Black women in mainstream media are challenging the respectability politics that women are harshly burdened with and are exposing how mainstream musicians, especially black musicians, are constantly undermined. We should be re-evaluating how we view celebrities.
After the release of WAP, Megan thee Stallion was often used as an example of what is wrong with society today. She then made her fans proud by gaining a Bachelor of Science in health administration from Texas Southern University.
Megan is now releasing an online platform that makes mental health resources accessible (It's called Bad Bitches Have Bad Days Too), using her influence, brains and wealth to provide a much-needed resource within a society that is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of mental health.
Also, make it make sense how people who claim to love Lizzo’s music are unaware that she is a classically trained flautist. How dare you call yourself a fan but have never seen her play the flute in her concerts or on social media (which she does a lot)
Lizzo’s collaboration with the Library of Congress is a great way to garner more support for the institution, inspire a new generation of classically musicians or young people to attend their concerts and remind young musicians that classical training has its relevance regardless of the path that you take in the music industry.
"History is cool!"Lizzo exclaimed, and that is true. Now imagine the interest that can be sparked in archivists, archaeologists, historians, preservationists, curators, and other careers within gallery/museum spaces.
To not work with mainstream culture to pique an interest in communities/information/fields that are often inaccessible or intimidating is to contribute to gatekeeping.
Mainstream media makes art accessible and that is important.
#art #lizzo #libraryofcongress #megantheestallion #badbitchesgetbaddaystoo #music #thelimeartexperiment
Why is representation important?
When we speak of representation in art and media, it should be known that today's generation is no longer satisfied with tokenized “diversity inserts”. Representation goes beyond merely putting underrepresented people into the forefront to appear diverse but not portraying them in an accurate or positive light. Representation should have a positive impact on the marginalised community being presented and allow them to share their own authentic stories, standing strong in pride of their identities.
A majority of media is built around misogynistic, patriarchal, and capitalistic perspectives that centre on the experiences of affluent white people, especially men. This often contributes to the erasure and silencing of BIPOC and other marginalised people.
When we decentre the standard societal norms that contribute to the silencing of marginalised people, we create safe spaces for difficult conversations to be had. It broadens our perspective on the world and gives us the opportunity to step into the shoes of another.
We have the technology to create connections that we normally would not have. It is important to use it to give a voice to the voiceless and break down barriers. Social media has allowed us to widen our perspective and shift the direction of trends in all creative industries - art, fashion, music, theatre, design and film.
(Image by Clayton Call)
To understand Johnny Clegg's career, one needs to understand the era when his career started. Apartheid meant that there were strict laws that restricted the movement of black people unless they were "accounted for" by a white person. It meant that black people had to carry a passport, on their own indigenous land, to state that they are in a "white designated" area for a reason, such as a job. Black people did not have the same opportunities as white people when it came education, employment, resources or even the option to leave the country. Many black musicians who became famous as political activists such as Miriam Makeba, ended up being banned from the country and forced to live in exile.
A person with the amount of privilege that Johnny Clegg experienced and the empathy to have the intelligence to use their privilege against the Apartheid government, to benefit his African band members and secure opportunities for them to show resistance was definitely needed.
I love that he did not consider himself a political activist. A good ally does not feel the need to speak over marginalised people but will protect and support them as they fight for themselves. Also, not explicitly admitting that they were political activists probably gave them a level of protection.
However, I think it is important to recognise that just because a person speaks out against injustices does not mean that they are political. I see this happen often in today's world and it is often used to silence people or put people in harm's way.
Speaking out about injustices should be a natural human thing to do, not seen as political. It is the right thing to do.
#johnnyclegg #music #socialjustice #apartheid #history #art #thelimeartexperiment
Who is the epitome of cultural appreciation in South African mainstream culture?
That would be Johnny Clegg.
The term ally is not a title that is self-appointed but something that is earned. I believe Clegg has earned the term ally during his lifetime.
Clegg embodies the kind of effort that black South Africans expect from White South Africans.
Learn our language and have a genuine interest in learning about our culture without feeling the need to mock us.
