jeudi 21 février 2019
Montage from slate.com with images from Prada, Moncler and Gucci
In 1979, Ahmed Ali Giama, a homeless Somali man, was burned alive for being black and poor in the Piazza della Pace, in the centre of Rome. In 1985, Giacomo Valent, a 16-year-old, was stabbed 63 times in a frenzied racist attack. In 2008, Abba, a young Afro-Italian was beaten to death with a crowbar, his killer claiming he hadn’t paid for a packet of biscuits. In 2012 an Italian right-wing extremist shot two street sellers dead and wounded three others in a racist rampage. In 2018, Idy Dienec, a Senegalese street vendor was shot dead at close range as he sold leather bags, umbrellas and trinkets on a bridge in Florence, one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations. Earlier that same year a neo-Nazi sympathizer with ties to the League, (an anti-immigrant party, recently electorally crowned second biggest in the Italian parliament with a penchant for portraying migrants as criminals) opened fire on African migrants in the city of Macerata, wounding six before he was captured. Italy’s 2018 parliamentary election of the League and the 5-Star Movement, which emerged as the largest party in the vote, both have promised to ramp up deportations of irregular migrants.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, announced that she was sending staff to Italy to look into the protection of migrants after an “alarming escalation of attacks” against asylum seekers and Roma people.
Elaborate and persistent webs of denial and tales of victimization spun by the state, the academe and the media have allowed Italy to consistently escape blame and responsibility for massive atrocities committed before and during the Second World War. Of more than 1,200 Italians sought for war crimes in Africa and the Balkans, not one has faced justice. Mussolini's soldiers murdered many thousands of civilians, bombed the Red Cross, dropped poison gas, starved infants in concentration camps and tried to annihilate cultures deemed inferior. American University of Rome historian James Walston states, "There has been little or no coming to terms with fascist crimes comparable to the French concern with Vichy or even the Japanese recognition of its wartime and prewar responsibilities".
Italy didn’t require Hitler’s help in concocting its 1938 discrimination laws against Italian Jews.
Italy’s colonising of Libya, Eritrea, Somalia and its occupation of Ethiopia, its gassing of, raping of, humiliation of Black subjects, its discriminatory laws and segregation of space, its poisoning of African land, its racist legacy and coloniality remain largely silenced and unaddressed.
Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s minister for integration and the country’s first Black minister has faced constant racist abuse and death threats and lives under police protection. A fellow Italian MEP, Mario Borghezio, called her appointment “a shitty choice” by a “bongo-bongo” government, adding that she had “the face of a housewife”. A former vice-president of the Italian Senate, Roberto Calderoli, said in a public meeting: “When I see pictures of Kyenge I can’t help but think of the features of an orangutan.” Other extreme-right politicians have called her “Zulu” and “Congolese monkey” and have used imagery on social media to depict the minister as an ape. Matteo Salvini, the interior minister from Lega, compared African immigrants to slaves prompting Luxembourg’s foreign affairs minister seated nearby to angrily respond in French: “Merde, alors !”
Present day Italy is, by all accounts, a historically sanctioned and ongoing toxic stewpot of Afrophobia, anti-Black racism, antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred, xenophobia, anti-migrant hatred, homophobia, class domination, patriarchal misogyny, cissexism and heterosexism.
I want you to think of all of these things when luxury fashion brands like Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Moncler currently embroiled in racist scandal and widespread criticism, wring their hands in public and claim racial ignorance and cultural naiveté when they get caught assed out. These racist corporate goblins know exactly what they are doing. They have been trained in colonial imagery and mythmaking and primed for the racial status quo. They bask, like gnocchi in butter, in carefully cultivated hatreds, generations old. This they enforce with relish, beknighted as they are by centuries of white racial legitimacy and superiority and artistic untouchability. At worst, they know the old adage to be true, bad publicity is still publicity. Don’t expect moral compasses where ruthless capitalism and engagement stats prowl.
When Alessandro Michele, Gucci designer behind the blackface balaclava valiantly grasps at straws and laments that this was no blackface but indeed an homage to the late Leigh Bowery, a performance artist, club promoter and fashion designer fond of flamboyant face makeup and costumes; and a cursory Google search of Bowery reveals a slew of images of exaggerated makeup on exclusively white foundations, know that this is whiteness protecting itself at all costs even and especially when this runs counter to basic logic.
When Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s president and CEO, states that “the lack of knowledge of diversity and the consequent understanding are not at the level we expected, despite all the efforts we did inside the company in the last four years” and that Gucci is now “evaluating all the processes” to ensure “the right level of awareness and visibility” understand that this is rich white man speak for a continued agenda of rich white man gatekeeping with a light spackling of commodified, tokenized, whitewashed, ineffectual black and brownness unthreatening to white supremacist hierarchies and interests.
Current luxury fashion cannot be reformed for “diversity” and “inclusion”. It is unfit for sustainability. Unfit for humanity. Unfit for existence on this planet. It is not salvageable. It needs to be scrapped. To believe that this industry can be made to care about Black bodies and to be attentive to Black pain is ahistorical foolishness. Concentrating on individual racist imagery and products, individual brands and designers is also problematic as it obscures the larger poisonous picture – the systemically racist society from which they emerged and which continues to cultivate, institutionalize and normalize colonial imperialism, capitalist violence and white supremacist ideals.
jeudi 10 janvier 2019
Illustration by Hanna Barczyk
There are serious and dangerous consequences to giving platforms to proponents of white supremacist capitalist patriarchal systems of oppression and exploitation and packaging social and climate justice issues as a dichotomous showdown between two equal and equally legitimate parties – something the white helmed mainstream media in Canada has a hard time comprehending, perhaps because they too also participate in and benefit from these self-affirming systems. This false equivalence or the fallacy of inconsistency is a readily occurring phenomenon in modern day journalism that relies on oversimplification, generalization, dominant viewpoints and ignorance to make its points quickly in the blitzkrieg format it is forced to operate in. In this case, journalists would want you to consider the hand-wringing anxiety and rage of a couple of professional white wailers who represent, benefit from and perpetuate oppressive white supremacist, patriarchal and capitalist systems that threaten Indigenous survival and well-being and who have un-ironically appointed themselves as beleaguered, as holding the same weight and as being worthy of the same consideration as the fight for justice and self-determination of historically disenfranchised Indigenous peoples standing against and protecting themselves from the unending violence of white supremacist systems. White journalists in Calgary were unable or unwilling to identify and call out a freely operating white supremacist troll in their ranks. When the spewing of toxic untruths and bias is left unaccompanied and unchecked by a critical frame through which they can be viewed and broken down, these words are left to resonate as legitimate, reasonable and accurate in the minds of many. So let’s do something Canadian media thinks we’re too stupid to do… grab your brains and your metaphorical scissors, we’re gonna deconstruct some of the egregious bile and bullshit, filmed, transmitted and left uncommented, that came out of the mouths of angry, white men at the indecent counter rally that took place in front of the glistening corporate beacon of colonial spoliation that is TransCanada HQ in the place white people stole and called Calgary.
A note also before beginning… This took me an evening to write and contains knowledge gleaned through years of study, unlearning and examination. I don’t take this burden lightly, it’s important and necessary work to do. But it is a choice that costs. A lifetime of writing and reading, some of it excruciating, a lifetime of learning how to decolonize, deconstruct, heal and build fresh, raw exposure to the pain and alienation caused by misogyny, white wrath, resentment and denial - this is my daily reality. White people, white men are allowed to contaminate and destroy, self-righteous and unimpeded as they have always done, as they have been taught is their historically and racially sanctioned right to do - this is their daily reality. Their pollution is immediate and hallowed in minute long news segments. Don’t you dare tell me that this is a just world.
“These people have to respect the rule of law.”
‘These people’ is textbook othering. Othering allows the speaker to keep the inherent humanity of those that he others at bay, making the deriding, the dismissal and the ultimate destruction of their persons and their demands that much easier to accomplish. Claims that 'others' should be respecting the rule of law is especially rich coming from representatives of white settler society – Canadian history is littered with broken treaty promises on the part of the white settler state and, as we have seen unfold, Canada and its provinces have repeatedly proven themselves incapable of respecting their own laws, Supreme Court rulings, undertakings and signed declarations (UNDRIP) where Indigenous title and rights and law are concerned. Furthermore, white men’s laws and injunctions have no bearing on unceded Indigenous territory and do not supersede Indigenous duty to stewardship and protection of the land, the water, their beings and for future generations. Claiming otherwise is a clear alignment with white racial and white cultural supremacy theories and views. The settler "legal" system has been wielded against Indigenous peoples and their territories time and time again and must therefore be systematically and critically scrutinized.
