Monday, 20 February 2017
ZAMBIA AND IRAN AND ME
This anecdotal account is about the interconnectedness of the above.
Mike, my husband and I arrived on the Zambian North Bank Power Scheme in 1972. Our news, the Observer newspaper, arrived by post every week.
Our friends, Hamish and Monica, left Zambia to work on another dam in the Shah's Iran. There was an earthquake in Iran. Soon after the Shah was replaced by a revolution. They didn't stay.
ZAMBIA AND IRAQ AND ME
It was the Cold War. Zambia was punished by apartheid South Africa and Smith's UDI Rhodesia for its support for African freedom. Oil supplies were a big problem. Iraq provided oil by tanker – a pipeline from east Africa was built. Dundiza Chidiza Crescent became Saddam Hussein Boulevard.
There was a war between Iran and Iraq in which the west were involved on one side or the other or on both. It was a moot point as to which was the worse regime for its people and for its women.
ZAMBIA AND IRAN AND KATE
Kate, a US diplomat, who had served in Zambia and acted in Lusaka Playhouse, was one of those imprisoned in the US embassy in Iran.
The Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, was vilified by the Western press for his friendship with Saddam. He was supposed to have become a billionaire and personally owned an oil tanker. Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). There was a connection with Israel, Holland and apartheid South Africa and the Big Gun designed to deliver the WMDs. Lusaka was a key airport on route for these deals which may or may not have happened. It was bar talk in Lusaka.
ZAMBIA AND IRAQ AND DAPHNE
Saddam arrested an Observer journalist in Iraq who was investigating the WMDs story. He was executed. That journalist's British friend, Daphne, was put in solitary confinement. Kaunda arranged her freedom and she was released to Zambia and the British High Commission.
Saddam invaded Kuwait. Many of us believed that this was the start of the Third World War. It was the first Iraq war. The West defeated Iraq but the war was unfinished. From this point onwards the West continued to bomb Iraq ostensibly in support of the Marsh Arabs. Iraqi civilians also died but Saddam often used hostages to defend military sites.
The Afghan War continued in its myriad convolutions. Fundamentalist forms of conflicted and divided Islam had been recruiting in Africa for decades but now in the Middle East they had developed into Al Qaeda and ISIL.
On 9/11, a brilliantly conceived and successful attack on New York, the commercial capital city of the USA, took place.
IRAQ AND BLAIR
2003 Bush and Blair decided to finalise the war with Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein. It seems likely that the WMDs used as the excuse were no longer in Iraq as a weakened Saddam had handed them to Bashir Assad of Syria who later used chemical weapons against his own civilians.
SYRIA AND BRITAIN AND BREXIT
2013 Britain voted not to take action against Assad in support of his people. The resultant tragedy in Syria caused the huge migrant crisis which helped an anti-immigrant Britain vote Brexit and may lead to the breakup of the European Union.
In 2016 The Chilcot Inquiry reported. Tony Blair was apparently entirely and solely the most responsible for the war and all the deaths that resulted from the American/British intervention in Iraq over the whole period. He is the single scapegoat in an extraordinarily complex situation. Is that just?
The security of Britain, Europe, the USA, the Middle East and the Mediterranean areas are closely bound together now and have been for over a century. Today British and American troops continue to operate in Iraq.
Please explain to me why, in this complicated and interwoven scenario that has gone on for so long, Tony Blair is singled out as the one and only bad person?
Should his intelligent and patriotic concerns about Brexit be therefore disregarded?
Tuesday, 12 July 2016
In 1968 my home was invaded by the Hard Left. I was 24, alone, over 7 months pregnant, my daughter not quite three, and there was an angry and apparently irrational man barricaded into my flat with me.
