PUNCTUATED BLACKNESS began as a woodblock print in early 2013 to interrogate the labels we assign to ourselves and the ones that are assigned to us. The punctuation marks serve as different markers of inquiry and decisiveness around identity.
If you would like a free 6 x 8 print of PUNCTUATED BLACKNESS on archival paper and handmade blank journal, submit your order number and address here. Free goodies available while supplies lasts! (Order quickly)
There is a “workbook” organized around this that will be coming out shortly. Until then, buy a shirt! Currently, styles are limited, but if you’re interested in a different color or style, send me an email here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Events this Week!
I am having two talks this week. Tomorrow night is INFORMED BY THE CITY at Christie’s Education as part of my group exhibit with Project for Empty Space. I will be on a panel with other artists discussing site specific installation, spatial politics, and my own practice. On Wednesday night at Nurture Art’s Muse Fuse’s Annual Image Share Night where I will share about my work and my practice.
Hope to see you at both or either!
More info on what I do here: www.kameelahr.com
When public figures pass from this earth, we have the tendency to engage in some hagiographic revision. We like to play fast and loose with historical context, create temporal leaps and marginalize inconvenient narratives. There are things we must remember we are told to forget.
Two texts I have read both as a student in the U.S. and as an American citizen living in South Africa (for an extended period on a Fulbright and several subsequent visits) are Patrick Bond’s “Talk Left Walk Right: South Africa’s Frustrated Global Reform” (2004) and Neville Alexander’s “An Ordinary Country: Issues in the Transition from Apartheid to Democracy in South Africa” (2002). Neither are perfect texts, but they do a few things. First, they round out our conversation to encourage nuance in understanding the different stages of Mandela’s political life. Mandela as a political prisoner and Mandela as South Africa’s president are distinct characters with both different political parameters and beliefs around what is possible. Second, the texts problematize the “miracle of South Africa” narrative which hinges on a post-colonial exceptionalism where South Africa has magically swept away the colonial residue and entered a new era as the lauded “rainbow nation”. Third, the texts allow us to explore the gaps between what Mandela envisioned as a revolutionary political prisoner and what was accepted as a “suitable” transition plan. Particularly, what does it mean for the legacy of apartheid and future power relations when some historians refer to 1994 as a “negotiated settlement”? What does it mean that South Africa transitioned into a neoliberal economy with all the underpinnings of capitalist labor relations seen under apartheid? What does it mean that land reform was a supply-side reform which was contrary to the original radical plans of complete redistribution? What does it mean that many Blacks in South Africa are still landless and still poorly integrated into the political process? To what extent has the ANC been assimilated into a web of relations that privilege the same bodies and institutions that held power under apartheid? What are we to do with this language of “power transfer” to Blacks? There are things that cannot be given as gifts — freedom, agency, power. The act of “giving someone power” implies one person is still in a state of superiority and take back said gift at any juncture. Lastly, I think these texts interrogate the evolution of how Mandela is portrayed in mass media through the lens of depoliticizing/disarming radical leaders as colorblind reformists. Remember how MLK Jr. became the “I Have a Dream” dude and the socialist elements of his message were conveniently excised from popular narratives? In the words of the the flawed, but intentional and reflective Cornel West, “They’ve turned Nelson Mandela into Santa Claus. They took away his teeth!”
Now is a time not to just praise and revere Mandela. Now is the time to reflect on all of our decolonization efforts, co-opted revolutions, political schizophrenia, the gap between rhetorical radicalism and radical implementation, and the depolitization of radical figures. Now is a time to dive into the primary sources and get into the raw material. Let’s stop grabbing quotes and displacing them from their original context. Let’s do his legacy justice by not allowing his legacy to be a series of quotes about freedom and unity. Dude was labelled a terrorist. He received military training to overthrow the apartheid regime. The brother was locked down because that’s what happens globally when Black dreams and Black power are feared as possible realities. This brother was also asked to broker a deal. He was asked to compromise on his vision. He made some compromises, big ones. Now is a time to ask what would Steve Biko think about the state of his nation. Now is the time not to be intellectually lazy and dishonest. We show our love through honesty and the rigor of critique, not through hagiography and immaculate hero narratives.
They found you underneath a tent of soiled newspapers: a bag of pills in your right pocket, a dictionary of Japanese words in the left. You wore one red sock and said you just landed on Earth, but others were coming. The cop broke your arm in three places. Before that, you threw a cup of spit loogies you’ve been preserving for just this occasion.
There were parts of your body missing. Spongy squares of blood and pus where your nails once used to be. Someone pulled out your hair or maybe small animals nibbled at your scalp. A family of flies made their home there. One eye was swollen and covered with crust, like the cornmeal batter you used to deep fry fish on Friday evenings back when we were kids. The other eye was wide and alert, flickering without commitment.
“She wore her sexuality with an older woman’s ease, and not like an awkward purse, never knowing how to hold it, where to hang it, or when to just put it down.”
― Zadie Smith
three little black boys
lying in a grave yard
i couldn’t tell
if they were playing
― Baba Lukata
“There’s blood, a taste I remember. It tastes of orange popsicles, penny gumballs, red licorice, gnawed hair, dirty ice.”
― Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye
He said to her, “You are large and must be broken apart.”
The ghosts in her home were not translucent bodies that floating to the ceilings before descending to gently strangled her as she slept curled in a ball. The ghosts in her home were the orphaned objects. The many undisturbed objects collecting dust as they sat like excerpts of 16th century still life paintings in her home. The coffee maker she refused to use because the last man to touch it touched her with soiled hands. The vase that skid across the floor the night she found out. The sandwich he was eating the evening before a gust of courage ushered him out the front door. The dress she wore the first time he told her that he loved her. The objects sat there haunting her, maybe even mocking her. She could move them. She could throw them out. She could drape a dark cloak over them. She could do all these things, but she likes to be haunted. The haunting was it’s own form of companionship.
Only was born with a full mouth of teeth and gnawed at her mother’s nipples until they bled. Only’s father left somewhere between the bloody nipples and her first period. Too much blood one would imagine.
Dropped off work to @brooklynmuseum for staff exhibition which opens on Dec 5!