What is African Art? Politically correct or not?

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Recently I read the book Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Silvester.

Actually, there wasn’t much to read, it was more a visual exploration of the Surma and Mursi tribes of East Africa. I am not sure how to feel about the book. As much as I would like to say that it was a great book, I think it is just an exploitation of culture. I recognize that this culture is special and unknown to many Americans, but what makes it so artistic and fashionable? It is the everyday lifestyles and traditions of people in the Omo valley. The author says that Kenya and Sudan are two of the “wildest” places in in Africa. Really? Wild? So, because they have been able to hold on to their original traditions and heritage, they are wild? Because they think of the body as a temple and adorn it as such, rather than glorifying it as a sex symbol, they are wild? One thing he was right about is that their way of living is threatened by conflict and tourism. They know that their era and days of independence is coming to an end. I believe that Eurocentricity will find its way to their lands if it hasn’t already.

Moreover, Hans, deficient of a definition of what he means by wild, I have to assume that he was referring to the manners and actions that he photographed the people. There are pictures of them in the nude, bodies draped in leaves, painted with the excretions of plants and berries, and mud. They live from the land, taking advantage of the elements that surround them. Is this what you mean by wild?

Playing devil’s advocate and I do mean devil’s advocate, I can appreciate that he visually recorded a culture that may be lost. Without record, the civilization will be lost forever. However, I’m sure it doesn’t have to be lost if it weren’t for people exploiting it, and trying to steal the resources of the land. So overall I repeat, it doesn’t have to be lost, but I am sure covetous explorers will attempt to steal it. What Hans does is tell a pictorial story of a tribe whose culture is about to be raped. The idea of “African art” fascinates me because it’s only categorized this way because it has become something “special” in the West because they have stolen the idea of it. It is just people’s everyday traditions!

As a female who sports ethnic attire, I am too, categorized as Afrocentric, having the inclination to wear things that speak more to my roots. This is who I am, nothing special! It’s what I feel in my spirit. I don’t do it for fashion purposes or to be recognized. I wake up feeling like a part of me has been lost, stolen, and naturally my spirit try’s to find what vanished from my heritage generations ago. So when I wear mud or kenti cloth, paint my face with black and white dots just to have dinner, it’s just me being what I was meant to be. No, I do not want to be a model for it. One thing, I want children to know that there was a culture before this Eurocentric culture that we live every day. At the rate of the decline of the American education system, we cannot rely on it to teach our children who they are and where they come from. That’s my goal. I just couldn’t enjoy this book because I’ve already seen these pictures in my dreams. Please understand that this is only truth. I travel to many different countries in my dreams. Ethiopia, Sudan, & Kenya were among them.

Peace & Love,

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Your African Essence, Musik for the Soul

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Yo, check this very wonderful song out. Sanitgold is mos def doing her thing with the lyrics. I really dig her style. She is super eccentric and unapologetic about it.

Our dreams must carry us! Please wake up people.

Tobacco and Slavery

“How could educated, deeply religious Europeans trade in human flesh, as casually as they traded sugar and rice?” They traded black bodies like staples, I say!

I read Booker T. Washington’s autobiography Up From Slavery, in 2003 as part of my course studies at Fisk University. I love autobiographies because they allow me to communicate with my ancestors. By hearing their stories, I can hold the history close to my heart. I use these stories to help make my own story and life better. History is my anchor. I learn.

I am in the process of watching a documentary called Up From Slavery. It is packed with info that just makes me feel some type of way. I’ve watched and read accounts of history like it before, such as Alex Haley’s Roots, and I will continue to seek out such information because I enjoy learning about what happened (not so long ago might I remind you) to my great grandparents and their parents.

This film speaks to who I am. My grandparents are deceased so I have no storytellers left in my family. For that, I am sad. So I have to do lots of reading to keep myself up on the history.  I loved to listen to their stories when they were alive. Mostly my maternal grandfather. I miss him so much. However, I will keep the few stories he was able to tell close to my heart. They rose up from slavery.

