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school

art & literature magazine of stuff they don’t teach you

apr 2010 1:2


issue 1:2-don’t mess with my books-apr 2010 SCHOOL magazine’s second issue is dedicated to the Toronto Women’s Bookstore It is a sad time in Toronto. Touted as the Year of the Indie Bookstore Funeral, 2009 wasn’t very kind to the city’s independently-run book stops. With the closing of Pages on Queen St. in August, and the non-profit Toronto Women’s Bookstore’s December call out to community for support in these tough times, it would be a fitting title. The impetus for this magazine couldn’t have come without the inspiration carried on the shelves of the Harbord St. haven. At what other bookstore in Toronto could you go and pick up your monthly dose of queer literary mags, the latest Andrea Smith book, some reading material for your step-sister’s mixedrace five-year old, and poetry by a fierce femme shark brownstargirl? Not only in the material it carries has the bookstore fortified many. TWB has been critical as a staple gathering place for my community’s celebrations, book

launches

for

local

cutting-edge

writers,

guaranteed free sushi and wine when particularly big names were in town launching their work on earmarked evenings. It has hosted countless writing and other skills workshops for women and trans people of colour when nowhere else in this city would even care enough to see a need for them. The bookstore carried my first attempt at publishing, a series of my hand-printed shirts, and a sense of pride in being a young artist good enough to sell. This issue of SCHOOL with brave and beautiful new works is dedicated to a sick friend, the TWB, in hopes you get well soon. Kenji Haakon Tokawa Editor-In-Chief


2 in this issue

!S amaria !

melannie gayle

Invitations

3 5

All of Him

Tanya Pillay

6

grandmothers’ prayer

Cynthia Oka

16

brink

18

a tribute to unconventional rebels !

21

consciousness:pain

Nadijah Robinson

24

MIA-Rebel with a profitable cause !

Aruna Zehra

25

Decolonizing that Shit: “We Won’t Stop” An interview with one of the artists behind last issue’s theme Kenji Haakon Tokawa

33

Artists of 1:2

39


melannie gayle Samaria Clambering down gazing up glancing sideways at another’s history etched into these enclosing walls slipping further into the womb-gorge of this distance. Inherited father far from indigenous, leads the pack still trailing behind. A hidden rogue, he beckons us forward. Faces strained, exertion forms furrows between sweat dampened brows oblivious to tearing ligaments, we traverse. At once a toothsome adventure now an erroneous trek A test perhaps, of our own willfulness. Onward and onward. Look backwards and wave. Racing forward to greet my outstretched fingers is the hairline fracture in the veneer of your perfection. Adjusting my eyes to the dulling shine, I lower my arms no longer anticipating an embrace. Downcast gaze, swallowing the embarrassment of a longed-for affection, an affliction long-since diagnosed as chronic. Wrap my arms around my chest to squeeze out any dying breath making room for new. Bracing against bruising I eke out the mindspace within where I keep treasures of you. Tickling my tongue, the memories pour forth revealing an eroding landscape. Gathering what’s left of what I want to keep I lock your face in a tannery preserved in an infinite pelt. Coated in salt, dipped in brine, you’ll grow ancient remaining current. Never rotting and not forgotten held as a hope not broken. Now before me, you crumble the once impeccable truths between careless fingers

3


I avert my eyes not wanting to witness your fall from this self imposed pedestal.

4


Invitations Almond trespassers must be inundated on a Canoe Broadened Circus Agency (CBSA) Dedication Card. Youth might lose up to four people living at the same address only wandering karma. Each trespasser is reasonable forever his or her only destination. Unarmed through lore, fable tune promptly declines gods, culture and/or moral insistence broadcast into Canary may respond in tune – senile infraction, montage punishments and/or criminal persecution. Instigation from thirst dedication willed beneath usually for CBSA contour purposes, any may be sheared with other gullible descendants to enhance Canadian lies. Further moor inflamation see the Indo Sport (ref. no. CBSA PPU 018), at a puckered lie berry or vista http://indosport.gc.ca.

Invitations has been previously published in melannie’s zine Diamond Stain.

5


6

Tanya Pillay All of Him

Introduction Do you have looney parents? Loveable but looney. Do they like to quote things? Pat quoted all kinds of things. Like “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”. That’s from JULIUS CAESAR, Act II, Scene ii, spoken by Mark Antony. The rest goes like this: Want to know more about what he ate? His mother I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

fried 1 egg so thin, she could cut it up to make 9

The evil that men do lives after them;

sandwiches. Do you think that’s true?

The good is oft interrèd with their bones. So let it be with Caesar.

Pat’s Childhood One of Pat’s favorite movies was Gone with the

And so let it be with Pat.

Wind. Have you seen Gone with the Wind? He called it GWTW for short. Pat often responded to

But that’s not his full name. Do you have a looney

questions with “frankly my dear, I don’t give a

dad with a long name? Check this out:

damn.”

(Photo: Pat as a child)

He loved music of the 50’s & 60’s – like the Beatles.

Pat’s Birth

Are you a Beatles fan?

Patbanathan Danasoo Pillay.

OK, well you might know the Beatles’ theme song

Patbanathan Danasoo Pillay – also known as Pat, for

for the movie Jaws. No? Jaws, the shark movie:

short – was born Feb 17, 1939 in Durban, Natal, in

Suddenly…I’m not half the man I used to be! Pat was

the Republic of South Africa.

very highly educated:

He was the oldest of 9 children living in a 3bedroom house. So of course there was never enough food.

…his school house was on top of a hill.