“You all came here in your cars. You all wear Gore-Tex and have phones in your pockets made from petroleum products. The indigenous heat their homes with natural gas.”
Speak for yourself colonizer! My entire wardrobe on that day, save for the elastic in my underwear, was made from plant, mineral and animal material and was made and bought within my fibershed. I have never owned a mobile phone. I took collective transportation to and from the rally.
The white racial lens or the white racial frame of reference is universalism on white supremacist crack and posits that white consumer experience of the world is a centralized, universally shared experience, the only way anyone experiences the world. I wear Gore-Tex therefore you wear Gore-Tex. I take my SUV to the Costco and fill it full of shit I don’t need and so do you. I trash the Earth for profit therefore you must do the same. Not naming the power that implemented unsustainability as a forced lifestyle for everyone is not only bad faith argumentation, it serves to maintain the dominance and the interests of the speaker. Petroleum based products, fossil fuel energy sources and associated lifestyles are considered inevitable, inescapable and final whilst still being painted as a choice. If I truly had choices at my disposal, if ancestral knowledge hadn’t been hammered out of my lineage through slavery, displacement, colonization, assimilation and oppression, if life on this planet was not ruled by unequal access to capital, if I wasn’t obligated to live in the sterile concrete of cities, if cities were not built of sterile concrete, if the housing stock available to us wasn't systematically outfitted with unsustainable heating and cooling systems, I would not be heating my house with natural gas.
By not naming industrialisation, forced assimilation and relocation, the stripping of agency away from everyone not identified as white, the foundational violence and politics of erasure of settler societies, Eurocentric notions of progress, globalization and urbanisation under white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist and patriarchal systems that ruptured and swept away older, small scale, local and harmonious land based modes of existence as the reasons behind our current unsustainable lifestyles, dominant white power and interests are never acknowledged and challenged, cowing us into submission and postponing effective exploration of better alternatives. This is something that I often repeat to myself in my textile practice as a mantra, and is inspired by Kate Fletcher’s work: Realize that things are the way they are now because dominant cultural conditions intentionally created and maintained the current set up, squeezing out alternatives or making them appear unattractive. We deserve better alternatives. The first step towards this is liberating ourselves from the imposition of unsustainable white capitalist power and narratives and their insistence that they be our only reality.
“TransCanada has the approval of First Nations’ along the pipeline route.”
Knowing that the so-called “negotiations” regularly carried out between Indigenous communities and representatives of the white settler state and corporate colonialists are never conducted on truly equal footing, the word “approval” rings with hyperbolic mendacity. Arthur Manuel, in his book, “Unsettling Canada: A National Wake Up Call” traces a history of capitulation through coercion, trickery and desperation as the regular modus operandi during these “termination” table talks. One also has to address the problems within Indigenous communities of internalized racism and the espousal of white settler values garnered through state sponsored impoverishment, forced assimilation, cultural genocide, inter-generational trauma, interrupted knowledge inheritance systems and flat out “extinguishment” schemes and the problems of compromised and out of touch Indigenous leadership warped by decades of government and corporate funding.
One of the Indigenous organizers of the solidarity event in Calgary declared on camera that for her, consent was “working hard to get a yes”. When colonial governments and corporations control the outcomes of any negotiation with First Nations and refuse to change anything in policy or approach or ends, when the inevitability of capitulation is accepted as a given on both sides, when opportunistic and self-serving Indigenous leaders and “the professional Indian negotiating class (…) negotiate to create processes because processes ensure them jobs and money, since government processes come with government funding pots” (A. Manuel, “Unsettling Canada”)… we are no longer talking about negotiation, we are not talking about approval and we are certainly not talking about consent. This is a tragic vaudeville paid for by impoverished Indigenous communities punished on all sides. The white man and those allied to his power don’t get to define the terms of consent. As explained previously, white men’s laws and injunctions have no bearing on unceded Indigenous territory and do not supersede Indigenous duty to stewardship and protection of the land, the water, their beings and for future generations. White Canada does not have and has never had the free, prior and informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en and therefore has no claims to development on this land.