It was the year of the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations in Grosvenor Square and Trafalgar Square. I had decided to drop out of my sociology course at the London School of Economics because I was out of my depth. I classified myself with some irony as a “Marxist” because in South Africa in 1966 it was possible to study “Marxism” at university but “Communists” were traitors. Early in 1968 I had been admitted to the Charing Cross Hospital because it was thought I might miscarry. Though I recovered, it wasn’t wise to go on a demonstration that might be violent. Instead my husband, Mike, a junior doctor and I volunteered for the LSE first aid post that was being organised to look after injured demonstrators. We were told to attend a meeting at a house somewhere in Hackney. The secrecy around this meeting was extraordinary. I kept looking around the meeting for the police informers and felt sure there must be police photographers outside. The atmosphere was extremely tense. Had I joined an illegal guerrilla group planning an attack on the British establishment? I have since wondered if it was it the headquarters of the Angry Brigade, who I then hadn’t heard of. 1968 was an uncertain time which felt not unlike Brexit Britain does today. Anything could happen – a world revolution – the end of capitalism – no more war? Was Corbyn around then too?
By May Mike was working nights and spending whole weeks at his hospital. I didn’t want to be alone with a small child, in case I went into labour. A flatmate was the answer. I asked around among my political acquaintances and someone suggested a young mixed race woman who also had a small child and had just been evicted from her flat. I’ll call her Sarah. We met and talked. She seemed unhappy and distressed which, under the circumstances, didn’t surprise me. Her landlord had booted her out without notice. She gave few details but I agreed that she could move in. I thought our kids might enjoy each other’s company.
Sarah was very touchy, quick to withdraw into her room, and very unsmiling. Before long she asked if her boyfriend could move in. I was surprised. No boyfriend had been mentioned and I didn’t see how she could have acquired a new one as she never left the flat, but I agreed. I’ll call the boyfriend Mark. He was Jewish like Mike, a small wiry man, but without charm.
Sarah and Mark’s relations with me deteriorated immediately without an apparent cause. Maybe I asked for the rent? I was disturbed to be told by Sarah that her boyfriend, Mark, was the same landlord who had kicked her out of their flat and that he had in turn been evicted from this flat by a south London council for non-payment of rent. Soon Sarah moved out in a rage. Her boyfriend stayed on. I arrived home one afternoon to find that he had locked himself into the bedroom that I had let to Sarah. He had a chamber-pot for peeing in and climbed in an out of the bedroom through the fanlight above the windows that he also kept locked. I was sick with stress and fear.
Mike had a night away from the hospital. Sarah’s room remained locked but seemed empty. In the middle of the night we heard someone break in and we called the police. An officer had a lengthy discussion with Mark through the bedroom fanlight. Before he left he said Mark apparently “knew” his rights as a squatter. He was very well briefed both legally and in left-wing politics.
“If I were you” one policeman said to Mike. “I would thump him. The man’s a coward.”
Thumping other men wasn’t Mike’s style, so we were at an impasse. Mike went back to work and I started getting anonymous heavy breathing phone calls, probably from Sarah, but still terrifying. It was a living nightmare. A phone call from the local council followed. The council officer said that Mark and Sarah claimed to have been made homeless unlawfully by me and were demanding to jump the housing queue.
“You must take them back,” he said. He was without sympathy. He didn’t want to help them one bit and he didn’t care about me and my child.
This hideous affair must have lasted only weeks. I was on the point of capitulating when Mark disappeared. It was as if he hadn’t existed. I didn’t see or hear him go but the phone calls also ceased. The council must have re-housed them. I never saw either Sarah or Mark again but I kept well away from the Socialist Workers Party or the Socialist Labour League after that.
Before I met them I had had an epiphany during the sit-ins at the LSE. I realised that what matters in politics is not whether you are left-wing or right-wing but whether you act with autonomy or comply with authority when making decisions about your life and your actions. An authoritarian is not the same as an authority. (Witness Michael Gove decrying experts.) Authoritarian personalities tend to fascism, bullying and blame in politics, while autonomous personalities are natural democrats who welcome debate and look for equitable solutions. I think, looking back, that Mark and Sarah were a troubled couple with personality problems in an abusive relationship. They belonged to the authoritarian hard left of the time. They would have been just as happily unhappy in any authoritarian cult or religion. As for me I became wary of any extreme organisation that puts obedience and deference above self-respect.
Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of Labour on the Twitter-fed surge of a new left-wing I have thought about Mark and Sarah. Describing a socialist as a Trotskyite was an insult back in 1968. As far as I could determine this was because Trotskyites remained wedded to a fundamentalist and pure socialism that would never sully itself with any of the compromises that are necessary to change society. They stuck to the god-given Marxist word of how and when capitalism would collapse and die and no changes in the existing world could alter the path prescribed by Leon. Is Momentum’s support for Corbyn a repeat of some of the fruitless efforts of 1968? Will a fundamentalist left finally split and kill off Labour and democratic socialists? I hope not.
Sarah and Mark may already be dead or simply incarcerated in a closed anarchist commune (which might be the same thing). Possibly they joined the 1980 Militants. Perhaps their ghosts fuel the hard left today, but I doubt it. Unable to work with other socialists, unable to cohabit with other human beings, they were socially dysfunctional. It seems that some few of Corbyn’s supporters may be the same.
If I was to take a poll among my friends about their views on Trident, on war, on benefits, on the NHS, on nationalisation I probably would find that they were as left-wing as Corbyn and as idealistic. What I would find, however, is that they would be pragmatic, realistic team-players with what is most essential for good politics – a sense of humour and a readiness to talk to and to listen to other points of view. Among the Twitter threats and insults heaped on people who do not support Corbyn are there any signs of a readiness for a debate that can take the left forward to a poll victory?
Among all this noise and confusion Jeremy Corbyn shines like the Virgin at her Assumption. I have seen this rapture before on the faces of the born-again into new life. It doesn’t last. Corbyn seems a man possessed by the belief that he is leading the very few faithful into a left-wing heaven. He is extremely naïve and innocent for a socialist. The rest of us know all about the friability of celebrity status. Cults are made to die and cult-leaders who fall from grace aren’t absolved. They go eventually but after causing the disintegration of their cause. They care little for those who they consider to have left the narrow path.
Wednesday, 14 January 2015
HERO'S QUEST TO PUT THE WORLD TO RIGHTS.
Once upon a time something was wrong with the world.
So intelligent, good-hearted, brave Hero set out on a quest to put the world to rights by destroying the Enemy.
'How will you recognise the Enemy?' asked Hero's father.
'The Enemy is different from me.' replied Hero. 'The Enemy is Death.'
'Take care.' begged Hero's mother. 'Be good.' She was a stereotypical mother.
'Come back soon.' warned Hero's lover. 'Love lasts forever, but sex has a time limit.'
The first person Hero met was an Old Man.
'Good morning.' said the Old Man.
'I am on my way to put things right.' said Hero.
'Can I help you? I have spent my life trying to make the world a better place by enacting laws that protect people from injustice.' offered the Old Man.
'No.' said Hero. 'You are old. You are a man. You have no new ideas and you do not know what it is to be a Hero and put the world to rights.'
'That may be true.' said the Old Man. 'The world keeps changing but some of the things my generation have made might be useful for you to carry with you.'
'No.' said Hero
'As you wish.' said the Old Man who had plenty of children and was tired of disagreements.
The next person that Hero met was a Liberal.
'Hello Hero.' said the Liberal. 'Where are you going?'
'I am on my way to put things right and destroy the Enemy.' said Hero.
'Can I help you?' said the Liberal. 'I want to put things right too. Perhaps I can go with you some of the way at least?'
'No' said Hero. 'My only friends are those who agree to go all the way with me.'
'I am sorry.' said the Liberal who always apologised for her failures and who wore ill-fitting shoes.
The third person that Hero met was a Moderate.
'Hi.' said the Moderate. 'I am heading in your direction and have already made some progress. Shall we journey together? I am going to visit my family.'
'No.' said Hero. 'My friends are wholly committed to my quest and you only care about your family.'
'Okay. Do it your way.' said the Moderate who because of experience, was given to being pragmatic and also had transport.
The next two persons Hero met were an Artist and a Writer.
'Wow!' said they said. 'A Hero at last. We have been playing around with ways of shaking up people and shocking them into having new ideas so the world can change for the better. Can we help you? What do you think?'
'Well I'm not flaky and offensive like you both.' said Hero. 'You simply cannot be relied on to be politically correct. I know what I think. Your thoughts are all over the place.'