7 (Photo: Pat - Class 1)

Do you know what microbiology is? (If no: ology = study of; micro = small, bio = life. Study of small life). Do you know how microbiology is used in healthcare? Well, we called Pat a Shit Disturber because he dabbled with stool samples. Do you know what a stool sample is?! Or are you not sure what a stool sample is?!? Pat had an interest and perhaps some involvement in the African National Congress – the ANC.

Want to know about his parents? His father drank

Do you know what the ANC is?

too much and beat his mother…although I’m told she had no visible bruises. Know of any stories like

(if not:…)

that? They were both school teachers. His mother

…The ANC was an anti-apartheid alliance that

made extra money with dressmaking and mending.

fought white supremacy in South Africa and is now

Pat’s Career During university, Pat dropped out of English to study Microbiology. (Photo: microscopic organisms)

the democratically elected governing party. Anti-Apartheid… Do you know what Apartheid is? Or I should say was…? (if not:…) …Apartheid means separateness in Afrikaans. It was a system of legal racial segregation enforced in South Africa until 1994. Pat had an ANC tattoo on his arm...I’m not sure if he just thought it was cool or if he was actually involved. He wore an ANC T-shirt… I don’t know if he got it at an official party meeting or at a souvenir


8 shop. Do you think he got it at an official meeting?

Migration

Or do you think he just bought it?

When Pat’s father was on his dying bed, he called

Marriage Pat met Rashiavathy Pather… (Photo: Rani & Pat on the subway)

Pat over and said “get out of this country if you can.” That chance came in 1973. A microbiology position that couldn’t be filled locally opened up in Simcoe, Ontario. So Pat and Rani moved to Canada where he continued to assess blood, urine, and stool samples. (Photo: Pat in Lab)

…Yes, another long name. She goes by Rani for short… …Pat met Rashiavathy Pather at a beach picnic. She didn’t like that he smoked cigarettes and drank. He said he’d quit but instead downgraded to smoking a pipe. Do you like the smell of pipe tobacco? Or have you never smelled it before? It smells different when it burns.

(Yes, I said stool sample again. Are you a shit disturber too?) He also did community education about germs, pregnancy, and AIDS. He volunteered for the United Way and his local chapter of OPSEU, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.


9 (Photo: Pat at Picket Line)

(Photo: on “fell”: Rani & Pat dancing)

Have you ever been on strike? In South Africa, if a

You know…cause you FALL on it. ?!

protester declared “Amandla!” meaning “power”, the crowd would respond “Awethu!”, meaning that

Want to know why one of Pat’s sisters asked my

the power “is ours.” This comes from the Xhosa1

mom who the father was? His family didn’t think

2

and Zulu traditions of call-and-response.

anyone would marry him because he was born with some kind of reproductive defect. He got it

Becoming a Parent Soon after coming to Canada, Rani “fell” pregnant.

surgically fixed, but he didn’t tell anyone, so when Rani … fell pregnant, one of his sisters asked my mom, “So who’s the father?”. Pat called me his “pride and joy”.

1

Pronounced as Khosa or Hosa in English. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xhosa_language, http://www.merriam-webster.com/cgibin/audio.pl?9xhosa01.wav=Xhosa 2 http://www.amandladevelopment.org/pages/learn_01.html


10 “Omnius gallus tre patria divisi.” (Photo: Family w/Toddler)

Can you guess what that means? “All of Gaul is divided into 3 parts” Cause that’s a really useful phrase…in case you ever need to speak or write Latin… This was written by Julius Caesar after he conquered & enslaved much of Western Europe including Belgium and Switzerland. Speaking of Belgium & Switzerland…Any idea how he would get some of my chocolate for himself? He

He taught me how to brush my teeth, how to wash

would say “Doll, give me a small taste.”

my face. He taught me how to wipe my bum with less paper by folding it.

Pat had a hard time with my picky eating. As I doddled with my food, he would say “give me some

Do you fold the paper over to save trees? Uh-

of your food so if you get sick, I get sick too.”

oh…does that make us shit disturbers too?! Raising a Child At first, I called him Appa, which means “Dad” in Tamil, but I heard everyone else calling him Pat, so I called him Pat. He didn’t mind, so it stuck. He taught me all kinds of things like “how do doctors kill bacteria?”…and I’d say “antibiotics” because he quizzed me like this when I was in diapers. How do surgeons put people to sleep before operations? “Anesthetic”. Pat taught me some Latin. Do you know any Latin?

He insisted “you’ve got to eat to fill your guts because you don’t know when the next meal is coming.” Maybe that’s why I can’t stop eating?! Pat loved mangoes. Do you know where mangoes grow? Can you guess? According to Pat, mangoes grow “Wherever man goes.”


11 He named me Tanya but he called me all kinds of other names. Cookie Monster, Doll, Bunch Doll,

One cousin said it continued when she came to live

Doll Ma. Ma!

with us Canada.

He always said “Everything I do, I do for you, Doll.

(Photo: Australian flag).

Everything I have is yours”. Sound familiar? (if not: you’re lucky you didn’t have to live with that kind of pressure!) Raising a Teenager We were more like friends, peers, or even siblings at times. We didn’t have a typical parent-child relationship. He teased me a lot – he called me a whiner, cry baby. He said “you’re made of crackers, you cry at

Ya. Ever heard that story before?

the drop of a hat.” My cousins’ family faxed Pat’s supervisor at the He often said “You've got so much, you don't know

hospital to warn of his behaviour 20 years ago.

what you have”…

They tried to press charges but gave up because of our different locations.

Did your parents ever say that?…it’s still true in my case… Pat’s secret Pat wasn’t perfect.