“We won’t be ruled by a minority.”
The historical silencing of oppositional and marginalized voices by those in dominant positionalities is nothing new. How does this claim work? Accustomed to being top dog, anything contravening what is deemed as the natural order, the unassailable status quo, is met with aggressive silencing tactics and rationalization of oppression. Here, the threat is clear – settler whiteness painted as the right kind of majority will put its righteous boot in the face of the wrong kind of minority brown-ness. The numbers game is used to legitimize certain views and dismiss those who do not share in these views and stand opposed to their unhindered continuation. A perceived white majority can bowl over the claims of a perceived brown minority and their unwashed hippie allies because this sort of oppression is seen as human nature and inescapable, reinforced by history told through a white racial frame of reference and white supremacist socialization. The perceived reversal of this status quo is considered heresy, unnatural and translates the terror of white men at losing their dominant positionalities. White men in power, white men with money will do whatever it takes to maintain that power and that money and the systems that produce that money and that power at the expense of those that they see as expendable. They will also not hesitate to be bad at math – a couple dozen corporate clowns and underlings and their political overlords vs. a country up in arms and a world discovering Canada’s true trappings does not a majority make.
“They use the courts when it suits their purpose and get angry when it doesn’t work.”
White settler society needs to understand that Indigenous peoples are not beholden to white legal frames. Colonial legal recourses are used, and often at great cost to Indigenous communities, when they are seen as beneficial to upholding Indigenous rights and title. This is illustration enough of the insidious ways in which white supremacy operates – that those whose responsibility is chiefly to the land and to future generations and to all life forms, must make their plight fit into short sighted, anthropocentric white legal and cultural frames of reference in the hopes of being heard, respected, understood and frankly, left the fuck alone by white settler society’s grubby, grabby, capitalist hands. The inability by the white settler state to respect the rulings of its own colonial courts – the landmark Delgamuukw-Gisday'wa ruling that recognized continued Indigenous proprietorship over their territories and the Tsilhqot’in decision that recognized Aboriginal title on the ground to almost two thousand square kilometres of Tsilhqot’in territory by the Supreme Court of Canada and the signing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by Canada in 2016, is proof that white people’s words aren’t worth the paper they sully. Indigenous peoples are rightfully angry and tired of being repeatedly bullied and discounted by the hypocritical, ethnocentric white settler state.
Article 40 of UNDRIP states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to access to and prompt decision through just and fair procedures for the resolution of conflicts and disputes with States or other parties, as well as to effective remedies for all infringements of their individual and collective rights. Such a decision shall give due consideration to the customs, traditions, rules and legal systems of the indigenous peoples concerned and international human rights”. In short, Indigenous peoples have right of access to fair and just legal procedures. There is no downside to Indigenous peoples seeking justice and demanding that we respect their right to self-determination. We are all saved (often from our own damn selves) by this. Those who have been serving as stewards of the land for thousands of years, who have that knowledge and commitment woven into their cosmologies and cultures, the very things that we lack or have been divorced from, are the ones best suited to build a better, fairer, sustainable world for all of us.
It is important to note the white victimhood at play in this statement – when white people don’t get their way, they lash out or start crying, and as any black or brown person knows, white tears are toxic and burdensome and potentially lethal. White victimization – the ability of dominant groups to swap the cloak of power for the one of persecution at will whenever their unending stream of privileges is interrupted or threatened - insulates white society from taking a hard and long look at itself and addressing the ugliness of its truth. This statement invalidates Indigenous peoples seeking justice by reducing this quest to some sort of game stacked against self-appointed white victims.
lundi 12 novembre 2018
vendredi 13 avril 2018
Je n'écris pas pour les vivats ni les bravos et ça fait bien longtemps que j'ai compris que ma place était bien aux marges de la machine littéraire. Les prix littéraires ne reconnaissent ni la qualité ni l’originalité. J'ai soumis le même texte au même concours à 4 reprises différentes entre 2010 et 2017. J'ai été finaliste 2 fois. Je suis passée à la trappe les 2 autres fois. L'arbitraire de la chose m'interpelle - dans un système fait d'inégalités, quelle est la valeur attribuée à la production littéraire ? Pourquoi le consensus devrait-il constituer un but ? Quelles histoires choisit-on de raconter et pourquoi ? Qui produisent ces histoires et que véhiculent nos sociétés en les mettant à l'honneur ? Quelles histoires occulte-t-on ? De quoi se prive-t-on en excluant les histoires de ceux ne faisant pas partie de groupes dominants ?
