M.I.A by Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam
WORDS BY : LIZ RAISS
If you feel like flipping back to a simpler time, Rizzoli Books’ artful, hardcover M.I.A. (2012) is a good way to go. Maya Arulpragasam’s writings have an aching vulnerability, the kind of youthful voice the press-averse M.I.A. no longer provides the public. Maya chronicles her time at Central Saint Martin’s, her cousin going missing in Sri Lanka, the origins of Arular, Kala, and Maya.
M.I.A. also speaks at length about her conflicted relationship with Sri Lanka, filtered through the kind of naivety (Jude Law makes a cameo) that at one time led to critical coverage like Lynn Hirschberg’s famously biting profile of the pop star. It feels a bit weird re-reading that kind of piece: in 2018, good political intentions can buy you the world, but a decade ago they could throw your career sideways.
The book is as colorful as you’d imagine anything masterminded by M.I.A. to be, with a lot of glitchy, pixelated web art, ‘90s influences, and graffiti-inspired art. The writing portions are sincere and fun to read but they seem almost besides the point: colorful images and collages that might have been mildly controversial a decade ago have a real estate majority. But for any flaws, M.I.A. provides a brief but unfettered glimpse into the psyche of the groundbreaking pop musician and multimedia artist we didn’t deserve.