'Perhaps and maybe not.' said the Artist and Writer. 'But we have always fought with the Enemy. Will you free our brothers and sisters if you defeat the Enemy?'
'When I defeat the Enemy I will.' promised Hero. 'Artists and writers have a high nuisance value however, so only if they paint my portrait and write a flattering eulogy about me.'
The Artist and Writer shrugged. They were used to bad reviews and carrying out worse commissions and had been invited to a party.
Hero found himself surrounded by a crowd of travellers who were all arguing with each other.
'Who are you all?' Hero asked in some confusion.
'We are all Heroes going on a quest to put things right and destroy the Enemy.' said one of the many spokespeople in the crowd.
“Oh.' said Hero surprised. 'I thought I was the only one on this quest. I am sure it is good to have companions who will go all the way with me. Please can you tell me how you are going to destroy the Enemy.'
'There is only one way to destroy the Enemy.' said another spokesperson. 'I am the only one with the solution.'
At this the argument became even louder and more fractious.
'First we must go back and destroy the Old Man's law.' said one.
'No we must rewrite it.' said another.
'Its the fault of the Liberals. They are too soft and kind and don't realise that they have always been fortunate. Without them things would be clearer and there would be more space.'
'Its the fault of the Moderates. They only consider themselves and not others. We must take away their riches.'
'Its the fault of the Artists and Writers. We have to teach them what they are NOT allowed to say.'
Some of the travellers said 'Lets go back and tell everyone how to do things properly.'
Others said 'Lets go forward and fight the Enemy.'
Realising that there was no consensus among his companions, Hero asked. “Have you seen the Enemy? Do you know what the Enemy looks like?'
This last question caused such a tremendous row that a fist fight broke out among the Heroes. No one could decide for certain who the Enemy was or what the Enemy looked like.
'Poverty.' 'Ignorance.' 'Greed.' 'Bigotry.' 'Riches'. 'Sickness.' 'Immorality.' 'Dogma.' 'Lack of faith.' were all suggested.
'I still think its Death.' determined Hero.
Neither could any of them agree on the best way to destroy the Enemy. Apparently everyone of them had asked an intellectual or an analyst for their point of view with the result that there were more opinions than people. They all had developed dreadful headaches from thinking about it. Hero was going to add that the Enemy seemed to be within their group but nobody was listening.
At last a third spokesperson stood up.
'We have decided to go onto Facebook and see who gets the most Likes.' he said. ' When we know that, then we will Unfriend those who got the least and that is how we will destroy the Enemy.'
'Are you sure?' asked Hero who had climbed up a nearby hill to escape the fracas.
'Look what is happening! It seems that the Enemy is also behind us.'
At that the Heroes turned around and found to their horror that the Enemy had divided and multiplied and had them surrounded.
The Heroes could see that rather a large number of Artists and Writers had been killed and imprisoned. Liberals and Moderates were being attacked and wounded on every side. Most saddening for the Heroes was the huge numbers of dead women and children that lay about everywhere.
The Old Man, helpless with tears, watched from a distance. They were all his children after all.
Friday, 7 November 2014
Eight months ago I had a bone graft in my upper jaw. It was a sterile procedure done under local anaesthetic. I was losing bone and therefore a tooth and good dental health is good health overall. It took about an hour and was pain free - lots of stitches. Of course I had a swollen face etc afterwards but good after care and recovered well. Seven months afterwards my surgeon said it was successful and yesterday, eight months later he proceeded to put the implant in place. I will have another 6 months to wait before he knows if it is okay to go ahead with giving me a permanent false tooth. Again the operation was sterile - under half an hour, pain free but I behaved quite unreasonably like a baby. My surgeon is excellent and so was his team. I will write and thank him and apologise. Remembered traumas not actual ones made me fearful. My face is very slightly botoxed in appearance on one side but no discomfort. I have to take loads of antibiotics and pills for the moment but am fine. John has been brilliant about driving me to Pau to have the operations and all the previous appointments and follow-ups. Pau is 45 minutes away and sitting in waiting rooms is dull in the extreme.
Sunday, 21 September 2014
INSIDE MY SKIN: WHITE 'MADAM' AND 'BLACK' ART.
