1/28/2014

(More) Singing WoC II

Blush [Pop]
Philippines/India/Hong Kong/Japan/South Korea


NRG Rising [Reggae]
New Zealand


Alexis Brown (of Straight Line Stitch) [Metalcore]
U.S.A



Judith Hill [Pop/Soul/RnB]
U.S.A


Girl In A Coma [Indie Rock]
U.S.A


Maria Mena [Folk/Pop/Rock]
Norway


DOLL$BOXX [Rock/Metal]
Japan



Condola Rashad ["Storytelling"]
U.S.A


FKA Twigs [Trip Hop]
UK







1/25/2014

War Witch




War Witch is a 2012 war drama directed by Canadian director Kim Nguyen, starring Rachel Mwanza, Serge Kanyinda and Alain Bastien.

It centers around 12 year old Komona, who is abducted from her village to become a child soldier during a civil war in Africa (it is not stated exactly where, but there are strong suggestions that it is set in the Democratic Republic of Congo). As is tradition, she is initiated by being forced to kill her parents, and the movie follows her experience after this traumatic event.

All the facets of being a child soldier are presented, from the new found friendships to the physical abuse, from the drug induced hallucinations to the psychological trauma. This deep insight into the life of a child soldier is what makes the film worthwhile. There is no glamorization, and it is a challenging watch, often cringe inducing. More than crying about the situation of the protagonists, we are invited to celebrate their strength and to root for their liberation. The camera doesn't allow for a pitiful gaze, mainly because the people the characters reflect don't pity themselves, they do with what they have and strive to push forward.

Personally, I found this a refreshing film. It is a contrast to the "white savior" films we often see, the likes of "Machine Gun Preacher", where we are presented with helpless children in need of foreign help, with no agency of their own - a portrayal of child soldiers from the point of view of everyone but the child soldiers. War Witch is narrated by a girl, it is a story from her point of view about herself, from start to finish. The film prompts deep reflection on current events, but also laughter during those few moments where the protagonists attempt to pursue friendship, love, and happiness in the face of chaos and despair. 


It was nominated for an Oscar (Best Foreign Language Film 2013). For a full list of the awards it won and was nominated for, click here.




1/23/2014

"Black Hair" Magazine

While grocery shopping the other day, I decided to check out the magazine section for a peek at what the sexist industry had in store for me this month. Rather than weight attacks that tell me I should spend more on clothes but love myself the way I am, I was drawn to an issue of "Black Hair" magazine.

I think Fake Hair magazine would describe it better.

The purpose of having magazines dedicated purely to hair of women of color is that other magazines do not cater to it, implying that this will, but it doesn't. It just sells us weaves and wigs that look like what the other magazines sell us anyway. Though, if you look at the top right, you'll see that there is a "mini magazine" included for us curly hair sisters. Why, thank you! A lifetime searching for relatable hair care information, and you dedicate a whole entire mini magazine to us! ¬¬

No wonder things like this are happening:


To give you a better perspective on the significance of this article, here is an excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel Americanah:
“So three Black women in maybe two thousand pages of women’s magazines and all of them biracial or racially ambiguous, so they could be Indian or Puerto Rican or something. Not one of them is dark. Not one of them looks like me, so I can’t get clues for makeup from these magazines. Look, this article tells you to pinch your cheeks for color because all their readers are supposed to have cheeks you can pinch for color. This tells you about different hair products for everyone—and everyone means blondes, brunettes, and redheads. I am none of those. And this tells you about the best conditioners—for straight, wavy and curly. No kinky. See what they mean by curly? My hair could never do that. This tells you about matching your eye color and eye shadow—blue, green, and hazel eyes. But my eyes are black so I can’t know what shadow works for me. This says that this pink lipstick is universal, but they mean universal if you are white because I would look like a golliwog if I tried that shade of pink. Oh look, here is some progress. An advertisement for foundation. There are seven different shades for white skin and one generic chocolate shade, but that is progress. Now let’s talk about what is racially skewed. Do you see why a magazine like Essence exists?”
A discourse all too familiar to me. Unfortunately, these black only spaces are becoming increasingly bleached, and our real visibility is becoming lost. White washing is not a myth, I see it all the time. I already have so few relatable content and now spaces that claim to cater to me are shrinking and alienating me.

Also, here is an old photo of Ciara

 vs

Just putting that out there.

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1/20/2014

12 Years A Slave

[Content Note: spoilers, sexual assault]

It might as well have been called "White People Talking To Slaves".

In film about slavery, only 3 high profile black actors were hired: 
    1. Chiwetel Ejiofor
    2. Quevanzhané Wallis (no lines)
    3. Alfre Woodard
Compared to 8 high profile white actors
    1. Paul Giamatti
    2. Benedict Cumberbatch
    3. Michael Fassbender
    4. Paul Dano
    5. Taran Killam
    6. Sarah Paulson
    7. Garret Dillahunt
    8. Brad Pitt
Would it have been so hard to have a cast of slaves with more familiar faces? Ultimately, the fact that the stars are mostly white once more white washes a theme which is supposed be a critical and realistic portrayal of the time, not a perpetuation of today's institutional racism.