Clegg dedicated his life to studying the Zulu culture. He is mostly known for using his privilege to uplift the voices of African people through music, in a time when Africans were seen as inferior in South Africa. While navigating Apartheid South Africa as a band, he attempted to protect his band members as much as he possibly could from Apartheid laws. He also supported black people's activism by joining underground political movements. His bands, Juluka and Savuka, were an act of defiance.
From the fondness in the memories of his band members, you can hear that he genuinely wanted to connect with people, especially through their culture.
Though he was referred to as the "Le Zoulou Blanc" or "The White Zulu", he is said to have hated that term.
I know that sometimes black South Africans may be divided on whether Johnny Clegg should be celebrated or not. Was he genuine if he was profiting from African culture? Why are we celebrating a white man for doing the bare minimum? Where is the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation? Is he not a white saviour?
We will get into that discussion in tomorrow's post.
#johnnyclegg #music #creative #art #thelimeartexperiment
(Image by David Alberto Carmona Coto)
I have been quiet because not only am I working on a project but also, I have been struggling a lot internally. I have been peeling off all layers of myself that I do not need anymore.
I keep asking myself, "What kind of community do I want and how to achieve it?"
As I write about social justice issues, I feel exhausted. This is in addition to the usual exhaustion that I feel about life in general.
Despite my exhaustion, I find it necessary. What is more exhausting is how people will hurt others in the name of art and excuse harmful behaviour in the name of freedom.
The worst part is how art that opens up hard and important conversations that inspire healing are often swept under the rug, while controversy seems to catch the attention of the majority. Also, it's scary how not many people have the ability to place themselves in another's shoes. To see issues and people for their complexities, rather than a "with us or against us", "black or white" "either-or".
As I grow older, I realise that the beauty of being human is the thread of stories that weave together to create our identities. Now, more than ever, with social media carving out new norms in society, it is important to accept that no one is perfect and our experiences shape our worldview. Our ability to learn different perspectives and place ourselves in another's shoes is what determines goodness in humanity.
We have the technology to connect, we should use it to learn perspectives that are different from our own.
One thing that I do not want to be is reactionary. I desire to highlight art and conversations that are often swept under the rug. No matter how difficult it is sometimes.
I am still finding my feet in this community that I desire to create. Mainly because I am doing everything on my own. I may not be entirely sure where I am going with this page, I am not going to pretend to have things figured out. I am just happy for this privilege to write about things that I am passionate about.
A close concept to the Mammy caricature within South African history was the "Hottentot Venus" or Sarah Baartman.
Sarah Baartman was an indigenous Khoe Khoe woman from the coastal parts of South Africa. She was born near the Gamtoos River, in what is now known as Eastern Cape Province.
Growing up as an orphan, she spent the majority of her childhood on Afrikaaner farms until she moved to Cape Town to find work as a servant. While in Cape Town, she was a victim of human trafficking when she was taken to London by a human exhibit recruiter and a close friend. Though it was maintained that she went to London of her own will, it was under the pretence that she would be able to make money for herself by exhibiting her body. Instead, while she was in Europe, she was fetishised for her large buttocks, which Western Europeans found "strange" and she was referred to as the Hottentot Venus. Hottentot is a slur used to refer to Khoi Khoi people and venus to make reference to the ancient Paleolithic era sculptures of women collectively known as Venus figurines, which anthropologists thought she resembled.
After years of being exhibited in dehumanising conditions in England, she was sold to a French Animal handler who held her in worse conditions. In addition to being exhibited, she was exploited by scientists who were curious about her genitalia. At the end of her life, around the age of 26, she had been sexually exploited and was working as a sex worker. Though her cause of death is debatable, it is certain that it was caused by the dehumanising conditions that she endured.
When plus-sized black women are used as the butt of the joke, the same subtly racist ideology is often being perpetuated. Regardless of if it is a white or black man using the imagery.
Today, black women who do not fit Eurocentric beauty standards are still being thought of as being masculine, still marginalised and dehumanised but still fetishized.
#sarahbaartman #mammy #media #history #slavery #creatives #art #thelimeartexperiment
Why is Leon Schuster’s Mama Jack a damaging portrayal of black women?