From this point forward our family in Australia broke contact with us. Afterward, we referred to the “accusations” as “the Australia business” or “this business with Anjila and

There were accusations of him … interfering with

Bevashni” or “this Anjila incident”.

my cousins. My mom’s nieces. And life went on as usual, perhaps with less patience While I was on exchange in Quebec – my mother visited her family in Australia. My mom’s sister’s 2 daughters - my cousins - told my mom that Pat had … interfered with them in South Africa.

for Pat.


12 (Photo: adult family picture)

He introduced me to theatre, musical theatre. He wanted me to be well rounded. When choosing my education and career path, I was torn between science and drama. Pat said “There will never be a black Juliet”…he was wrong…it was 1990’s, small town; … however, he said I would “always have a job in healthcare because people are always getting sick.” So, I started with a science undergrad just to see if I could do it and sure enough, I flunked out of

Talking about the accusations One weekend Pat came to pick me up from university and we ended up driving in a blizzard. The trip was obviously going to take hours so I finally got the nerve to ask him if the accusations were true. I said “How could you?”. He responded with a typical rant: “I don’t know what these people want from me, why do they want to destroy me” and so on. So I asked “Are they lying?” after a long pause, he said very calmly, “Why would they lie?' When I tried to continue the conversation, he reverted back to his frustrated dismissal.

chemistry in first term…while rehearsing Jesus Christ Superstar.

Retirement In the late 90’s – Pat’s job in healthcare was eliminated by Mike Harris. (to CENTRE) So he got a job as a security guard in Brantford where he enjoyed free popcorn & movies. He liked advising the “kids” in the parking lot. He would leave the top button of his uniform open to show his gold necklace and pendant so the kids would know he was cool. He also got $100 a week for collecting abandoned shopping carts. He was very proud of having fished one out of a ravine using rope.

Guiding his daughter

One day I asked what he thought of me — at the

Pat loved the bible. He said “the Bible is the greatest

time I was doing a bit of unpaid acting and also some

work of fiction ever written”.

freelance editing. He thought I could have done more with my life like become a doctor or lawyer.


13 Do your parents have unmet expectations of you?

(Photo: last passport photo).

But he was glad I could sleep in and take time off. He was happy we could visit more. I said if he didn’t get help about what he’d done -even just for his own peace of mind, he would get cancer and die. Ya, I said that. I was belligerent like that. He said “is that all there is to me?” His complaints were more about chemotherapy than cancer. He would say “I'm having a rough Cancer

time…chemotherapy is like rocket fuel…I don’t

In 2003, Pat was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins

know what’s going to get me first: the cancer, or the

Lymphoma.

treatment.”

I’m pretty sure he forgot what I’d said earlier about

He had this passport photo taken in hopes of seeing

cancer…

his family in South Africa one last time.

It is a slow type of cancer that’s harder to treat. He

A couple of months before he died, Pat asked me to

had a huge tumour on his neck that spread around

lend him 6000 dollars…but he wouldn’t tell me what

his throat and down his chest. He would say things

for. I thought maybe he’d been gambling or wanted

like “You're going to cry a lot when I'm gone.”

to send money to South Africa.

He was good patient, but very demoralized.

What would you do? Would you give it to him? I gave it to him.


14 (Photo: Last family picture)

afraid. You can relax. We will always take care of you. I later brushed his teeth with water because I know he liked to have a clean mouth. We found out he had a shower on Saturday. He died Tuesday morning – November 23, 2004. So…guess what he used the $6000 for.

The Loan After he died, I found out from the bank statements Pat’s demise Our last conversation at the hospital went like this: He said “are you scared?” I said “...no, are you?” He said “No.” We were both lying. The last thing he said to me that I could understand was “...I need you most now...”

that he’d put my $6000 toward the mortgage. I think this was a last-ditch effort to own his own home during his lifetime. But even with my money, he was still $2000 short, and it didn’t matter either way because the mortgage insurance would have paid any outstanding balance. Of course, he didn’t live to pay me back. How frustrating is that?! My money gone for nothing. Would you have given him the money anyway? The Urn

The last thing I said to him that I think he

Pat had arranged for his ashes to be divided into 2

understood was…

urns – one for us to keep in Canada, and one to take to South Africa.

“Don’t worry about anything. Just relax. We won't leave you. You don't have to struggle. We didn't

On each urn, he had inscribed “Pat Pillay - All of

make it to China or the Mediterranean, did we.

me”

Maybe in another lifetime. We love you very much. You gave me a very good life, you taught me everything I needed to know. We love you very much and we're not going to leave you. Don't be


15 (Photo: urn)

One year later, I took his ashes…half of them…to South Africa to be buried with his mother and sister, as requested. His surviving family knows of the accusations but we don’t speak about it.

JULIUS CAESAR 2 (Act III, Scene ii, continued) … But here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause. What cause withholds you then to mourn for him? My question is….knowing him as you do, do you

O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,

think he intended this as a joke? Cause it was only

And men have lost their reason! Bear with me.

half of him in each urn. Or did he just like the song?!

My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, And I must pause till it come back to me.

(Photo: urn close-up)

Conclusion Thank you for sharing this story with me, and for getting to know Pat the way I do.


