On the contrary, in places of privilege that are inaccessible to most black people, particularly in contemporary humanities departments steeped in postcolonial critique, blackness has credibility that whites crave. Being able to claim that one has “been there” and experienced marginality trumps white voices who can only speak from second hand information. I’ve met American students at UCT who are as white as I am (and decidedly more privileged), but use the one drop of black or hispanic blood in their veins to reap the special bursaries, grants, opportunities and legitimacy reserved for black voices in humanities departments desperate to prove they are transforming.
Likewise, in South Africa, I can’t even count the number of white friends who lay claim to being African, to move themselves out of the uncomfortable status of hated, oppressive “settler” always on the wrong side of history. That’s not even counting those who confer on themselves “ancient African knowledge” as sangomas, or emphasise that they see themselves not as “white” but as “human” and they don’t “see colour.”
While being black is a cause of suffering for black people, cherrypicked “blackness” is a decided advantage for whites. We’d love nothing more than to deny the past ever happened, and claim that the system isn’t rigged to our advantage but that we deserve this. And we ogle at the rewards we could gain if we could lay our mitts on the credibility, cachet and funding our whiteness disqualifies us from. We’ve all dreamed of being able to have our cake and eat it, like Rachel Dolezal did. That she caved in to this temptation doesn’t make her a hero of non-racism.
I think creativity, and the making of artefacts, is a product of cultures in general, and the Western sense of “Art” is a product of massive surplus over and above the meeting of needs for artefacts.
The idea of it as a “high” expression of culture has spread with imperialism, as did the idea of a “national culture” being expressed through literature. It is as Western as the English language, and carries with it the same kinds of embedded privilege, in terms of it being a “text” which privileges European concerns. It is impossible to “speak” art without its European history being part of the discussion.
I think that much like European history has been selectively “rewritten” to seem to be a continuous, meaningful story from prehistory to Modern America, so has art history.
It’s great to have it around. Certainly I like it. But to engage in it without confronting its lies and limitations is like living inside the bubble of white privilege without standing back to look at its impact on the world in general, and see who gets favoured by its discourses of “natural” “genius” and “talent” (as opposed to “first-language” familiarity), compared with who gets punished and dumped outside its magic circle like so much human trash.
This is an adaptation from a still life by someone I’m actually descended from, whose son (or grandson, not sure) came out here as a PA to Simon van der Stel and apparently was the most corrupt, heinous motherfucker you could imagine. It’s very hard to get a straight answer from anyone in my family, but one distant uncle who I chatted to on the phone told me that because he could prove his direct descent he was allowed into the basement of the Rijks Museum where they kept all the family info. He said this guy was so corrupt that he was, individually, the reason for the first slave rebellion at the Cape. So it’s like an actual time warp of history. Except of course when I research when the slave rebellions were, none of the dates tie up. But of course there must be so many of these hideous occurrences which we no longer even know about.
Here’s the painting, by Jacob Jacobsz. De Wet (Jacob de Wet II):
… gained from storyboarding an endless stream of jock lager ads:
Where men are a caricature of manliness, their sexuality depends on them always being The Ones Who Know, who are worldly and can sum up reality in short, pithy bro-repartee (bropartee). To achieve this, they need to simplify reality into easy-to-read contrasts, with rules in big type, so they don’t have to suffer the shrivelling-dick humiliation of being faced with complexity.
Q: Lizza, did you paint this from a photo? I want to post these on Fleurmach and include context if there is some.
A: The likenesses are so bad there’s not much point referring to the originals… which I guess is a good thing, because I don’t feel like I’m violating anyone’s privacy. I’ve been working in a way where I strive for immediacy by going straight into paint with no pencil work underneath, so it’s pot luck how it turns out. The subjects are Palestinian though, I can say that much! I wanted to be sure to get a mood which is realistic. I want to do more of people in Palestine being human.
This picture was made in appreciation of that really great joke that went around recently: Ayn Rand, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan walk into a bar. The barman serves them tainted alcohol because there are no regulations. They die.
Facebook status update, this evening:
Storyboarding is strangely interesting when it gives a view into how different nation-states construct and respond to sales stereotypes. I’m doing a lipstick ad for actual French people from Paris right now, and it is noticeably stripped of that subtext one inevitably finds in American or South African ads that says, “Don’t worry, she’s not dangerous and what she really wants is to be your submissive little wifey.” This ad would freeze the testicles off a Sarf-Effriken jock, even though all it’s about is glamour.
It’s odd, because it is all about women achieving an aesthetic perfection so intense they are geisha-like objects of contemplation, yet the glamour is also tangibly an end in itself which doesn’t necessarily include men. It’s not like we don’t already know this, but it brought to my attention that South African culture which considers itself sophisticated is not only colonial but downright rural. Sexuality is confined to breeding, like farmyard-style.
Lynne: Sounds like fun for a change! X are you gonna buy the lipstick? X
Lizza: Being briefed for a storyboard doesn’t necessarily go as far as anyone telling me what the product is! This time I needed to be told what it looked like, but I didn’t get the brand. Probably a load of bollocks. For all I know this could be the French version of Sarie magazine – I really wouldn’t be able to spot the difference.
My mother has a brave and brilliant eco-activist friend, Frank, who has been fighting to save the estuary of the Black River and squatting in an abandoned building in Paarden Eiland, despite being over 80 years old. The other day, the City Council came to deliver an eviction order, and when they got there, Frank was dead. He’d overdosed on heart pills. Well done, Frank, for choosing how to live and how to die. You’re an inspiration.
Sarah (Facebook status update): ”Spinster” is such a horrible word. So I am coining a new word for myself: I am a $PIN$TA, so watch out or I’ll set my cats on you.
Lizza: Yo, $pin$sta! It’s like a combination of spin and sista… works with the headphone look [in your profile pic].
Sarah: Yo homie! Thanks, although I fear those headphones are more ‘gamer nerd’ than ‘Dre’.
Lizza: Hey, being a murderer and stuff is too tired already. Kill them with your MIND.
Djf Head: It’s one of the few remaining words that closet misogynists get to use when they want to make a point without invoking obvious indignation. So please take it and transform it and own it.
Sarah: Yes but still “do you want to come back to my spinster pad?” is unlikely to work. It evokes visions of a giant sinister man-eating spider. *shudder*
Lizza: Any way you look at it, you have to end up being a goth :)
Sarah: A gangster goth.
Lizza: Yeah! Solid muthafuckin GOLD spiderwebs with diamonds on.
Sarah: LOL!!!! I’ll put chrome rims on my doc martens (sp?).
Lizza: Oh.my.god. and fluorescent lighting underneath, like a gangsta car. Imagine when you walk…
Sarah: That’s mental :D
Lizza: Judge Dredd would totally shit himself :))))
Rosemary: I like this entire conversation.