Pourtant, qu'il est plaisant d'être reconnue par ses pairs ! Surtout lorsque cette reconnaissance recèle une connivence, une compréhension mutuelle et à contre-courant ! La sélection de mon texte en tête de liste parmi 800 soumissions et l'appréciation complète de l'écrivain, critique culturel et journaliste indépendant, Ralph Elawani, m'ont mis du baume au cœur...
« Un tour de force de méchanceté qui se lit comme on regarde une série de diapositives en compagnie d’une personne hargneuse. Une histoire qui exprime toute la logique derrière l’idée de l’impossibilité de « traiter les représentations comme des actes réels ». Toute la complexité de la dimension psychologique de cette femme (cette vioque) qui en sait (ou en pense) un peu trop ne doit donc pas être négligée, au profit d’un souci de rectitude langagière. La vieille devient ici une sorte d’inconscient mis à nu ; une créature sans surmoi, en compagnie de laquelle on aborde le quotidien en se disant « cap au pire ». De loin le rythme le plus juste et la langue la plus effilée de tous les textes. La plus belle image résumant cette voyeuse est peut-être celle ceci : « La vioque tartine son quignon d’une épaisse couche d’entrailles de volatile[s] » – oui, volatile, comme ces images, ces jugements, ces moments d’une réalité fabulée que la fiction se vole à elle-même pour se nourrir. »
J'ai quelque peu déchanté en découvrant la mosaïque des 24 finalistes du Prix de création de la nouvelle de langue française de Radio-Canada. Ma jolie tête de linotte racisée était la seule dans un raz-de-marée blanc. Résidant toujours dans ma province natale de l'Alberta, j'étais la seule finaliste hors Québec, la lecture des noms de lieux d'origine de mes comparses ressemblant à un survol cartographique de la seule "belle province". Quelques recherches cursives dans les annales du Prix de la nouvelle remontant à 2013 ont révélé que les finalistes racisés et les finalistes résidant dans des provinces autres que le Québec pouvaient se compter sur les doigts d'une seule main (2 doigts pour être exacte). Ce ne sont pas de malheureux hasards. Ce sont les manifestations très réelles de mécanismes d'invisibilisation, d'exclusion et de contrôle du système dominant.
On aura beau me dire que je suis jalouse, mécontente de ne pas faire partie des gagnants, ce serait mal me connaître (voir la phrase 1), ce serait mépriser mes capacités critiques et balayer d'un revers de la main le discours d'une marginale qui voit plus clairement les travers du pouvoir systémique à l'œuvre que ceux qui y baignent et en jouissent dès la naissance sans se poser de questions sur son existence et ses effets.
On aura beau me dire que les textes sont lus et jugés de façon anonyme - ce serait ne pas reconnaître que la langue trahit d'elle-même son origine et qu'un tri, souvent inconscient, peut s’effectuer sur cette base.
On aura beau me dire que les prix sont décernés sur leur seul mérite - ce serait ne pas reconnaître ce que sont et comment fonctionnent les systèmes de domination culturels et sociaux, leur normalisation et les mythes, tel celui du mérite, qui gardent ces systèmes fermement en place.
On aura beau me dire que tous les Canadiens d'expression française sont invités à soumettre des textes - ce serait ne pas reconnaître la hiérarchisation des francophones dans ce pays, le schisme est/ouest et la dévalorisation historique du franco-canadien non-québécois. Ce serait refuser de voir les règles tacites qui dictent le sentiment d'ayant-droit des uns et le sentiment d'infériorité des autres, ceux qui soumettent leurs textes et ceux qui ne peuvent ou ne le font pas, qui ne prennent pas la plume ou qui la couche trop tôt.