16

Cynthia Oka grandmothers’ prayer ! the daughter rises obsidian

skull

in hands her liver glass the blood heart beats rhythms sweaty with need she is knitting a noose with the fabric of our wishings what will we tell her what can we promise for that which is taken there is no right of return we give and are given the daughter is stone speaking her fractures are showing skin transparent veins mapping our trespasses the tremors of our hope reverberate in her pit we are watchful prophets without scriptures

there is only a body

supple enough to war for deliverance the latitude of her stretched arms guard our burning fields we buried a scythe

deep

in her belly a moon shaped harvest of want blood calls for blood. the daughter weeps we drink wet pearls reminiscent of earth when it began


we are behind her, beside and beneath her our hope crescent never full

17


18

brink ! love this flesh love it ginger love it sage love it diligent

it don’t always come easy

love welded skin understand the fissures bone deep unspeakable love young knees awkward ankles love falling on the same spot over and over again love ‘em root love ‘em gentle trace your finger around that spot remember it love smell of sweat on dirty uniform love it with a hint of honey hold it stick it don’t hesitate to touch it love broken tooth love caverns in that place where jaw meets neck love pull love smoke love through love this flesh love tongue stumbling over syllables of empire love carpal tunnel love kidney love lung love womb hacked open spilling her content another war another drama another dead mama love elbows love knuckles love under the breasts love fierce love shout love bruising peeling breaking understand the streets are unforgiving the softest organs must learn to become shields


love prayer love simple the unadorned face with blemishes ridges unwanted hair love it the waist thighs navel cocooned in folds the nooks where wanting rests love it love it wide love it luminous love it light love it holy palms soles of feet rude to the caress love it love the calloused edge pepper it with kisses salt it with tears recognize the work of clearing love squeeze love breath love without contract love with some lemon chase down the electric bite of multiculty women cunty put a flower on genocide and call it heritage love brown every shade love pussy love her courage love her shredding ripping coming whole again love her monsoon love her drought love her bejewelled love her choked with a gaspipe love her loyal love her fleshly write her poems love this flesh lift a prayer when the sky burns love humble

19


nose to earth love it love her love this

20


a tribute to unconventional rebels ! !

21 Motherhood in the midst of colonization is an act of defiance. -Dana Erekat, Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology

belly thick

fist

grows out of a desperate waist grasping straw weight the right to remembrance even love, a little less disposable body swell under no man’s jurisdiction invites contempt vultures on a hot day what death can they visit have we not died already in the metropolitan undertow with nobody’s permission or profit mending life bold as sin. remoulding bones though skin is braided to barbed wreath ‘round the president’s neck etching deep past cornea, thick matter mixed of ancestral blood and fingernails colour in muted version of freedom: brown bodies bred for wringing and wasting, adjusting price of war, cost of labour the lowest bid


tenderness is not our portion. punching holes through nuclear patriotic smog, bigger than missile graves

my uterus shouts

louder than an anti-war march megaphone for wombs razed barren by bullets and buildings and comparative advantage – call it development. welfare reform. climate control. consumer choice. i bring life, a poem squeezed out of sterilizations and secrets. though generations shatter like waves on foreign shores, the space between these winged hips is home. shadow smudging bright petrified air of first world entitlement: a humble body reckless enough to petition the future with breath freely drawn - living fleshier than paper i am continuing my people. my daughters and sons

22


they wear my shade out loud, and have no need for angels.

23


Nadijah Robinson

24

consciousness : pain it hurts and i don’t know whether this is the pain of being unloved enduring day to day the pain of self-sacrifice or if this is the pain of my past of consciousness, of opening eyes to blinding fluorescence after a lifetime of sleep. the pain of historical wounds whose scars run still, reaching my lifeline, my present, snaking across it like trains to paradise. only these lead me on, eyes open wider still, unbearably to the truth of my ancestors’ existence of their perseverance and their sacrifice how many lashes, lost limbs, burnings alive, medical experiments, lynchings did they endure for me, with dignity? i count how many long lash-ridges i feel under the pads of my eye as i look inward toward that everlasting pain. i lose count near one million, and start again. over and over i swallow their stories, often untold, and i wonder: would speaking them lighten my load? would hearing those tears and seas of blood pay homage to their name? does talk of genocide honour the dead? i want to pay, to speak their name with bitter pride slick on my tongue so that they might hear that familiar song and know some comfort now they are home. i want to scream their stories out, but they are made of linens in dank marsh mud and stinking brew and to translate would be to stand here legs wide, bent at the knee, stable, leaning forward straight path from my bowels to my throat and to bellow long and low from the depths of my diaphragm a coarse woven song. hours later, the audience left would be frozen in place, tears and tongues on the floor, with similar cores of tight pits of anger growing silently in their centres nothing would be the same.


25

Aruna Zehra M.I.A - Rebel with a profitable cause: An alternative look to the “Third world” turned “First world” princess

around. Being a diasporic, refugee and “world town”

Imagine colours,

patterns and designs that you would never even fathom being mixed together, sounds that either make you want

to jump around and punch someone in the face with all the

citizen as she likes to call herself5, she seems to have what it takes to become successful in a time of thoughtless and generic Hannah Montana’s and Britney Spears wannabe’s. Her mix of originality, testimony and individuality has given her access to a crowd of consumers who are desperate and thirsty for something different. As a visible brown body, with a British accent and survival story of a traumatic “Third world” civil war past, she’s a fresh breath of air giving a healthy dose of “culture” and rebellion to the masses. M.I.A’s herstory is centered

energy you get from it,

around a civil war that does not get as much

or throw the CD in a fire to never hear noise like

comes from is the struggles of Tamil Eelam. Her

that again. Whichever way you are swinging, there is

father, being a founding member of EROS (Eelam

attention as Darfur or Rwanda, the conflict that she

no ignoring the in-your-face imagery of political messages and unique and new sound that M.I.A is

Cover art of Kala, M.I.A’s 2007

revered for. The connection between image and sound is crucial for M.I.A, as an artist, she incorporates both worlds, where the imagery she uses in her concerts, videos and album art, allows for more interpretation of lyrics that most “you tube” users are still trying to make sense of.3 She has been on the music scene since 2003, and has had two albums both with very different types of success4, one mix tape and lots of artwork roaming 3

This is an observation that I made while you tubing her videos on www.youtube.com , many users that commented on her videos said they either didn’t understand or comprehend what she was saying or talking about, but loved her music anyways. 4 Arular stayed on the independent and low-key scene, while Kala made it onto the more mainstream realm, which she’s now up for a grammy.

album. Being a “world town” citizen is a term that she seems to have coined, and has used it numerous times in her interviews and songs.