Most relevant lines in the film were delivered by the white actors. The worst part (for me) was Brad Pitt's tirade on slavery and how wrong it was, directed at the slave master portrayed by Fassbender. They couldn't have an entire film without the "good white guy" coming in and showing that hey, not all white people were evil. In my opinion, there could have been discussion about slavery among the slaves, who's only moments of complicity are when they are singing on the plantation - a one dimensional portrayal of slavery, one we have already seen over and over and over. 

I wasn't surprised at Steve McQueen's near obsession with Michael Fassbender (Hunger, Shame). His character was developed far beyond any other - in a movie about slavery. It became more about his fetichization and repeated rape of Patsey, as opposed to Patsey's actual struggle. We only see her suffering in a scene where she begs Solomon to kill her, and when she is being whipped by both Mr Epps and Solomon, the much talked about scene that yells "Oscar fodder". There is no depth to her character, she is presented as the "little innocent slave" who is abused by her master... a waste of Ms. Nyong'o's high caliber acting (because despite this, she is an amazing performer).

Great acting, terrible adaptation. In the book, Solomon Northup is able to send a letter to his family informing them of his kidnapping, but they are unable to find him - this belongs in the film more than repeated scenes of slaves singing. Solomon was also made an overseer during his 10 years working for Mr Epps, and had to punish other slaves - this belongs in the film more than the repeated scenes of white people dancing.

Verdict: Nothing new. I lost interest about half an hour into the film then woke up at the whipping scene. After it, I had no interest in staying to the end, but my lover had paid for the movie tickets and it would have been rude to walk out. This is once again a Hollywood treatment for mass appeal as opposed to a challenging film about a harsh subject still relevant today.

The only good that came from it was the fact that it brought Lupita Nyong'o to the front and center of the Hollywood world, you go girl.



Fresh Meat Dissected

Having been suggested the UK series Fresh Meat by several people, I decided to watch the first episode. It is a show about 6 first year university students living in a house together. 5 minutes into it and I was already bored. Pilots are supposed to captivate the viewer in order to sell the rest of the season, but it had no such effect on me. Its blatant bigotry was an instant turn off, but I watched the entire thing for the sake of a critique, and here it is. This show feeds off stereotypes of English university culture, and makes no attempt to challenge them whatsoever. It sells ideas commonly thought to be the norm, which succeeds to alienate those who don't fit into them. There were too many examples of this, so I'll only refer to the few that spoke the loudest (SPOILERS AHEAD)
  • The character presented as the "weirdo" is Scottish - "Sorry, I've just got used to wearing trousers of the mind" is one of the few gems spoken by him. This is a gratuitous "otherization" of a character that could have easily been made English.
  • The character presented as "tough", sarcastic, and generally dark is black.. shocker. She has spent the last 6 months working in a fish factory, which suggests an underprivileged background. We also find out that she has come in contact with every possible drug you can think of, doesn't want to do work and also has no problem presenting someone else's work as her own. She is contrasted with the passionate white girl who tries to downplay her privilege around her and puts a lot of hard work into her writing.
  • Kingsley and Josie (two other housemates) who seem to have a crush on each other both get lucky with their respective one night stands. Josie lies about hers (stating it never happened) while JP's immediate reaction once Josie is out of the room is to phone his mate to tell him what happened. As per usual, the boy is proud to have sex, the girl ashamed - must be hard to cram that many stereotypes in 40 minutes, yet they make it look so easy. Also mention worthy - Josie only had sex because she was jealous that Kingsley was hitting it off with the girl at the bar, she even states that she didn't really like JP, but he looked "clean".
  • Josie and Kingsley's one night stand are pitted against each other, mainly because Josie is jealous that the other one is "hot" - of course, all of us see all other girls as rivalry to our perceived beauty *eye roll*. Both of them are conventionally beautiful blonde white girls, obviously.
  • The phrase "If you don't like it, you can fuck off to China" is used by a housemate against Kingsley when he is protesting a deal that just happened to switch room. This is from one white boy to another. That is all I will say about it because if you cannot see why the line is problematic, you need to sit down and re-evaluate your life.
  • When Kinglsey finds out that Josie did have sex with JP, he has a self indulgent moment during which emotional music is played, so as for us to sympathize with this "betrayal" - even though he himself not only had sex with another girl, but all the while pretending he was into religion, as she was Christian. Seriously?
  • Less than 10 minutes into the episode, and binge drinking is happening - evidently it's not normal to be at university and not drown in a puddle of alcohol.
  • Jack Whitehall's character - he is an exaggeration of heavily problematic "lad" behavior. The exaggeration is an issue because it gives a chance to viewers who engage in similar behavior to dissociate themselves from him and laugh as well, because they think they aren't AS problematic as he is, even though they actually are. It makes people around them perceive them as being alright because their behavior is not as "messed up" as JPs, though it is, it's just re-packaged for television. It also derives a lot of laughter from him coming from a privileged background, perpetuating the myth that privileged=asshole.
There was a lot more going on, but I suggest you watch the episode yourself to catch them out, I have no interest in re-watching. 

