Saturday, 16 April 2011

Black Feminist: The Art of Resistance

by Lola Okolosie

As we draw closer to the ever talked about royal wedding, it is almost easy to forget the myriad of events held to celebrate Women’s History Month and the 100th anniversary of International Woman’s Day. Less than two weeks ago now, Black Feminists held our inaugural event. It was an evening showcasing the various methods Black women employ to demonstrate their resistance through art. Organised by the wonderful Charmaine, the event took place at the welcoming Lambeth Women’s Project on Stockwell Road.

Working in collaboration with Shisha, the international agency for contemporary South Asian crafts and visual arts, we opened with a video installation by the artist Yasmin Yacub. The piece entitled Refuge: Testimonies of a Lost Home is a photomontage dealing with the plight of those seeking asylum in the UK from across Africa and South Asia. The testimonies of these individuals were powerfully given a space to be heard.

From here we moved to the spoken word of Black Feminist member, Jeni. Her piece, authoritatively denied the attempts by dominant patriarchal society to construct her (and us) into its own image of her/us.

By now standing room only, we were honored with readings from poet and performance artist, Dorothea Smartt. The works shared with us covered many diverse topics but remained centred on stories and experiences ordinarily marginalised. From celebrating the trailblazing courage and initiative of the Windrush generation to the highs and lows of being a young mother, Dorothea’s beautiful recitals brought a wisdom and gravitas to the evening, reminding us of the vibrancy of our black feminist predecessors.

In order to give audience members a taste of what our monthly meetings are like, we held a discussion, involving all attendees, on issues of concern to us as Black women. We began with a dialogue on how Black women are able to combat sexism and racism. It transpired that many of us had been labeled the clich├ęd ‘angry black woman’ for merely voicing an opinion that challenged racist and sexist behavior/attitudes.

Another topic of discussion centred on how, both in the public and private spheres, we are often relegated to a ghetto on the questions that matter. Eminent black people in the public eye are often there to discuss issues relating to the black experience as if it is our only area of expertise and interest. This, we found, can sometimes be replicated in our personal relationships, in which we are made to ‘speak for’ the ‘black community’ despite our obvious diversity of experience. Useful strategies were given on how to circumnavigate such ghettoisation. As Black Feminist member, Adunni, noted, the incessant emphasis on our differences allows them to be continually perpetuated across society.

It was apt, then, that our next performer was Black Feminist member, Selina, whose poetic address to Britain, placed the nation on trial for its bombastic certitude. We were then given a sample of Kurdish dancing, provided by the generous Fatima. We then closed with the lyrical dexterity of duo, Poetic Pilgrimage. Wonderful.

The event was a total success and truly life affirming. Make sure you’re there for the next one.

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