Sunday, 27 November 2016

la rêverie #2

The mundane beast lives in the corner of my classroom and he roars and he sneezes and he spits and he fills the air with his germs and his cooties, till we’re sat glum on our seats under a grey cloud fed to us in the style of the pearly gates, except the doors lead to a corporate heaven; banal and lifeless.

And so, tell me. In the midst of a lesson, is there a time where you slip into a hazy moment?  Where your mind is far away from reality, and your eyes are climbing up the stars to a distant galaxy where it’s a summer burning hot and the winter doesn’t bite the tip of your nose in the late afternoon. Or where it’s a summer blazing hot and the sweat clings to your skin, and you feel lucky when a soft breeze pirouettes over those exposed patches of skin leaving the whisper of a cool ice touch. Or of a spring where I open the curtain and welcome the voyeur sun with tired eyes as it hangs, discrete, from white-cloud strings. A spring where I walk for a long while with a book in my bag, knowing I can brave the wind coat-free.

Sometimes I slip into a reality where I’m grown and my eyes reflect my years, and I’m walking across a city with a briefcase in my right hand and a coffee in my left. Where I’m on my way to a job not too far from my home, and it’s a job that I love so much that I smile when I walk through the door, and in my heart, I still carry that curious kindness of a small child. That’s the daydream of a 17-going-on-18 adolescent girl reminding herself why she sits and she listens (sometimes) and works hard. It’s the daydream of 17-going-on-18 adolescent girl reminding herself that for all the moments you procrastinate, that’s another two moments of educational endeavours regardless of how late it is. 

Of course, I have those soppy daydreams where my mind wanders on the feel of a hand in mine or the feel of a kiss or a tight hug. Often. The soppy daydreams of soppy hearts and “I love yous” that he won’t give. But these pass in a long second because really it’s rude to dream of romance while your teacher is trying to prep you for ‘the long shadow of work”. The pressure sweats everyone like the Sahara Desert sun sweats the foreign stranger on holiday. Remember that before you curse them out for caring. 

Watch the video!!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

la rêverie #1

This video had my brain swirling around and around. It’s such a beautiful song, and the cinematography really captures the feeling.

It’s that feeling where your head is spinning and it feels like you’re swimming underwater, except it’s a feeling and you know it’s all in your head. That the ocean is all in your head. And it’s a funny thought because the ocean is masses and masses of water, with depths untouched and undiscovered. It’s deep dark below-ground heaven that we can prove exists… and it’s all in my head and my brain is drowning in it. I'm imagining that feeling where your eyes are dazed and your hands, as they glide – unsteady – through the air, look as if they’re making ripples in some invisible body of water. Oh, and the legs, two legs to be exact, wobbly because the blood that runs from head-to-toe is groggy blood (too little oxygen or too much oxygen?) and the ground feels uneven, like when you let the laughter of your friends carry you from the shallow end of the pool to the deep end of the pool. That deep deep deep end. The one where if you pull yourself underwater, you can see legs scrabbling about trying to keep afloat; the individualistic doggy paddle where bodies imitate differently the actions of the swimming instructor.

Watch the video!!

My next blog post will be the second part of "Daydreaming". It's a creative writing piece, kind of a reflection type prose. Anyway, look forward to that!!  

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Skin Deep: an exploration of colourism in relation to whiteness

Although this article focuses on South Asian culture, it’s a parallel issue across many POC communities so yeah, “in Whiteness, we stand united”. Reading it made me reflect on my own perception of skin colour and how it had fluctuated over my adolescent life.

