The Culture of Curls: What Hair Really Means in Mixed Race Societies

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, South Africa on 2015-03-16 02:13Z by Steven

The Culture of Curls: What Hair Really Means in Mixed Race Societies

The Yale Globalist
2013-12-24

Isidora Stankovic
Timothy Dwight College
Yale University

Look through any fashion magazine and you might notice something puzzling. Almost without exception, models of every race have the same sleek, straightened hair. The message from these media sources seems clear: these painstakingly smooth hairstyles are simply better. Women around the world have taken this message to heart and adopted straightened hair as a beauty ideal, but for some women, hair texture means something more. In societies with large mixed race populations, hair extends beyond beauty and becomes a factor that reveals ethnic heritage and even socioeconomic background. According to Professor Roberto González Echevarría, Sterling Professor of Hispanic and Comparative Literatures at Yale University, “hair is a fashion statement as well as a statement of ethnicity.” Curls and kinky hair are loaded with stigma in many countries, in part because they represent the effects of historical interactions between different ethnic groups.

The legacy of European colonialism echoes strongly in Cuba, and has been influential in shaping race relations, social structure, and the identities of mixed-race individuals. Professor González Echevarría explains that Spaniards brought a relatively small number of African slaves to Cuba in the 16th century to replace the annihilated labor force. In the 19th century, the number of African slaves on the island grew as the country invested in the sugar industry. Interactions with white Europeans and black slaves created a significant mixed-race population, and the growth of this group has made it increasingly difficult to identify people as either black or white and produced a change in categorization of individuals. Thus, hair has become an important tool for labeling and social stratification. According to González Echevarría, “There are many gradations of mulatto in Cuba, and some are gauged by how kinky their hair is.” He adds that Cubans can be prejudiced against kinky hair, noting that to have kinky hair is to “tener pelo malo,” or “to have bad hair.” They may call the hair of black individuals “pasa,” and women of European origin even refer to their hair as “pasa” when they are having a bad hair day, often saying “tengo la pasa alborotada” (“I have messy/wild hair”)…

Read the entire article here.

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Katanga’s forgotten people

Posted in Africa, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Videos on 2015-02-12 02:32Z by Steven

Katanga’s forgotten people

FRANCE 24
2010-03-16

Marlène Rabaud

Arnaud Zajtman

Like many mixed-race children in Congo, they were born of a Japanese father who came to work in the mines of Katanga in south-east of the country. Today, they accuse their fathers of wanting to kill them so as not to leave behind any traces when they returned to Japan. FRANCE 24 met these men and women seeking the recognition that has always been denied them.

Watch the video (00:10:51) here.

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Rhineland Children

Posted in Africa, Articles, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2015-02-02 21:34Z by Steven

Rhineland Children

Arriving In The Future: Stories of Home and Exile
2015-01-20

Asoka Esuruoso & Philipp Khabo Koepsell

Germany’s brief colonial period saw an increase in the community of Africans and Afro Germans in Germany. Many Black Germans were also descendants of Black Askari troops recruited from Germany’s former colonies. Thousands of these men had fought and died for Kaiser Wilhelm during the First World War in Germany’s East African campaign.[i]

Living within a self proclaimed “white” society with a history of misunderstanding, mistreating, and misrepresenting “People of Color,” life was never easy. This was especially so since much of the Colonial German literature at that time depicted Africa and its people in a negative light. The sexuality of African women and men was often described in white colonial literature in base, animalistic ways. In the 1800’s there were even exotic exhibitions of live human zoos[1] where African individuals[2] were displayed in recreated African villages within regular zoos and toured through major European metropolises including Hamburg and Berlin.[ii]

The end of the First World War and the occupation of the Rhineland by French soldiers, including many Afro French soldiers, resulted in the birth of another generation Afro German children that were often referred to within German society by degrading terms such as Besatzungskinder “War Babies” or RheinlandbastardRhineland Bastard.”[iii] For white German nationalists the occupation and policing of the former German colonizer by Black African solders was the final humiliation…

Read the entire article here.