In conclusion, I won't be giving this show the time of day, it seems like an absolute waste of time. All it does is perpetuate myths and archetypes, sells the "university experience" as the shallow awkward, drunken experience that it has been constructed to be for capitalistic purposes (it sells alcohol, it sells nightclub nights - which sell alcohol, it sells clothing, it sells music, etc.). It's lazy script writing for mass entertainment, what's new.

1/19/2014

(More) Singing WoC

Lianne La Havas [Folk/Soul]
UK




Lucrecia Perez Saez [Mambo/Latin]
Cuba


Omawumi [Afropop]
Nigeria


U.S.A


Maisey Rika [Folk/Acoustic/Soul]
New Zealand


Andy Allo [Funk/Soul/Blues]
Cameroon/U.S.A


Shingai Shoniwa (of The Noisettes) [Post Punk/Indie Rock/Blues]
UK


Madame Pepper [Experimental/Hip Hop]
UK


Nadia and Bev (from The Tuts) [Punk/Ska/Indie]
UK


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1/16/2014

Singing WoC

Following my previous article on singing women of color, I decided to make it a point this year to make my music choices Afrocentric. I'm making an active decision to check out the music of the women of color snubbed by the media, the ones true to themselves and their people. I refuse to buy into the widely sold pseudo-empowering black women in pop (and rnb and hip hop) who's idea of emancipation is that of being bleached and playing into the sexual ideals of the industry. I won't be sexualized and fetichized over the images that they create and impose.

Instead, here is a list of artists to look out for:


Measha Brueggergosman [Opera/Classical]
Canada



Njena Reddd Foxxx [Rap/Hip hop]
U.S.A



Pink Oculus [MC-ing vocalist]
The Netherlands



Anita Tijoux [Rap/Hip Hop]
Chile/France



France/Mali



Adaku [RnB/Pop]
Nigeria



Esperanza Spalding [Jazz/Soul/Bossa Nova]
U.S.A



Akira (of Disacode) [Heavy Metal]
Japan



Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes) [Americana/Blues rock/Soul]
U.S.A





It's almost like race, gender, and looks have nothing to do with talent.


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1/15/2014

(More) Interesting Photography II


MOTHER + DAUGHTER by Carra Sykes

A photo series featuring the photographer and her mother.

i-D + Pink is my Obsession by Timur Celikdag
Men in Pink[Untitled] by Baljit Singh
Inspired by Jamie C. Moore's "Not just a girl...", a series of portraits of a young girl dressed as iconic women of the arts.Mirrors and Windows by Gabriele Galimberti and Edoardo Dellile
Girls from all over the world photographed in their bedrooms.

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1/10/2014

Popular Female Singers of Color




Writing an article to accompany this photo set is a task I thought could be accomplished easily. I thought I'd sit here and write about how the most popular female singers of color are all to some extent an emulation of white ideals, and how the ones with a white parent are privileged over the rest. I thought about writing how the industry white washes "ethnic" girls so that they have just enough color to pass as non white, but enough floodlighting to remain non threatening. I find myself, however, out of my depth. There are not enough words to describe the anger I feel when statistics tell me that my demographic is being represented in pop culture - they are not a reflection of me, nor will they ever be. Being shown a single image of what women of color "look like" is insulting and the worst kind of manipulation of reality. 

This is tokenism 2.0. Having women of color on top charts isn't going to take away the fact that their selling look is based on whiteness. Do not insult me by expecting me to be satisfied with the representation of BME women in mainstream media when they are purposely made to look nothing like me. I have nothing against hair treatment - except when it stems from wanting to conform to Western norms of beauty, which is most of the time. I have nothing against a female singer of color with blonde hair - except when it's all I see ever and it feeds into a pattern of pop culture white washing, which is most of the time.

Chances are you'll know most of the women in the photo set above. Chances are they are the first individuals that people think of when asked about female singers of color. They help perpetuate the distortion of race. A lot of people aren't even aware of the fact that most of these singer's hair is not actually theirs - just yesterday I was asked what a weave is and was met with shock when I answered that it's what Rihanna and Beyonce have on their heads - "I thought that was their real hair!" - not surprising at all given that most prominent pop culture black women will go through hell and back to make sure you never see what actually grows on their heads. I'm not condemning weaves, I'm condemning an industry which forces the women who part-take in it to alter their image in favor of constructed ideals. I'm calling bullshit to the fact that they are seen and sold as a standard of beauty that us women of color should look up to - yes, these are the women that we are ultimately compared to, leading not only to surreal images being sold to white people, but divisions being perpetuated among the dark races, always privileging the lightest tones.

Until we succeed in removing the racist oppressors from their media manufacturing throne, let's celebrate the talent and the beauty of the dark skin singing women who defy white washing and erasure. 






























And let's not forget