THIS IS AN EPIC STRUGGLE… honestly, sometimes, I cry.

Up From Slavery is a 5 hour documentary that takes you on a journey of the history of Africans in America. Great information.

I have 4 more hours to go, but thus far, I have re-learned this: tobacco was one of the main reasons why Europeans needed slaves. They needed slaves to come to America and work on tobacco plantations. The African slave was especially important because he already possessed the skills it took to grow these crops and he looked different from the natives, making him easily identifiable. There was a high demand for tobacco in the 1670s and the number of slaves in VA heavily increased because of this. From the beginning of our history in America, we have been enslaved by TOBACCO. It kills me to see us fiend for cigarettes. Knowing the history of the nasty plant, I will never smoke it! Let me say it again, I will NEVER smoke it. It was used in the process of enslaving the African. !**%$ tobacco! It’s not for me and I hope you can understand that it is not for you either. Brown teeth, funky breath, blackened lips- why would you want it? Clothes, car, and house smell bad. You hair even stinks from it. I cannot stand the stuff. I’d rather smoke the illegal option, but I won’t smoke at all- it’s really no point. Same with drinking. Why do we need alcohol in our blood? It manipulates your conscious, encouraging you to make really bad mistakes and say and do things that are unnecessary. What are you drinking for? To take your mind away from reality? Erykah says: “teach your children wisdom, reality today. so they can live tomorrow.” I am saying this to say that REALITY is important and you should never hide from it. Deal with what is happening. What do you get from a cig? Does it calm your nerves. Oh. is that what you think? Well, find a better option. Did you know that exercise can calm your nerves? Yeah, try that. Wine is healthier than liquor. If you like the taste of the grape, try wine as a much better option. Might I suggest what they call two buck chuck, Trader Joe’s wine. It is actually really good to be $3.79. Yes, it’s that cheap for a bottle. The cabernet is awesome!

The point is TOBACCO sucks! Don’t kill yourself smoking one of the very things that helped to enslave our ancestors. Don’t be a slave to tobacco.

THIS IS AN EPIC STRUGGLE… honestly, sometimes, I cry. I cry because it’s not over. Wherever I go, I feel it. Lots of people don’t even realize that some of the things they say are disrespectful and hurtful. They think that I should get over this. My response: If you are asking me to forget, then you are asking me to die. Walk in my shoes. Bet you couldn’t. I wish I could forget, but the world won’t let me. Just tonight, my friends and I were in a restaurant and some white people were pointing at us with their eyes and we heard them making rude comments. Yes, this is still alive! I almost couldn’t believe how these people were behaving. It’s really silly, but the fact is, racism is still alive . It’s subliminal in many ways, but it’s all just the same.

THIS IS AN EPIC STRUGGLE… honestly, sometimes, I cry.

Coexist? Diversify? It’s hard. I’d much rather everyone got along, but those people who hate hearing about slavery and racism are setting us back. Why do you think it is OK to remain ignorant about what happened to Black people in America? Just in the 1960s we were being beaten with clubs, sprayed with water hoses, bit by dogs, punched by police. NOOOOO! The history must be told. I see it happening still, but more subliminally, if not in your face! We are enslaving ourselves by not telling the story and sweeping it under the rug like it didn’t happen. Do you see what is happening now? Our children are in a state of confusion. They are lost without the lessons history teaches.

Stop asking me to forget. Stop saying that I talk about it too much, No the hell I don’t! Walk in my shoes. Experience life from where I am standing. Racism is still here. Hate is still around. How bad do I wish it wasn’t? Really bad. But there it is, surfacing in such evil ways. Segregation, mis-education, no occupation, world inflation! We are selling ourselves out for material things that do not matter. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex every where we look! SLAVERY IS STILL ALIVE. LET’S KILL IT OR DIE TRYING.

Peace & Love