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The Multiple Meanings of Coloured Identity in South Africa

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2015-01-28 23:17Z by Steven

The Multiple Meanings of Coloured Identity in South Africa

Africa Insight
Volume 42, Number 1 (2012)

Theodore Petrus, Lecturer
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Wendy Isaacs-Martin, Political & Governmental Studies Fellow
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

In post-1994, South African identity has taken centre stage in debates about diversity and its impact in a multicultural society. The coloured people of South Africa seem to have the most at stake in such debates due to the perceived ambiguity of their and others’ perceptions of their identity. This article interrogates the symbology of colouredness by providing a symbolic interpretation of the meanings of the symbols of coloured identity. Through the engagement with relevant literature, the article seeks to identify the symbols of coloured identity and the multivocality of these symbols. Our argument is that a symbological approach to coloured identity opens up possibilities for a variety of meanings that move beyond the historically inherited stereotypical associations with the identity.

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“A Spirit that Nursed a Grievance:” William Plomer’s “The Child of Queen Victoria”

Posted in Africa, Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, South Africa on 2015-01-28 20:48Z by Steven

“A Spirit that Nursed a Grievance:” William Plomer’s “The Child of Queen Victoria”

English in Africa
Volume 39, Number 2 (2012)
DOI: 10.4314/eia.v39i2.7

M Shum

When William Plomer’s The Child of Queen Victoria and Other Stories was published by Jonathan Cape in 1933, his literary reputation was well established: he was the author of two novels, two volumes of short fiction, and three collections of poetry. In addition, he was widely regarded in British literary circles as a significant talent. Edward Garnett, for example, the reader for Cape and the first person in publishing to recognise the talents of Lawrence and Conrad, wrote in a report on The Child of Queen Victoria and Other Stories that “Plomer is certainly the most original and keenest mind of the younger generation” (quoted in Alexander 1990, 192). In short, at the time of writing this story Plomer was operating within a milieu dramatically different from the geographical and artistic isolation in which, aged only nineteen, he had written Turbott Wolfe (1925), the novel on which his South African literary reputation rests. Yet one of the many fascinations of “The Child of Queen Victoria” is that it entails a fairly exact reprise, in the realist mode, of the central thematic strand of his first novel: interracial sex or ‘miscegenation.’ A question immediately arises: what motivated the return to this vexed thematic, and what did Plomer seek to accomplish in this second attempt that, we must assume, he was not able to accomplish in the first?

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The Face of Skin, Inc.: An Interview with Chinyere Evelyn Uku by Thomas Sayers Ellis

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive on 2015-01-22 15:48Z by Steven

The Face of Skin, Inc.: An Interview with Chinyere Evelyn Uku by Thomas Sayers Ellis

Graywolf Press
August 2013

The cover image of Thomas Sayers Ellis’s Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems features Ellis’s own black-and-white photograph of Chinyere Evelyn Uku, an African woman from Nigeria who has albinism. On the release of the paperback edition of Skin, Inc., Ellis conducted an interview with Uku about her life, identity, race, and image. This is an excerpt.

Thomas Sayers Ellis: Where were you born and raised? Tell us about your childhood and schooling. Did you grow up in a quiet household or a lively, loud one?

Chinyere Evelyn Uku: I was born in one of the most vibrant yet monumentally confusing places in the world: Lagos, Nigeria. I was born to parents who were very middle class, and we lived in an apartment building in bustling Victoria Island. I was very unaware of my condition, having no real understanding of albinism or any awareness of it. It did not prevent me from watching Muppet Babies so there was no cause for concern. My parents did not put any signs or signals in our home to alert me to the situation, so one can say I was exonerated at that age. I would wake up in the morning, see a cream-colored character, and proceed with my day of larking about and pretending to be productive and doing whatever I had to do to secure my parents’ approval. Life was good. School was also fair, starting with an elementary school of mixed-race children—Indians, Caucasians, Blacks—so then my lack of understanding of the implication of race was further de-emphasized…

TSE: Has anyone, unfamiliar with your condition, ever mistaken you for white? Have you ever been forced to use “A Color” to refer to yourself or your identity?