5


26

Revolutionary Organization of Students) is where

message and themes, has revealed herself to be

her first album Arular and its inspiration come from.

just another co-opted pawn in the system of

Kala, which is M.I.A’s second and more popular,

capitalism, a system that was built on slavery and the

widely known album, was named after and inspired

continual subjugation of colonized minds and bodies,

by her mother.6

and that allows for the

While she takes on the self-imposed responsibility and label of being the “voice of the 7

civilian refugee”, and additionally the entire “third world” within her music, M.I.A has successfully managed to accumulate an array of beats, sounds, cultures and people, and meshed them into a globalized and digestible buffet for Western consumer culture. In researching for this paper, I found it very difficult to come across any type of critique on M.I.A. It seems the world has naively

subliminal and provocative messages of rebellion, violence, war, terrorism, anti-colonialism, anticapitalism and empowerment … there

had to be a catch

accepted her into their homes, minds and gyrating hips. But I assume there are those who listen to M.I.A’s music and hear and understand the subliminal and provocative messages of rebellion, violence, war, terrorism, anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism and empowerment. Those messages were the main reasons why I obsessed over her first album, Arular. I had finally found another brown woman who was not obsessed over bleaching her skin, or pretending that she was whiter than her colonizers. She is a strong, intelligent and beautiful South Asian woman, who sings about something other than Bollywood! There had to be a catch. When Kala came out and more specifically after M.I.A got her visa to the USA, a lot seemed to change, and her politics became more apparent as well. M.I.A, although seemingly “revolutionary” within her music and “power to the people” 6

SPIN Magazine, 60 Solarski, Matthew. Pitchfork Media. http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/news/142861-miaresponds-to-pro-terrorism-accusations 7

perpetuation of privileged bodies in spaces of white and western supremacy. That being said, she is unique by being one of the only South Asian woman in the realm of mainstream pop culture, allowed entrance to somewhere that has never been open to us ever before: outside of Bollywood. Within this reflection piece I intend to uncover a side of M.I.A that many do not think to raise, a side that will question whether or not she is helping her “people” by representing them, or in fact simply playing into the binary of the “Third world/First world” and profiting from the generalization of the “Third world” story. The authenticity and ‘cred’ that her refugee story gives her makes her attractive to those from diasporic and oppressed realms, seeming to represent their stories and lives. At the same time, her colourful, sexy, non-threatening, fun and loud sound allows for that mainstream, pop culture audience to take part


in the fist raising of ‘pulling up the poor’, while

system of capitalism, patriarchy and social

simultaneously drinking a Starbucks coffee (or some

constructions of race. Unfortunately, in a

27

other product that would make it ironic and contradictory for them to be yelling those lyrics due to the interconnected sites of oppression and exploitation that provides that product for them at a cheap price).

helping her “people” by

representing them, or in fact simply playing

into the binary of the “Third world/First world” and profiting from

the generalization of the “Third world” story

capitalist society based on production and profit, it is complicated for us to understand music as anything outside of that. The truth and expression that we feel through forms of art, such as music, is translated into what is popular, sexy and can sell to a mass amount of people, from an array of backgrounds. I am not arguing that M.I.A was or currently is outside Using various interviews, music videos, sound, lyrics, concert footage and articles written on her life, I will look at the transition between her first and second album, in an effort to understand the trend of depoliticization due to her popularization, and how this in turn has lead to a more in depth analysis and understanding of her work and politics as feeding into a capitalist and racist system of generalizing the “Third world” experience and profiting from the dichotomy between the “First” and “Third” worlds. It is obvious that all artists, or at least those who perform and are considered musical artists within the mainstream, are implicated in the profitable market of music, which depends on a

of this reality, but what she represents to the people she speaks for is something that hides her position as a money making artist, just like everyone else. M.I.A has managed to rise up from the independence of being unknown, to now having herself pitched as a rebellious weirdo who can make you feel like you are part of a revolution. On Kala, she speaks of warlords, does a track with the artist Afrikan Boy about poverty, and talks about oppression in a variety of ways that is felt across the world. Yet she is not as blatantly political as she was on Arular. She explains this transformation, even on a personal note:


“I had to morph…I'm going to get into more trouble for saying this, but it was morphing from being

many people in situations happening both within

Video for Galang, on the Arular album

!

and outside of the

28

constructed “Third world”. She

lyrically political into just

serves as a portal to

living political and being

“Othered” experiences, while

comfortable with that….It's

acting as a testimonial voice,

kind of like what people

she is used as an authentic

say about money: they say

portal of access to the cultural

that money talks but

music, beats, images and stories

!

wealth whispers, and I

where her audience can pick

think you can apply that to

and choose what they would

being political…That

like to get out of it.

approach may have paid

Her candy-coating of

off: early this summer, she

real, traumatic and violent

finally gained her work visa,

issues can be argued to be apart

and celebrated by relaxing in her New York

of a certain type of “terrorist-chic” culture10. Similar

apartment.”8

to how the appropriation and co-optation of the

So what does this mean? And who really

symbolic Kuffiyahs (which are a cultural symbol that

cares? She’s doing her thing, making her cash - doing

has most recently been associated with Palestinian

what she’s gotta do! Her music is still full of brilliant

resistance and freedom) as simple “peace scarves”

samples, from the Clash to Bollywood movies my

and guerrilla face masks incorporated into our

grandmother used to watch when I was younger.9

sweatshirts that have now lead to fashionable full

But based on what? Compromising who? We must

face zipped up hoodies that we wear to school;

involve ourselves deeper, there is more going on.