I am starting again. It is a treat to quote an intelligent comedian like Tim Minchin who advocates nuanced thinking. Nuanced thinking is needed when we consider the petition to ban Brett Bailey's Exhibit B. Like many of those writing about it I haven't seen it. It's 800k away from me across France. I have read the arguments however and they are important to me and my art.
Dividing the world into black and white is plain silly because the world is not divided into simplistic opposites and never has been.
Brett Bailey's Exhibit B does of course raise questions for artists and humans with thin skins or thick hides of whatever shade they are on the outside. Art is supposed to shake up ideas.
I am white and I have made art about Africa. I was born in Africa and lived most of my life there. I don't speak on behalf of other people. I speak of what I feel and think I know. What I think and know changes as I learn and change. The colour of my skin should not stop me saying what I feel unless I prevent someone else from being heard by saying it or if I defame someone. I should not be silenced but asked to listen.
Sara Myers' boycott seems to be based on the idea that Brett Bailey and all white South Africans are racist. They aren't. He isn't as far as I can judge.
Yes - there is racism – and bigotry in the world but banning an exhibition won't change that and a boycott may be inadvertently racist and bigoted if it doesn't have the whole picture.
The world and art can't be improved by claiming that there is a clear gulf between what's right and what's wrong, between what's black and what's white.
The world has never been that simple.
Going to war for simplistic reasons is not helpful.
Fighting for understanding is not going to war.
Banning, boycotting and destroying art is almost without exception bad for human liberty, freedom of thought and autonomy. If you don't like Exhibit B then go and make art of your own- write your own books – start a counter culture, create a new one. Bad art tends to disappear and die soon enough. What matters is that art provokes arguments and discussions, it can change perceptions, it can make us feel and therefore think and disagree.
Exhibit B and Brett Bailey have made us see people suffering but he wasn't doing it to humiliate anyone - what would that achieve?
There is resistance to this kind of show but not because people are callous or don't care or are racist but because it is painful. Guilt and responsibility are hard to handle but victims hate this stuff too. Any therapist will tell you that.
Perhaps this is a reason why Sara Myers is angry with it? I expect it would upset me very much too.
During the Slave Trade there were white British people who were made poorer by it, white people who had no connection to it and some who would have opposed it. The Slave Trade made some people very rich. Though some countries benefited greatly not all their citizens did. Lets hit the right targets.
Why did Bailey get such a bad press when it was okay for black Steve McQueen to make 'Twelve Years a Slave.' and for white Brad Pitt to produce it?
Perhaps because his show is more accessible than the film to demonstrators who need to vent their feelings about it.
The pain and discomfort of the 'exhibits' – the people who 'acted' is what all actors who choose to play grim roles suffer. It is certainly very difficult and upsetting to write or make art about abuse of any description.
Freak shows? Is not most reality television a freak show? Aren't freaks and celebrities often the same people? Don't we love freaks and learn to empathise by internalising their suffering? Don't artists and the creative process exist on the borderlines between 'normal' and 'freak'?
Brett Bailey is South African. He lives in South Africa where all races are equal under the law and people of all races and colours contributed to the fight for freedom. He has the right to speak on any subject including slavery. He has the right to be wrong. No one can shut him up because they don't agree with him. Free speech is one of the foundations of democracy.
Would there – or should there - have been this outcry if Bailey had had a black skin? Or been a black woman? Then again would a black man or woman make this kind of art? Well - yes they have – there are many examples in contemporary art.
Look at Kara Walker's 'Sugar Baby'
It looks wonderful and probably justifies its scale and expense. I would like to ask Walker what she thinks of Exhibit B and of Brett Bailey but I don't know what answer she would give. It does seems that slavery still creates divisions between black and white Americans. Why and how that gulf continues to exist needs to be the subject of another discussion.
I remember in Johannesburg in about 1991 seeing an installation by Penny Siopsis about slavery and its relationship to the sugar trade – she is a white South African. http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/penny-siopis
So are we judging art or artist or skin colour when we compare these three exhibitions?
What I personally see as problematic about the Bailey and Walker exhibitions is their enormous cost and their position in the 'billionaire art industry of the world' but that is also a discussion for another occasion.