CEU: On my childhood passport, my eyes and hair are listed as brown, and I remember thinking that they should take into consideration the fact that some people do not quite fit this description of black, brown, or blonde. I have been mistaken for white before. Typically at metro entrances or crowded places depending on the demographic. Most blacks or African Americans can typically identify that I am black or mixed race and feel drawn to me, and the twisted hair and braiding hairstyles I sport from time to time also helps them out. White people in general are initially perplexed and will not stare for more than a few minutes lest they are accused of staring and called rude or politically incorrect or something else they don’t like. They prefer to keep all comments to themselves and avert their eyes to avoid confrontation. You can imagine how shocked I was when someone came out and asked what the hell I was. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but are you Asian, biracial, or some kind of albino?” I laughed and told him what the hell I was, then he laughed too, and we went for ice cream and to see a foreign movie. He paid. I prefer the direct approach, but don’t make it a habit, or I might pop someone in the face. A couple of guys, rather loudly, were trying to determine what I was and yelled out, “No, that’s just a white girl with dreads!” Well, I have no intention of fixing the situation! Blame it all on Mother Nature…

Read the entire interview here.

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“The Christened Mulatresses”: Euro-African Families in a Slave-Trading Town

Posted in Africa, Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, Women on 2015-01-12 21:13Z by Steven

“The Christened Mulatresses”: Euro-African Families in a Slave-Trading Town

The William and Mary Quarterly
Volume 70, Number 2, April 2013
pages 371-398
DOI: 10.5309/willmaryquar.70.2.0371

Pernille Ipsen, Assistant Professor
Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, Department of History
University of Wisconsin, Madison

“MULATRESSE Lene”—or Lene Kühberg, as she is also called in the Danish sources—grew up and lived in a social world created by the Atlantic slave trade. Her name suggests that she was a daughter of slave traders—a Ga woman and a Danish man—and in the 1760s she was cassaret (married) to Danish interim governor and slave trader Frantz Joachim Kühberg. She lived in a European-style stone house in Osu (today a neighborhood in Accra) on the Gold Coast, and she was both racially and culturally Euro-African. The color of her skin and her name alone would have made it clear to everyone who met her that she was related to Europeans, but her clothes would also have marked her difference, and she may even have worn little bells and ornamental keys to show her heritage and connections. European travel writers described how Euro-African women on the Gold Coast who wore such little bells jingled so much that they could be heard at a great distance. Through their Euro-African heritage and marriages to European men, Euro-African women such as Lene Kühberg occupied a particular and important position as intermediaries in the West African slave trade.

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Daughters of the Trade: Atlantic Slavers and Interracial Marriage on the Gold Coast

Posted in Africa, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, Women on 2015-01-12 15:47Z by Steven

Daughters of the Trade: Atlantic Slavers and Interracial Marriage on the Gold Coast

University of Pennsylvania Press
January 2015
288 pages
6 x 9 | 17 illus.
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8122-4673-5
Ebook ISBN: ISBN 978-0-8122-9058-5

Pernille Ipsen, Assistant Professor
Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, Department of History
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Examining five generations of marriages between African women and European men in a Gold Coast slave trading port, Daughters of the Trade uncovers the vital role interracial relationships played in the production of racial discourse and the increasing stratification of the early modern Atlantic world.

Severine Brock’s first language was Ga, yet it was not surprising when, in 1842, she married Edward Carstensen. He was the last governor of Christiansborg, the fort that, in the eighteenth century, had been the center of Danish slave trading in West Africa. She was the descendant of Ga-speaking women who had married Danish merchants and traders. Their marriage would have been familiar to Gold Coast traders going back nearly 150 years. In Daughters of the Trade, Pernille Ipsen follows five generations of marriages between African women and Danish men, revealing how interracial marriage created a Euro-African hybrid culture specifically adapted to the Atlantic slave trade.

Although interracial marriage was prohibited in European colonies throughout the Atlantic world, in Gold Coast slave-trading towns it became a recognized and respected custom. Cassare, or “keeping house,” gave European men the support of African women and their kin, which was essential for their survival and success, while African families made alliances with European traders and secured the legitimacy of their offspring by making the unions official.