I know many South Africans do not see anything sinister in the way that Leon Schuster presents his movies. I do not recall there ever being a blatant mammy caricature in South African contemporary popular culture before Mama Jack. Even I would once frequent the cinema to watch Schuster movies because I thought that they were funny, never thinking about the harm that was being portrayed.
After decades of accepting Shuster as the best comedian in the country and a symbol of unity, many South African white people now think that it is acceptable to use their black domestic workers as social media props. Both white people and black men, do not think twice before perpetuating harmful stereotypes of how black women are lazy, unattractive and uncouth but maternal. One never thinks about the harm when they are privileged enough to not be affected.
During Apartheid times, black women only had limited economic options such as social workers, teachers, nurses, shop assistants or domestic workers. Careers that only placed them in positions of service. This is one of the reasons why domestic work is normalised in South Africa and a majority of domestic workers are black women.
South African domestic workers become like second mothers to the white family and their children, hence many white South Africans will speak about their domestic workers raising them. However, there is a painful layer to this. Black women had to neglect their own children in order to be there for their employers' children, so they could provide for their own children on the peanuts that they received. Apartheid made sure that black designated areas were far away from white designated areas. Till today going to work for many black people means an early rise for a long commute or staying with the family, missing weeks or months of their own family lives.
Mama Jack does not celebrate domestic workers, who sacrifice a huge part of their lives to serve. Instead, Leon wears a black woman as a costume for convenience and then feeds into the stereotypes of a black maternal woman with the "strange antics" that white people find humorous.
What is a Mammy Caricature?
A mammy caricature is imagery and caricature of African America women that was popularly used in media in the US from slavery times to the Jim Crow Era. This imagery was meant to “prove” that African American people were content with being slaves.
The mammy caricature portrayed an obese, dark-skin and maternal woman who was faithful to her white masters. It was also a way to imply that black women are undesirable and are only meant to serve. This had a long-lasting effect on the opportunities that black women could receive, so even after slavery had ended, black women could only do domestic work.
Though the caricature was portrayed in movies and marketing products as a representation of black women, it was far from the truth. Black women sometimes worked as “right-hand” figures to the white mistress. However, they didn’t hold a significant role in the management of white households until after Emancipation. Also, house slaves were often the total opposite of the mammy stereotype – mixed, thin from the poverty that was forced upon them and young.
A major reason for the existence of the mammy caricature was to cover up the abuse of black women by portraying them as not acceptable within Eurocentric beauty standards. Why would white men be attracted enough to black women to want to engage in sexual relations with them?
The policing and exploitation of black women’s bodies were not something that was new. There has always been a tug of war between the beauty standard that white supremacy attempts to uphold and the beauty standards that white men were attracted to behind closed doors. We must also remember that sexual exploitation and the policing of bodies are also more about power and the dehumanisation of the victim.
#Cinema #mammy #anti-blackness #art #creatives #thelimeartexperiment
When I watched Mama Jack for the first time as a child, I was delighted to see someone portray a woman who looked like me and the women who raised me. That was until people start calling me Mama Jack and something inside me would turn as if there was a hidden insult within those words. An air of what I would later understand to be internalised anti-blackness disguised as a joke.
What was once something that brought me pride, my braids, now brought me so much shame. As a young black, dark skin woman who is plus-size, societal standards are already against you. I could never celebrate “the darker the fruit, the sweeter the berry” as the summer darkened my skin. I stayed away from the ocean that I loved so much to avoid turning shades of black in the sun. I was also encouraged to dress younger as if mass fashion had not excluded me and those like me. As I tried to develop a personal style, I would receive judgement because my clothing choices never fit into an acceptable standard of what a plus-sized young person should wear. You are expected to dress in a way that will make the world forget that you’re fat.
So when a white man perpetuates harmful stereotypes about an already marginalised part of a society, it doesn’t make life easier for those who are shamed for something that is not their fault. Yes, women can lose weight (though, who are you to demand weight loss from someone?) but one cannot change their skin colour, one cannot change their hair (black women are vilified no matter what hairstyle they choose to wear) and lastly, one cannot change the mannerism that they have inherited from their culture.
All those things that they mock are gifts to be honoured.
#art #cultural appropiation #mammy #theatre #comedy #caricature #anti-blackness #thelimeartexperiment