M.I.A, along with Urban Outfitters and those guys

M.I.A, as a woman, but more specifically as a

selling Che Guevara t-shirts at street festivals, are

South Asian woman, represents a lot to both the

vendors of the ‘terrorist-chic’ culture. They’ve

mainstream and “alternative” scenes. By also self-

created a commodity out of the idea of rebellion,

proclaiming herself as the voice of the “civilian

empowerment and freedom fighting. In doing this,

refugee” and singing about the experiences of “Third

these meaningful symbols and resistance movements

world-ers” everywhere, what she says also

are reduced to superficial images, ready for

perpetuates and influences the understandings about

consumption and replication without having to engage with the politics behind them. M.I.A’s

8

Nekesa Mumbi Moody. Little India Times. http://www.littleindia.com/news/148/ARTICLE/1861/2007-0902.html 9 Paper Planes is a sample of the Clash’s “Straight to Hell” and Jimmy is a sample from a 1968 Bollywood film entitled “Disco Dancer”.

10

Popular culture term for terrorist chic, it is not yet an academically recognized term, to my knowledge, just something that came up in my research, and made sense to this analysis.


29

intentions are irrelevant here, as the effects have

motives behind this, it does not seem to help

overshadowed what her initial intent might have

educate anyone on the plights of those in the

been. She has gained credibility because of her story

“Third World”, but instead, reinforces colonial and

and experience, which legitimizes what she is selling

Western constructions of the “Third world” and its

(her music and testimony) as authentic. She is not an

people, and the entirety of Africa as one single

outsider from the “Third world” community, she is a

identifiable space. In Discourse on Colonialism,

product of it, and intends to speak for it.

Cesaire asks us to “change our way of thinking” of colonialism, that colonial domination is dependent

M.I.A, along with Urban Outfitters and those guys selling Che Guevara t-shirts at street festivals, are vendors of the

‘terrorist-chic’ culture In all of her glory, M.I.A is guilty of doing something that colonial empires and imperial rhetoric have been doing to people of colour, Aboriginal peoples and oppressed peoples for a long time; generalizing and amalgamating cultures, histories and experiences in one big pot of a designated label, stripping the meaning and unique political character of resistance. Songs such as Bamboo Banga mesh all third world countries into one piece of bamboo, talking about a generalized experience of corrupt governments, impoverished people, and other general “Third world” issues. She does the same within her interviews, both on screen and in print, when talking about a generic, magical place of “Africa”.11 Although I’m not aware of her

11

This is an interpretation based on readings and hearing numerous interviews with her. There were several times where she did this, both in her interviews and during concerts.

on the colonized to think a certain way about themselves and vice versa. (Cesaire 27) Cesaire asks us to “overthrow the master’s ideologies” and redefine how we understand ourselves in a colonial world. (Cesaire 9) M.I.A, within her perpetuation of the “First” and “Third” world binaries, adheres to the colonial system of white and western supremacy “PLO Pali Tuch (PLO Palestinian Garb)” – Amazon Germany


against which Cesaire asks us to fight. The

consumed), whereas the West has one up in

circulation of colonial ideology, which is one that

every other category (power, supremacy,

constructs a racial and cultural hierarchy as Cesaire

money, etc.).

30

explains, is as necessary to colonial rule and domination as any other component that feeds the

The visuals that I speak of are within her music

colonial system. (Cesaire 27)

videos, her album art and what flashes behind her while she performs live at concerts. In her music

Songs such as Bamboo Banga mesh all third

world countries into one piece of bamboo

video, Sunshowers from her first album Arular, M.I.A finds herself in a jungle, where guerrilla training Sunshowers video.

Another part of that racial and cultural hierarchy can be found within the popular culture and music scene. Through racist and stereotypical constructions of people of colour, part of the colonial imagination is the exotification and hypersexualization of brown/black bodies. Bodies of colour have always been the site of consumption, where whiteness is the unaccountable consumer. M.I.A, as a once marginalized and “Othered” body, has managed to reach the global stage of being heard. This is where the visual and optical

Bono of band U2 in Mali.

components that she gives her audience are important to the overall experience of her art.

is happening, and an army of young girls are living

Imagery has been a key factor for neo-colonial

and getting ready to fight. They are all young

development projects in their attempts to “Save

women, from a South Asian country, completely

Africa”, and many scholars have questioned and

voiceless, and simply following in M.I.A’s footsteps.

fought the racist discourses around development

There is no explanation of what these girls are

and aid. As with M.I.A’s case, it is important to

doing, the context of their situation, what M.I.A is

recognize that “Othered” bodies (the refugees and

trying to describe, or anything about their individual

the “Third world citizens”) are on top of the

stories or experiences, but rather, only her

“Cultural food chain” (our cultures can be

interpretation of the scene, speaking for all of them.


