Options #2 Black Beauty

This was a talk given by Michael Mcmillan concerned with the Body and Identity. He talked about his show The Beauty Shop which was about the black body in a consumer culture. Anonymous interviews with black men and woman about their complexion and hair styles and what they went through growing up concerning these issues where held in a space in the show/installation. In the talk I learnt about the daily maintenance of African hair. It is tough and thick and becomes course and brittle if it is not properly greased. I think, like with white people or asian people or Australasian people, hair types will vary much like the products needed to keep them healthy. I don’t find the argument that, “all black people must use grease in their hair otherwise it becomes straw like”, convincing. Is this true? It sounds like to much of a sweeping statement.

Mcmillan cites Immanuel Kants, Critique of Judgement (1788), which talks of the subjective nature of beauty and localised differences of beauty. Explaining how Europe’s radicalized aesthetics became valorized as the global ideal of beauty. Mcmillan was concerened with, I think, post European imperialism  and as shipping channels opened and the world got smaller, all the way up until today, the white man or woman has been seen as having the most “desired features”. This brings up the notion of the “Other”. How we identify the Other, in tern, helps to define our self. Others are often seen as inferior and are used as a way to separate and sustain groups of people like tribes,villages,countries or even an ideal. “Othering” can exploit peoples intellectual ego and help one group of people act and treat others, who may not share this ideal (or see through its possible deception), separately or abusively. Othering thrives on the concept that we are separate or that no man is born equal. And as long as we continue to think this, that is as long as it will be true.

Discourse is the formation of knowledge, Discourse of Black beauty was that to have curly hair, thick lips and look like a black person was bad and seen be many as so. Saartjie Baartman “The hottentot Venus”  1790-1815 was a Black person objectified. She was from Khoikhoi in Africa and brought to Europe in the 19th Century where she was shown at freak shows. What was left of her body after her death in 1815 was put on display at the, Musee de l’Homme in paris, up until 1974. After much deliberation and legal discussion Saartjie Baartmans body was returned and repatriated to her homeland in 2002. “She was buried over 200 years after her birth” quite a poignant example of “othering” and the exploitation of people who where deemed inferior which helped perpetuate the global reaction of separatism.

Woman in the 19th century wore big dress to emphasise their bums, appropriating an ethnic style?

Angela Yvonne Davis is an interesting person I suppose. A prominent activist during the civil rights movement in America and a prominent member of the Communist party USA having been selected twice as a candidate for vice president of the party in the 1980s. She became well known and perhaps a “poster person” for civil rights in 1970 when she was accused of being involved in a kidnap and murder. She was later acquitted much to the delight of the many americans who supported her innocence and campaign for civil justice in America. I think perhaps to understand more about Ms Davis we would need a talk about her involvement in the communist party and the differences between the party in the 1970s and the then Republican Government of Richard Nixon who held office at the time. Never the less it was interesting to learn about this woman and if american history is your thing then I’m sure more reading of her story within it would be more than rewarding… LINK