For many years, Euro-African families lived in close proximity to the violence of the slave trade. Sheltered by their Danish names and connections, they grew wealthy and influential. But their powerful position on the Gold Coast did not extend to the broader Atlantic world, where the link between blackness and slavery grew stronger, and where Euro-African descent did not guarantee privilege. By the time Severine Brock married Edward Carstensen, their world had changed. Daughters of the Trade uncovers the vital role interracial marriage played in the coastal slave trade, the production of racial difference, and the increasing stratification of the early modern Atlantic world.

Table of Contents

  • Maps
  • Introduction. Severine’s Ancestors
  • Chapter 1. Setting Up
  • Chapter 2. A Hybrid Position
  • Chapter 3. “What in Guinea You Promised Me”
  • Chapter 4. “Danish Christian Mulatresses”
  • Chapter 5. Familiar Circles
  • Epilogue. Edward Carstensen’s Parenthesis
  • Notes
  • Note on Sources
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Acknowledgments
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Say It Loud, I’m Coloured and I’m Proud

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, History, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2015-01-10 23:25Z by Steven

Say It Loud, I’m Coloured and I’m Proud

The Root
2013-10-08

Lindsay Johns

Not black, not African: One man says it’s not easy being “Coloured” in South Africa.

Editor’s note: The spelling of the ethnic term “Coloured,” used within the context of South African history and culture, reflects the writer’s preference.

(The Root) — I know what you’re probably thinking, and to be honest, I don’t blame you. You probably took one look at the title of this piece and thought to yourself, “Hmmm, what kind of misguided individual, brainwashed by self-hate into a feeble attempt at reclaiming the oppressor’s language, would write a thing like that?” Regressive. Jarring. Distasteful, even. A deliberately provocative throwback to the demeaning racial abuse of the Jim Crow era, painfully evocative of segregated water fountains, restaurants, the backs of buses and despicable “Colored Only” signage.

Let me swiftly disabuse you of any such notion. Yes, you read the title correctly. Coloured and proud is what I am. And what’s more, I didn’t put my hands up to make inverted comma signs around the word, as if asking for special dispensation for the benefit of the politically correct brigade, whose knee-jerk reaction is to see it as an intrinsically bad word, without wholly understanding its usage or history in a broader, global context. I’m certainly not trying to be needlessly provocative but instead am trying to make a serious point. Just hear me out before you rush to judge or, worse still, take offense.

Let me make it very clear. I know full well that in an American or a British context, the term “colored” (or “coloured”) is an outdated and undeniably pejorative epithet. On that we are in wholehearted agreement. So you’ll be relieved to hear that I’m not using it in that context; nor would I ever.

My family are Coloured from Cape Town in South Africa. And here’s the rub: In a South African context, “Coloured” is a wholly acceptable word. But, pray tell, I hear you ask, what exactly do I mean by “Coloured”? I can almost hear the confusion in your voice. That’s another word for “black,” right? Or do I mean “light-skinned”? Or does it mean “mixed-race”? In fact, it can mean all and none of the above…

Read the entire article here.

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Why mixed-race comic was ‘born a crime’

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2014-12-29 22:35Z by Steven

Why mixed-race comic was ‘born a crime’

Cable News Network (CNN)
2014-12-04

Jessica Ellis

Teo Kermeliotis

London (CNN) — When it comes to getting ready for a show, fast-rising South African comedian Trevor Noah has it all figured out.

“My ideal setting is I walk from the streets, backstage and straight onto the stage,” says Noah, who last year became the first African comedian to perform on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show in the United States.

“Two minutes and I am on the stage. That way in my head I have gone from my world and then into a social setting with my friends. I want my audience to be my friends — that is when they will get the best comedy. If they see me as a performer, they won’t get the best show.”

At just 28 years old, Noah is already a big name in his country’s fledgling standup scene, as well as a cover star for Rolling Stone South Africa. But despite treating the audience as friends, he’s not afraid of provocative subject matter, with his latest show called “The Racist.”

he son of a black South African woman and a white Swiss man who met when interracial relationships were illegal in South Africa, Noah jokes that he was “born a crime.” On stage, he draws upon his particular life experiences to tackle thorny issues with his funny, and sometimes trenchant, punchlines…

Read the entire article here.

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