M.I.A.’s Matangi is out today and along with the religious iconography that is referenced throughout the album, in a recent interview with NPR, the “Bad Girls” rapper has explained that the middle finger she gave at the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show is part of that spiritual expression. When asked why she did it, she explains, “It’s the Matangi mudra… in America you have gang signs, and people throw up initials and stuff like that. 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.”
So you were not giving America the middle finger? This was the Matangi symbol?
M.I.A.: Yes. Do you like that? (Laughing) It’s good, isn’t it?
Something tells me that there might have been another meaning in that.
M.I.A.: It’s cultural! In my country, it’s godly. OK?
Is the NFL believing that? I know they’re suing you.
M.I.A.: Of course the NFL is not believing that, because the NFL does not believe in any other culture outside of the NFL. But it’s true; you can Wikipedia it. You can just say “Matangi” and “mudra,” and you’ll see it’s the middle finger.
Back in September, we reported that the NFL and M.I.A. were going to go into an epic legal battle over what has been deemed an obscene gesture. The dispute primarily hinges on a post-Janet Jackson NippleGate contract that stipulated performers would “acknowledge the great value of the goodwill associated with the NFL and the tremendous public respect and reputation for wholesomeness enjoyed by the NFL” and would “ensure that all elements of [her] Performance, including without limitation [her] wardrobe, shall be consistent with such goodwill and reputation.” It will be interesting to see whether M.I.A.’s argument that her bird flip was in reference to prayer helps her case will be interesting to see.