On aura beau me dire qu'il y a plus de francophones au Québec qu'ailleurs au Canada, ce qui n'est pas faux (près de 1 100 000 francophones hors Québec contre près de 6 400 000 Québécois francophones), mais ce serait faire préjudice aux cheminements historiques et culturels propre à chaque province, ce serait déprécier la résilience linguistique de communautés francophones établies dans des milieux bien souvent hostiles à leur présence prônant l'assimilation anglophone à tout prix.
Lorsque le Québec s'arroge la primauté de la francophonie au Canada, lorsqu'il insiste à surplomber toute la littérature francophone, ne reconnaissant que la sienne comme légitime, lorsqu'il s'octroie le luxe d'écarter les voix franco-colombiennes, franco-albertaines, fransaskoises, franco-manitobaines, franco-ontariennes, franco-ténoises, franco-yukonaises, franco-nunavutoises, franco-téneliennes, franco-édouardiennes, franco-brunswickoises, franco-écossaises, et celles des diasporas francophones de par le monde, c'est toute la francophonie canadienne, c'est toute la francophonie mondiale et c'est tout le champ littéraire qui trinquent. L'entre-soi appauvrit le terroir littéraire. Lorsqu'on refuse d'ouvrir les champs du possible et qu'on demeure incapable de mesurer la violence de positions identitaires qui mettent à mal le droit à l'auto-détermination et l'intégrité des autres, on s'ampute soi-même : notre humanité fond comme peau de chagrin.
Le Québécois a t-il déjà oublié l'anglophone colonial et raciste lui martelant, il n'y a pas si longtemps, le péjoratif "Speak white!" ? Le Québécois, pour exister, doit-il asseoir une soi-disant ascendance et anéantir le reste du Canada francophone, le reste des communautés francophones ? Est-il incapable de voir qu'il est lui-même le fruit de multiples hybridations et que c'est une richesse ? A-t-il tout simplement voulu prendre la place de l'anglophone qui l'a si longtemps dévalorisé et malmené, troquant son rôle de victime pour celui d’oppresseur ?
dans vos salons huppés
vous souvenez-vous du vacarme des usines
and the voice des contremaîtres
you sound like them more and more
Marco Micone, Speak What, 1989
Veut-on nous faire comprendre que la production culturelle franco-canadienne institutionnalisée ne peut qu'être blanche et endo-québécoise ? Crisse de câlice de tabarnak d'osti de sacrament de marde que non ! Primées, pas primées, moi, je veux entendre toutes les voix, je voudrais qu'on se sente tous habilités à raconter nos histoires et que celles-ci soient toutes considérées comme vitales, qu'on ne puisse plus dire, "mon histoire est plus importante que la tienne"!
La méchanceté de ma "vioque" n'est peut-être qu'une forme plus digeste, plus dicible de la colère de ceux qu'on insiste à ne pas voir, de ceux qu'on néglige et qu'on méprise, de ceux qui refusent de se taire, de ceux qui s'apprécient, malgré tout, malgré un monde qui leur tourne le dos.
lundi 20 novembre 2017
Ça fait un bail depuis la toile, et plutôt qu'une version en drap de laine rouge, la robe maxi poche de Castelbajac se décline dans le mélange soie sauvage et coton tissé main de la maintenant défunte filature du Tennessee, TN Textile Mills. D'une apparente simplicité, la robe cache d'astucieuses techniques de montage, notamment au niveau des manches raglan et des poches surdimensionnées. Le col, doublé de bourre et quilté, est un joyau tactile et imite intelligemment les côtes d'un pull tricoté, un rappel de l'uniforme de l'attachant gaffeur et écolo avant l'heure, Gaston Lagaffe.
mardi 5 septembre 2017
La robe Pallas d'il y a quelques temps de sortie dans la ville quasi-fantôme de Dorothy dans le sud-est de l'Alberta. L'inventaire des villes fantômes de ma province est un projet photo que je chéris depuis belle lurette. Il était temps de le mettre en route ! Ciels changeants, champs dorés, étendues désertes, patrimoine oublié, paysages hallucinants, âcre poussière, omniprésence du monde naturel... bienvenue dans les Badlands canadiens !