How would Exhibit B have been seen if the slaves represented were white and the slave masters black? Would that change perceptions? Does this exhibit say that having a black skin gives you more of a propensity to be enslaved than a white skin? I don't think so.
That is not the lesson of history. Slavery has been around ever since there were humans. Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Hebrews, Europeans, Africans – all practised slavery. It seems there have always been forms of bondage and slavery. Today, though illegal in most of the world, it is even more profitable. The scale of the Triangle Trade, its acceptance as normal and its links to industry and commerce made it enormous and monstrous. The Holocaust was genocide on an industrial scale which makes it unthinkable though true but these terrible crimes were not the only ones to happen in human history. Jews and black people, whites and gentiles have been perpetrators as well as victims.
The human scale however is always personal and humans need to deal with these horrors personally and individually regardless of their outer covering of skin.
South African Resistance Art - another example - was made by artists of different colours.
I come from an involvement with art in Zambia where I facilitated artists, exhibitions and workshops before 1994 so I was also interested in the art of the other Frontline States and South Africa. In the 80's when I first worked with artists in Zambia I was called 'Madam' which I hated but things move on fast and that soon stopped. There have been great changes in Zambia and Southern Africa and its art since then. At that time Zambian artists wanted to study at art school but the few white people who bought African art wanted intuitive and naïve art which they considered more 'authentic'. That split between artists and among buyers could be seen in South African art of the same time too. What I learnt from Zambian artists however, is that they wanted to be equal among all artists. No artist wants to be defined by their skin or for race to be part of the consideration of their art. They don't want to make money from phoney 'authentic' art but to make their own personal art.
This was my part of my installation about the significance of water to expatriate and African women.
This is my portrait of an artist from the inside – the inside of my skin. My flesh coloured not skin coloured inside is like everyone's inside.
It complicates the world to be simplistic about colour, class, race and people.
Skin, identity, gender and race are not fixed. My own family is mixed and unfixed. Humans, society, the world - they are always changing.
Tomorrow's world will not judge people by the colour of their skin but we will still be fighting exploitation, slavery and injustice and we will still be making art.
Tomorrow's world will not judge people by the colour of their skin but we will still be fighting exploitation, slavery and injustice and we will still be making art.
Look at these nuanced and powerful paintings made by Bulelwa Madekurozwa.
Monday, 25 August 2014
THE CALL OF THE TRIBAL
I listened to an early Newsnight debate on the Scottish referendum on independence.
“Well that's that!” I thought. “Heart wins over head! The Yes vote wins! Stands to unreason.”
I felt - and feel - sympathetic.
“Its about the warm call of going home – to the family, the village – the tribe!” I told myself. “They'll go with it.”
At school in Africa my best friends were proud working class Scots 6,000 miles from Scotland. Jazz was their preferred music. Football their game. Distance enchanted their view of home.
The reality of Scottish independence will probably be less attractive when it's not a distant dream.
At the country club near my home in the bush we danced Eightsome Reels, Stripped the Willow and sang 'Auld lang syne.' and shouted 'Och aye!' We the English were in transition to the life of lairds and landowners with black peasants. When we went to the Mother Country we had to visit the Highlands. England's heart was not folksy enough for homesick colonials.
Colonial whites knew about tribalism in Africa. We used it to our advantage. We stoked the enmity between the Ndebele and the Shona. An enemy divided is an enemy defeated. We chose the most warlike tribe – the Zulu in South Africa – we could respect them – and put them in charge of 'lesser' tribes.
In history however, we were taught that the real achievement of civilised people was to join together, make treaties and alliances. We celebrated every union and agreement that meant peace even when it gave power to the top dogs.
Ah well! Alex Salmond has been fighting for independence for Scotland for decades and he will likely win.
What a shame!
He has thrown the discordant apple of choice into the heart of Scotland and split it almost exactly in half. Every nation needs its tribes and Scotland will soon have the dominant YES tribe and the discomfited NO tribe. Will they learn to love each other?
