Do not be imprisoned by your blackness

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January 27, 2014 By Brad Cibane

Could blackness be something other than an arbitrarily-defined skin pigment? Could it be that blackness is a mental inclination which imprisons the “darkies” of this world?

The question does – of course – seem rather dense, considering that our existence cannot be divorced from our social, political and historical contexts.

We are products of our environments. Therefore, blackness is more than a skin pigment. In many ways, it is at the core of our (varied and confused) identities.

Consider the following.

On Monday Buro 24/7, a Russian blog, caused a furore after it published a rather prickly image. The image shows model and socialite Dasha Zhukova perched comfortably on a naked and bound, life-like black mannequin. The picture is a gruesome mash-up of art, reality and fantasy, and it left many of us darkies gasping for air.

Image Credit: Buro 24/7

Most darkies were livid, for varied (but mostly incongruous) reasons.

Some objected because they found the picture insensitive on Martin Luther Day; others objected because they thought the whole thing smacked of revolting racism. But why?

Claire Sulmers, editor of Fashion Bomb Daily, is quoted saying the image represents ‘White dominance and superiority, articulated in a seemingly serene yet overtly degrading way.’

The internet revolt led Ms Zhukova to apologise and to explain that she ‘utterly abhor[s] racism’.

If you are one of those whose blood is boiling at the sight of this image, take a step back.

The life-like woman is not just a mannequin, it is in fact a chair; a piece of art created by New York-based artist and klipgooier (stone-thrower) Bjarne Melgaard.

Melgaard is an artistic force to be reckoned with. Ken Johnson of the New York Times describes him as ‘a projectile vomiter, and like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist,” he seems possessed by a demonic force.’ His art generally defies intrinsic notions of beauty and propriety. Yet, in his own way he challenges established contours of power.

Going back to the image, it is clear why darkies object to the image. It is a portrayal of a phenomenon that, to us, is too real.

Ask yourself, would it matter if the black woman was real? What if she had volunteered, or if she had murdered 10 white women to get the spot? I think not. We would be upset all the same. The reason is many of us are still prisoners of our blackness.

Our modern history as darkies is founded on oppression, discrimination and subjugation. In fact, the only common thread in the history of darkies everywhere is oppression. To us,  power struggles– even when reproduced in art – are a reality. A painful reality.

The question that all darkies should ask themselves is how long are we willing to remain victims? How long are we going to object to art or music or movies, because they present our realities in a way we find insensitive?

How long will we chide discourse or bleep out words, or censor art because we are offended?

We as darkies need to face the realities (past or present) head on. We need to take control of our history and how stories of our past and future are told.

Petty activism against pop-art is surely not the way.


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