I’ve never before written a letter to an author that I did not already know. I’m not telling you this because I want this letter to seem particularly special. It’s more to allow me to introduce a small amount of context about where I’m at as I started to read Experiments in Imagining Otherwise.
I’m in Berlin right now and the idea that I came to Europe for a long, hot summer is already feeling distant as the days become shorter and cocooned in the grey, chill of autumn. I return to my home in Naarm (otherwise known by it’s colonised name of Melbourne, in so-called Australia) in less than two weeks. The mood is definitely one of contemplation and deep thought about the next stage of life, how I hold onto a revolutionary imagination filled with rebellious desires as I get older and how I incorporate the experiences I’ve had and lessons I’ve learned while I’ve been here.
I write to try to make sense of such considerations. There’s been a small amount of writing I’ve been doing on this trip – some postcards and letters to loved ones, a couple of ‘travel story’ type pieces and one long(ish) piece of feedback to a friend about a draft of an excellent article that they wrote. But I have no more postcards to send now.
From a review of The Time of the Peacock (1965) to questions of assimilation and adaptation amongst the diasporic, migrant multitudes of today.
Scents of otherness in the Australian bush
In the The Time of the Peacock, Mena Abdullah captures the out-of-place-ness of an Indian family in 1950’s rural Australia through a series of beautifully crafted, short stories. Abdullah weaves together the family’s experience of holding dearly to the memories and ways of a distant homeland while trying to make a place in a country that marks them as indelibly different. She depicts the nuance and complexity of migrant lives – not just as outsiders in a foreign land, but also in the interconnections between family members. They aren’t just ‘Indian’, the dad is a Punjabi Muslim, the mum from a Hindu Brahmin family and those differences matter. The politics of the partition of India briefly arises, yet ultimately these subtleties are in the background, adding layers of depth to this telling of the migrant experience.
For people who aren’t white and living in a colonised and white supremacist society, being able to understand and process feelings of guilt, shame and trauma is an ongoing exercise that requires honest reflection and accountability. Where We Stand is a dance/ performance ‘ritual’ that facilitates this by inviting Indigenous and other people of colour into a theatre turned into a healing space filled with warm, soothing aural tones and soft places to be in. In that space, personal stories of the damage of these interlocking oppressive systems are shared amongst us. In being there, feeling the intimacy of relating such experiences, a question arises in my mind: how do these personal affects, these lifelong traumas shared between us as confessional mementos translate into forms of anti-colonial solidarity and action that might upturn the colonial, white supremacist society that we inhabit?
“We will be beggars so long as we accept as universal the political divisions that cut up the white world and through which they conceive of the social conflicts and struggles that these divisions will engender. We will be beggars so long as we remain prisoners of their philosophy, of their aesthetic and of their art. We will be beggars so long as we do not call into question their version of History. Lets accept rupture, discord, discordance. Lets ruin the landscape and announce a new era”. – Houria Bouteldja
white person once asked of me “can’t you be less antagonistic when challenging
racism”? It was less a question, more a direction, imbued with all the
faux-innocence and partitioning of ‘civilised rationality’ as a quality
specific to whiteness, and therefore necessitating white people to preach the
word. The imperative that justified colonisation as the bringing of
civilisation to the barbarians, is now repeated by white liberals espousing
‘rational’ and ‘civilised’ debate in the face of racism and white supremacy.
Felt like putting up something a bit more posi here so… Sorry if you didn’t get to any Rebel Diaz shows on their recent tour of this dire place. But damn they were great. Revolutionary, anti-colonial hip hop from Chicago/ the Bronx that was an injection of inspiration straight to the veins. Plus now we’re crew I have to rep them. So here’s a track and film clip from their most recent album ‘America vs Amerikkka’. The track name translates to “And it’s going to fall”.
‘Matangi, Maya, M.I.A.’ is a film about the discontinuities
and dislocations, and the adaptability and resilience of being a brown migrant
transplanted into a new, predominantly white culture. It is a film about the
multiplicity of identity that migrants live with – of re-discovering cultural heritage
as an anchor, at the same time as finding ways to enter into the surrounds in
which you now find yourself. And of course, it is a film about all these things
told through the story of the immensely popular, hip hop artist/musician/performer,
MIA. Some impressions:
encountered P.O.S. when I was travelling in North America a couple of years
ago, passed to me by one of the rad anarcho-nihilist crew I was hanging with.
And that was basically his music: anarchist in the sense of being rebellious
and unruly, but nihilist also, in that it wasn’t preachy moralism trying to
‘convert’ everyone else to some cause. One of my favourite lines from an early
track called ‘Drumroll’ goes: “I ain’t no casualty/ Got no surface with
spotless morality/ My dirt may have to cover up my grave”.