The issue of skin-bleaching is rooted in colourism and colourism is rooted in internalised racism. The concept of ranking blackness in shades, whereby how light your skin is equates to a higher position in the culturally-defined hierarchy of beauty, is deeply flawed and divisive. And ironic because, as the article mentions, outside the subaltern, you’re black you’re black, there’s no two ways about it. Why do we still continue to feel the need to categorise shades of skin colour? Why are there people who rank beauty based on its relationship to whiteness? It’s damaging to someone’s identity and someone’s self-esteem because even in the culture you inhabit and refer to as home (primarily thinking about young women in POC communities outside the western world), you still end up feeling like the “other”. It’s hard not to when you’re bombarded with billboards and televised adverts of dark “skin being magically transformed into a celestially, white complexion”. Or even here in the UK, standing in a hair shop with rows upon rows of skin lightening/bleaching products, all of which exploiting the vulnerability of young minds and allowing them to swallow whole, and unprocessed those Eurocentric ideals of beauty.  It’s scary to think that 3/4 years ago, I would’ve contemplated it, and it’s scary to think how much self-hate I carried around with me at that age. This was further heightened by having to witness the whitewashing of celebrities on the front covers of magazines, a subconscious message that beauty is only attainable with light-skin. 

In fact, in one of my favourite books – “Happiness, Like Water” by Chinelo Okparanta – there’s a short story called “Fairness” that explores this. Set in Nigeria, it looks at a mother-daughter relationship, where the mother, who has recently returned from a trip to America, brings with her copies of women’s fashion magazines. Uzoamaka’s mother feeds her these Eurocentric beauty standards through the American magazines, repeatedly urges her to lighten her skin, to emulate her mother’s journey to beauty with bleaching creams. And not only is it a familial thing, it’s a societal thing, as Uzoamaka watches as girls at her school transform themselves for the sake of whiteness. I won’t spoil the ending but it’s shocking and sad, and even more so because you see no change or growth in Uzoamaka’s perception of beauty, but I guess that’s the point. Once it’s ingrained, it’s hard to scrub its effects away. Also, I haven't read this book but I know that "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison (a wonder) also explores a similar issue of internalised self-hate, a racial inferiority complex and seeing beauty in the hands of whiteness. 

Recently, I’ve been interested in the effects, more like the fallout, of colonialism after all these countries gained independence.  With European colonialism came the influx of white supremacist ideology, which included the binary opposition of white vs. black; white perceived as "the standard/preferred", black perceived as "the other", or even more white perceived as the "superior", black perceived as the "inferior".  With this included "the association of blackness with primitiveness, lack of civilisation, unrestrained sexuality, pollution, and dirt". This being said, one can view skin bleaching as a method of escaping those negative associations, separating yourself from "the other" and being one step closer to being regarded as an ideal. Especially as these associations then leak into social systems. Take the job industry for example, time and time again black woman are being told that their natural hair, that dreadlocks, are unprofessional for the workplace. Afro-textured hair, "nappy" = uncivilised.  Is this fair? No. 

This article made me realise just how far-reaching and skin-deep colonisation is, how it not only infiltrated and destroyed the natural order/customs/traditions of certain civilisations, but also the minds of these civilisations and how they infiltrated and warped their self-perception of themselves and their beliefs and values of beauty. It’s a sad and scary thought.
Carrie Mae Weems, Mirror, Mirror from Ain’t Jokin’, 1987–88
“What is perhaps more surprising is that there is no correlation to our anti-colonial histories.”
This was another thing to think about, that despite after fighting for independence, for power over your territory, celebrating year after year the ejection of the British (although another question to consider is whether or not independence is truly independence, looking at neo-colonialism and the world as a global community still centred on Eurocentric/Western ideology), you’d think that we’d do our best to separate ourselves from the very thing that was shoved down our throats. But it’s a hard thing to do. Warping someone’s perception of beauty is a hard thing to reverse because once it’s ingrained in your mind, it leaks out of your actions and your words, gets passed down to your children. It becomes a cycle. This is a massive hurdle that needs to be destroyed in order for there be a collective acceptance of beauty in your own black skin.

On a positive note however, people are breaking that cycle. Like the self-love movement permeating through social-media. The personal is political, being looking at the mirror and celebrating the beauty in the colour of your skin and watching that daily affirmation positively affect the rest of your day. Spitting in the face of that person who challenges your beauty simply because you wear your dark skin proudly. Your melanin glows because you walk the earth with love for yourself and others. 

An Accompaniment