31

In another video, Boyz, she is the only woman,

to gain within a consumerist culture, and then

among an array of Black men, of all ages, again, none

leaving behind those Trinidadian and Jamaican

of them speaking, but only dancing for the camera. In

people who danced for her in her video makes her

this song, she uses dancehall music as her beat and

just like any other artist, appropriating and utilizing

background. How are these examples different than

racialized bodies to achieve a uniqueness

Bono having small African children’s picture scrolling along the screen behind him while he performs? Does M.I.A’s “third world” status make it more acceptable for her to exotify the same people she’s supposed to be representing? Colonialism only functions if and when we perform our racialization. If we do not fulfill this need, then we let the colonial project die. She fulfills the colonial project within her performativity and through her exotification of the “Other” and, in turn, herself. Her access to “Third

She fulfills the

colonial project within

her performativity and through her exotification of the “Other” and,

in turn, herself.

world” and “Othered” bodies and her usage of them that isn’t found within the regular music scene, which gives her the individuality that she’s looking for. Perhaps this is why she has found it necessary to engage in the ongoing colonial project of development, in her construction of a school in Liberia, which she is doing in partnership with Foster Parents Plans and 4REAL.12 I wonder how this school building project is any different than that of the “Roadrunners” she sings about on Kala. As mentioned before, within interviews and her songs, she also is guilty of homogenizing the huge array of African countries, cultures, languages and people into one huge entity, and as a performer whose main audience is not from the “Third world” or “Africa”, she perpetuates the Western and colonial construction of Africa to an audience who is not part of that story to know better. Before her performance of “Hussel” in Lowlands in 2007, she 12

M.I.A’s profile on 4REAL website: http://www.4real.com/profile.asp?p=mia


32

tells the crowd to get ready, as she was going “to

Cesaire, Aime. “Discourse on Colonialism.”

take them to Africa”.13 Here is an example of M.I.A

New York. 1972

giving an entrance to her audience, through her

Nekesa Mumbi Moody. “M.I.A America.” Little India

identity as a “Third world” citizen (which she

Times. September 2nd, 2007. December 10th, 2008.

assumably equates to then having special permission

http://www.littleindia.com/news/148/ARTICLE/1861/

to grant access to all “Third world” places to

2007-09-02.html

whoever she wants) to consume and enjoy “Africa”. Her gift of “Africa” definitely does not stop there.

Nguyen, Brad. “On Terrorist Chic…”. Brad tries

Her new clothing line, following in suit with

understanding critical theory. May 8th,

American Apparel, gives her consumers another

December 10th, 2008.

shot at wearing “Afrika”, for $85.00 a pair.14

<http://bradtriesunderstandingcriticaltheory.wordpre

In this essay, I have taken a closer look at the

2008.

ss.com/2008/05/08/on-terrorist-chic/>

“Third world” turned “First world” princess M.I.A and how her usage and exotification of “Third

Solarski, Matthew. "M.I.A. Responds to Pro-

world” peoples, images and music makes her similar

Terrorism Accusations." Pitchfork Media.

to any other artist who is looking for a more

7th, 2008. December 10th, 2008.

“worldly” sound. Her reliance on the exotification of

<http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/news/14286

herself, “Othered” people and the perpetuation of

1-mia-responds-to-pro-terrorism-accusations>

the “Third world” and “Africa” as an amalgamated entity makes her a bigger danger to those she’s trying to “represent” than their initial colonizers. This is another example of how the capitalism and racism that fuels the music industry is a space where only “accessible” and easily consumable “Othered” person can enter its realm, in a way in which the hierarchies of power and privilege always succeed. Even over those turbulent drum and bass sounds, and a really loud British accent coming out of a brown girl shouting for freedom. Works Cited: Ali, Lorraine. “M.I.A. POW!” SPIN Magazine. December 2008. (Pgs. 57-62) 13

Performance/concert in Lowlands in 2007:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjCyFqWghsw 14

SPIN magazine, 58

August


Kenji Haakon Tokawa Decolonizing that Shit: “We Won’t Stop” An interview with one of the artists behind last issue’s theme

It's a cold day.

representing the classical western ideal of knowledge and

The ground is damp and ready for spring. Although I'm

white student complete with UofT team jacket strides

just here to get an interview, I help carry supplies, a

proudly under them. Except, since last January, dark

bucket from which protrude four rolled up pillars of

brown skin and spikey black hair have been painted over

paper. There are five of us on our way to the archway

the white features of the student. As we reach the

holding up Queens Park Avenue Southbound at

archway to continue the job, I speak with Dani, one of

Wellesley. The colonial spires of the Ontario Legislature

the artists who started transforming this mural last

greet us beyond the bridge, while behind us Canada's

winter.

wisdom float between greco-roman columns. A masculine

largest academic authority towers. The colourful full-wall murals under the archway have been a staple of the

"That initial mural has been there since the late 80s,

university campus long before I had the privilege of

early 90s, it's been there a long time. Why on earth

attending classes here. Painted on one wall is some sort

would you want to change it?"

of reenactment of Where the Wild Things Are with Toronto's skyline in the background.

Today, it is the

other wall facing it we are concerned with. Greek gods

Dani: I think that's what's interesting about it.


34

There's that kind of justification for a lot of spaces on campus, a lot of projections of whiteness on campusâ&#x20AC;Śis that it's historic. It's sort of harkening

Dani and sling-shooter.

back to the good old days. But there's absolutely nothing neutral about them. They project not only images of what campus was once, but definitely it projects the image of what it wants campus to be. That's the purpose of a lot of displays of public art. Sort of a display of what you want the space to look like.

