I’ve had this piece for a long while, contemplating when and if I should release it. I created a paradox piece. A piece so different from the series I’m currently working on. I’ve never really been one to publicly speak out about issues such as this as I usually keep them to myself. But within the last year and a bit I’ve realised how imperative it is, especially for people of colour to speak about repressive matters. This piece in particular is one which illustrates and reflects a lot about the identity of women of colour.
I remember being called this a few times when I was a teenager, barely even understanding it’s true connotations but honestly just accepting it as a unique compliment. I mean that is what it is. Something so prominent is deemed as being unique, not of the norm; an accent, cultural clothing, place of origin, food, facial features, skin complexion,language. If it isn’t the norm, it’ll be exoticised. Categorised as something of the unusual, as something highly sought after; a prize. It’s clear to see the correlation between colonisation of the motherland but the British. My Dad was just talking about Maharaja Ranjit Singh to me and the British colonising India; I feel this is a cycle, forever embedded into those minds who cease to understand the bigger picture thus appropriating whats not theirs and adopting and re-shaping its very foundations.
What further impelled me to release this is, is the usage of indian cultural clothing but those, most specifically bindis and tikas being shamelessly named as objects of western origin- a chandelier. Whats worse is that it wasn’t even a brown woman modelling it, that Is where companies are going wrong. Forging a new adaptation of something so significant for sales in the white market; in this case for their “festival” range. Just like the colonisation of the British in India, a big co-operation like asos is making it okay for others to adorn themselves in our identity. Not to mention the blanket bags Balenciaga decided to release for about two grand oh and the Paul Smith sandals that look like the ones our grandfathers wear from the Indian household corner shop down the road.
We see others represent our culture with such prominence, whilst we were shaped to feel like we couldn’t because of those very comments. Crazy that I used to feel shy wearing my cultural clothing out on my local high street. And those who have been following my journey know that I talk about the photo of my mother fusing two cultures together proudly. One image changed my life in so many ways.
We as people of colour hold cultures so precious and overly tampered with within the mainstream and within western society by people who don’t fully recognised its true understanding. It’s our identity. It is not a decoration nor are we individuals of just face value. We are not exotic and what our culture is isn’t either.
Keep speaking out, keep speaking proud.
With no hesitation but with responsibility and up most graciousness of our ancestors and deep rooted foundations. Most of all get to know your history. I’m still learning and as I grow i’ve learnt the importance of knowing your background and your foundations. Ask your elders, know where you’re from and where you stand. Forever cherish and hold these stories. Don’t allow it to get diluted. Its your history. It’s your identity.
Embrace and Flourish.