Will Scotland discover that it isn't run or owned by the Scots in any case but like Britain, is a franchise of global corporations? Salmond's independence is an anachronism that doesn't answer the problems of today's world. Salmond unfortunately is a man of fixed ideas. Will he have served the Scots well? I doubt it.
If Salmond loses perhaps he'll go into self-exile in Darien?
The Scots talk a 'braveheart' about being socialists who despise Sassenach conservative toffs but their socialism is also chauvinism and somewhat conservative too.
What happened to the international socialist dream of a better life for all humanity?
The fact that the English won't have the support of Scottish Labour will be a misfortune for England and Scotland. England might rejoice if Northern Ireland split. The Catholics could go with Eire and the Calvinists become a Scottish dependency. If the Scots were to commit the Crimea of invading the North-East of England and inveigling our last deprived working class community into a 'union' with them England would be much the poorer!
Suppose the worst. What if England breaks up into tribes. The Tower of Hamlets is fortified. The Glastonbury Wall of sound cuts off South-West England. Norfolk floods its land to keep out the Essex hordes. Oxford and Cambridge turn the Isis and the Cam into moats and go it alone.
Imagine with horror that the one stereotype of an Englishman held up for us to love might be a Farage of John Bull - all mouth and no brain.
Scotland, don't leave us!
Save us from ourselves.
We need you!
Thursday, 7 August 2014
APARTHEID, SOUTH AFRICA, PALESTINE, HAMAS AND MY PAINTING.
I made this painting in April 1994 as a participant in the Mbile International Artists Workshop in Zambia.
It was the same time as the first democratic elections in South Africa which was where my heart was.
This is the largest of 3 paintings I called the 'South African series'. One was called 'Exile', one called 'Freedom Fighters' and this one I called 'Apartheid'.
The painting represents the evils of apartheid as I saw it and experienced it in the 1960s.
The blood-stained and damaged landscape is fenced with barbed wire and empty of people except for those who wait without hope by the roadside.
The panels on the left and right are about prisons. Those that incarcerate prisoners as well as those that imprison people's minds and bodies with fear, bigotry, censorship, racial and sexual discrimination.
Along the top are symbols of power and war. Among them are modern bombs and ancient spears, raised fists, crowns, masks of fear and superstition. As well as the white Nationalists, I chose these symbols to represent leaders of the Bantustans who used tribalism and ignorance to oppress their own people.
At the bottom of the painting are coffins symbolising those who died to end apartheid. They include Christians, Muslims, Jews and atheists and others.
My painting could almost be about Palestine if I made some changes.
The fenced and bloody landscape would have to be full of suffering people. The prisons would still be there. I would however, include Hamas in the top panel as an oppressor of the people, along the Netanyahu government and along with all religious fundamentalists. At the bottom there would still be the same coffins – Muslim, Christian and Jewish and atheist. They would not be those of Freedom Fighters or heroes. The coffins would be of the victims of terrorism and fundamentalism – all those who have died in the last 4 weeks. I would include suicide bombers as victims but not heroes. The French children and Rabbi, the old lady Mrs Bloch, killed by Idi Amin at Entebbe. the King David hotel victims, the Palestinians – I could go back forever.
Instead I will say STOP NOW!
I would not choose to make a painting about Palestine as I am not a Palestinian. I might make a painting about how I would feel about Palestine and Israel.
I made an installation about the war in the Balkans in the 1990's. I showed an English tea table covered with a fabric on which were printed images from British newspapers of the ethnic cleansing. The tea cups and teapot were filled with blood. Next to them rested a copy of the War poems of Wilfred Owen and a daily paper. Ii is called 'Grantchester ten-to-three' after the poem by Rupert Brooke.
If I was to make a painting today about Palestine this is what I would have to try to show and express - one of my children is half-Muslim, the others are half-Jewish and that makes them all vulnerable to hate and race crimes and death threats. How can I protect them?
I ask you what you think I should put into my art today?
The ANC gave all South Africans a Freedom Charter – social justice without racism or sexism – rights for everybody regardless of religion and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Hamas has not and will not give the Palestinians a Freedom Charter.
It expects that they will prefer to die and not to live.
Whatever you feel about Israel and Palestine, please unite against anti-Semitism and racism of any sort.