interview – BauBô: « For the mainstream, in France, rap is like football, a guy thing »

Where does the name BauBô come from?

BauBô is the goddess of bawdy humor and the belly in Greek mythology. I discovered her when I read Clarissa Pinkolas Estes’ book Women Who run With the WolvesShe is a small goddess with eyes at the end of her breasts and has got a vulva instead of a mouth. She plays a central part in the myth of Demeter: “Overcome by her daughter’s disappearance, who was abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld, Demeter meets Baubô along her search. To help Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and harvests, out of her torpor and allow the earth to be reborn, BauBô lifts up her skirt and her bottom mouth speaks all kinds of bawdy jokes. Demeter bursts out laughing. Her laugh gets as far as Hades. And Hades, laughing, accepts to free Persephone for half of the year. The earth is saved!” I thought “I’m gonna stick with this one!”

When and how did you become a street artist?

From 2006, after realizing that everywhere in the world male and female were granted unequal importance, in favor of men, I began to work on how to highlight women by drawing uteruses as a symbol.

Two years later, I tried to show and share my work and contacted galleries, but in vain. I had the idea of putting my work on the street at the time.

In the following years, I learned that 80% of gallery artists were men (!), I had then little chance to be exhibited. I made an attempt on the street in 2011, but I was so freaked out that I thought it wasn’t for me.

When I tried to understand why I got so scared – because there was no reason to be, Paris, 10th arrondissement, 6 AM, in front of my place, I wasn’t taking too many risks! – I discovered that I absorbed and came to terms with the idea that I didn’t have the right to take space and even less mine. I had been forbidden to go out and made believe that I would get raped/assaulted/harassed, a kind of conditioning that all women know too well. I was super pissed! I worked on it for several months until I felt free and ready to take the street. In August 2012, I was out there with my glue and brush!

You’re also a hip hop dancer. How is it similar to street art?

I don’t know, maybe it is complementary, regarding emancipation, freedom and exploration. Hip hop is still a young and wild dance, without any frame or norm, maybe that’s what attracts me to it, like urban art…

You often work with different feminist organizations. When did your feminist awareness rise and how did it happen?

I don’t recall anything specific, but I know it was close to my 30th birthday. I was stuck in a thick fog and didn’t understand what to do to live here. My constant questioning made my face my conditioning as a woman and made me discover male domination. By dint of looking for the light, I found it!

You recently started to rap and released the track « CHIPS ». Why did you want to rap?

In the beginning, I wanted to sing. Sixteen years ago, I took my first singing lesson. For years, I tore my hair out because, despite a real desire to express myself through this medium, I couldn’t feel anything.  I recorded a few demos, as an author, and then as an author/composer but after ten years of classes and musical attempts, I still couldn’t feel anything. Aggrieved, I decided to stop taking lessons.

I then joined a gospel choir, hoping that I would be able to free myself, but nothing happened there. I gave up singing but as I wrote many texts and felt I belonged on stage, I thought that if I couldn’t sing, I could at least declaim.

So I started to slam. That’s when I first felt something physically speaking and that people told me my flow was close to rap. I was surprised and a little moved, it was an art form I really liked but I thought it wasn’t for me, as if it was impossible. But I stuck with this idea and in 2015, as I was trying, for fun, to spit my texts on an beat, I set up my flow all of a sudden as if it had always been there.

Rap is an artistic genre that exactly matches what I have to say and my perception.

You directed the video for CHIPS. Why was it important to you to do it on your own?

It wasn’t important, it was simpler! I already had the video I wanted in mind so I did it. I already tried to direct and edit with the Kauzette Kauz sketches on YouTube and knew more or less what I could do. The result works with what I imagined.

Do you think it’s possible to be a feminist and love rap?

For me, rap is an art form that combines rhythm, urban poetry and (or not) protest. So of course, you can be a feminist and love rap. We didn’t wait for rappers to be deluged with misogyny, pop music and rock overflow with it. Using hatred against women is very opportunistic and common, especially when you know that nothing is more tolerated/accepted/authorized/encouraged by society. Despising women is convenient, it allows you to feel superior at a lesser cost and without any effort! To come back to rap, there are a lot of female and male rappers who don’t use society’s hatred to make a name for themselves, so there’s plenty to do for those who love this art form.

What should we do to increase women’s representation in hip hop?

The other day, I went to see Casey’s concert at Centre Pompidou. As I was asking at the entrance where the concert was, the guy told me “the male rapper? It’s on the third floor”. I told him it was a female MC. He looked at me, stupefied, and said: “a female MC ? So there are women who rap?”… Here it is. For the mainstream, in France, rap is like football, a guy thing, because female rap is not broadcast! It’s really sad to see the invisibility of women in French rap.

What should we do? Honestly, that’s the main question! Have women in distribution companies/labels and radio stations? More open-minded decision-makers? More curious broadcasters? And especially a lot less norms and clichés!

What are your upcoming projects?

Le mur Oberkamp on September 10 in Paris. It is a project based on urban knitting and collage with Les Sœurs Chevalme and the Café Culturel de St Denis-La Fabrik on the place of women on the street. The first part will be shown at the 6b starting from November 15. Concerning music, I’m going to record new tracks and keep the adventure going…

What do you think about Madame Rap? What should be changed or improved?

It’s excellent! When I discovered it and posted it on the social networks, there was an impressive number of enthusiastic reactions! People expect a lot about rap and women.

Find BauBô on her blogTwitter and Facebook.

Éloïse Bouton

Lire l’interview en français ici.

Photo 1 by © Street Art Shooters, photos 2-3-4 by © Vanna Santoro.

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