It has been more than 30 years since I have felt so badly about my fellow human beings behaving far from their status “just below the angels.” What triggered this upheaval? Where should I begin?
Right-thinking white folks don’t bend my ear. Your wasted breath and sympathies. Talk to your daughters, brother, sisters and sons, Your neighbors, the ones you should exhort.
They were in reaction to one of the “riots” during that time, and, while anti-white sentiments swirled around that peculiar form of violent expression, some of my white friends approached me looking, I presume, for assurance that they were still “OK” in my eyes:
On closer refection now, the heaviness I felt back then, in and on my heart, has begun building up again, ever so gradually. I thought the scar tissue had hardened beyond the point of my suffering from another insult. I really wanted to believe that I could not be moved by any slight launched against my personal human dignity. I mistook my outer shell (well-preserved in mind/body/spirit, an accumulation of titles and positions and, yes, even my age) as protection.
But cracks have appeared; painful cracks.
I had been holding myself apart from harm, a lifetime survivor of historical, social and cultural insults heaped on me because of my racial and gender birth rights. Wasn’t I, after all free, black, female, and over 21 – in America? With these bona fides, I was above the fray.
I find that I am still moved to anger and outrage by slights (what many may overlook) from which I can no longer turn away. Nor can I deny that my rage meter is ticking – loudly.
Where is this coming from?
I read the following in a recent New York Times Style Magazine: “…when the Foundation Cartier in Paris presents Voodoo, an exhibition culled mostly from the collection of Jacques Kerchache, a legendary curator and champion of primitive art….”
This dismissive reference to art from the black African Diaspora (Voodoo is a recognized religion derived from established African belief systems), moved me to start a one woman “riot.”
My personal weapon of choice is a growing stockpile of ideas-into-words. In fact, I look forward to waging my war(s) against all arbitrary and temporarily enthroned groups of humans who dominate other groups of humans.
Take this case of so-called “primitive” Voodoo objets d’art cavalierly ascribed by some critic/reviewer of art.
For my purposes here, Webster’s College Dictionary works just as well as any other reference guide. In it, the first definition for the word “primitive” is: “the first or earliest of the kind or in existence, especially in the early age of the world.”
And therein, for me, lies the rub.
Voodoo art. Primitive? How about current, relevant, dynamic?
Subsequent to the review in the New York Times Sunday Style Magazine, the next week’s Sunday New York Times published an article on the front page, above the fold, about the growing number of Haitian immigrants to that city and their practice of this religion. It was a balanced analysis of the central role Voodoo religion plays in the lives of its practitioners, a respectful portrait, a humanitarian commentary.
Re: Icons from the first century of the “Virgin” Mary. Primitive? No comment!
Re: Menorahs; hand printed and gold embellished Torahs, dating back 5000-plus years ago. Primitive? No comment!
Re: Multi limbed, part human, Hindu Shivas, even older than the earliest expressions of Judaism. Primitive? Definitely, no comment!
Where do these lines of questioning fit into the overall scheme of all things human?
I don’t have many answers. Never will. Actually, I have many more questions. What I know for sure is that I feel a stinging from the fresh wounds laid on my heart. Old scar tissue has been worried open by perpetual incivilities, little “murders” of our fellow human beings.
Every night I witness our species become drunk on the blood of its own kind. War will always be with us. Or is that the poor/poverty? What’s the difference?
We have lost our connection to our fellows; we have all become “other.” When we dismiss another’s art, we dismiss their humanity.
First: art, culture/religion. Then, extermination?
Chris Rock, commentator, thinker, 21st century philosopher, in a video that has now gone viral, suggests that any [group] who would claim “progress” from being less prejudiced, less hateful, less discriminatory, etc., toward any other group is insane to think that they were in any way superior to another group of human beings to begin.
So, what is it art? Primitive art? Fine art? Who are the great artists?
Chimpanzees and elephants are now “producing” art. Primitive?
Says who? When does the madness stop?
Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.