They project not only images of what campus was once, but definitely it projects the image of what it wants campus to be. "Like the ideal? The goal?" Dani: Yeah, there is no doubt in my mind that that's an ideal image of what the administration wants this space to look like. And I feel like what we're doing is kind of interesting 'cause its fucking with that image but it's also kind of reimaging that image. "â&#x20AC;Śwhat it could be?" In the bucket I'm carrying, the four rolls of paper are actually two-meter tall images of a different take on student life - all featuring students of colour. Dani: Yeah, 'cause it's kind of what we want it to be. And its not what it is, a lot of the time. Some of them are. Like there's someone reading their tuition bill, which is very real. And someone in transit, which is very real. But there's also queer people of

colour resisting, reading really radical texts. Which is not necessarily what this university space is for a lot of us. For me, this university space has been a really violent, terrible space to be in. A super euro-centric space to be in. But I think it's kind of worth while to reimagine - in an artistic way - of what you wish it was. "So how has it been received? Have you heard any feedback?" Dani: [laughing] I have heard that someone got arrested for it. Later last year, upon attempting a large-scale take-over with spray paint and stencils, authorities caught a member of the crew and confiscated all their materials. Some of the work that took place before the bust is still visible on top of one of the Greek goddesses. I think its just really telling that what we're doing is very much a threatening stance for administration.


I'm really interested mostly to see what they're

So at this point, there's going to be

going to do with it now. Because, like we said, it's

nothing really left of the original, at the end of

been up for so long. And its been totally neglected,

today.

it's peeling, it's not even finished.

There's not going to be much left.

A lot of the shading and stuff was half done, and it

"…with these four paste-ups?"

35

was just abandoned. It was left there. What I'm really interested to see is - now there's an actively

Dani: With these paper paste-ups, you're not gonna be able to see much of what was originally there.

Remnants of stencil.

it’s kind of worth while to reimagine – in an artistic way – of what you wish it was. "You haven't heard any other feedback about it? Any people talking about it?" Dani: Yeah, I've heard people say, 'Have you seen this thing? Someone changed it! It's super cool" and I've always been like "Yeah! I saw it too." [laughing] Yeah, there's something kind of fun about leaving it open. "Sounds like you know what you're doing. Have you resisting artistic stance taken - whether all of a sudden it will become a priority to fix it. Whether all of a sudden, they'll care. "Well, it’s the end of March now. You guys did the initial queer black woman [over the white student], last year…in the winter. And it hasn't had anything covering it since. Nobody has come and tried to take it down, or do you know?" Dani: No. But I think that was also a bit more subtle.

done any similar projects to this before?" Dani: Yes. Alex and I did a bunch of trans-awareness stencilling in UofT bathrooms and change rooms. "What were those like?" Dani: They were really great. Alex's a really amazing artist. There's ones that say 'gender bender' in really beautiful language and just have really androgynous people with their arms out. Ones that say 'trans-


inclusive space?'. Alex did a really beautiful one. We were really pissed after flat-fees went through.

Dani: Yeah, absolutely. If it's not

Because

threatening anybody, then it's totally acceptable.

it

went

through

just

totally

under

36

everyone's radar. Al did an amazing one; it was the words 'flat-fees' in the shape of a tank, running over

At this point, we've reached the site. A few look-outs are

a student, running backwards, and the student's body

stationed on either side of the archway to alert about

was made out of the word 'student'.

suspicious-looking situations. After two attempts to put up the first paste-up, hands are covered with drying

'Flat-fees' is a new mandatory tuition rate that all

wheat paste and are starting to hurt from the cold, but

students have to pay at the university. It is a normal full-

finally manage to get up the image of the masked sling-

time student rate, but even if you are taking a decreased

shooter. There's no time to stand back and admire the

number of classes for (unrecognized) disability and/or

work, and as the next roll is pulled to put over the next

lower-income reasons, you still have to pay the full 'flat-

coating of paste, there seems to be some commotion.

fee' that a full-time student would. Part-time also has a flat-fee of a full part-time fee. Many in opposition say it

The look-out to the right is yelling something: "Shit". Shit?

closes the doors on post-secondary education for people

Ok, that's not good.

from marginalized communities. They leave everything under there, walking assertively, Dani: It was gorgeous and we put that up all over Victoria College, just 'cause that's where it was really empty, and that's where we were. And it was gone in 48 hours. Power-washed. Really, really fast.

the words ‘flat-fees’ in the shape of a tank, running over a student But I think that's what's interesting, is that the same thing happened with the stencilling of a couple friends of mine. You know, you see on the front of UC [University College] all the time in chalk, you'll see like, "the ski club is going on a …something…" and it will be up there for weeks. There was like some sort of cake club or something that was in front of Robarts [Library] for months. "Or UofT Pride."

Reading boy.


but not too assertively, away from the scene. I lose track

shape our world,' or something like that.

37

of the look-outs, and hope they will meet up safely down the road. I take this break to pepper the ever-ready Dani

"Who said that?"

with more questions. Dani: Some German guy [laughing]... "So are there any other graf artists that you follow in the city?"

Maybe it's just because I'm rambunctious or something, but for me art is always more interesting

Dani: Not particularly, no. I don't actually know

when it's not allowed. Because it's just always more

anything about street art at all. I know a lot of

active, like it's reclaiming something. It's about what

people who are into it and can recognize other

you had to do to get that art there. Because after

people's work. [Speaking of herself] No, not at all.

we got caught last time when we were doing this, some people where like, 'well why don't you just

If it's not threatening anybody, then it's totally acceptable.

apply to the Hart House board or whatever, and be

"What do you think that artists could be, or should

it through officially.' But that's not what this is about.

be to this city?"

As soon as it becomes something that you ask

like, I have this idea for a new mural that's more representative of the student body' and then you get

permission for, then it becomes their political Dani: Hmm, such a complicated question. Because

project. And I don't want it to be their political

like, 'what is art?'.

project. It's my political project of reclamation. And Reading boyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reading material.

Everything, everything that I do, I try to do from a sort of libertory stance. Dani and crew don't get back to the archway that day, figuring it's too risky. Two days later, I am passing by the area and check in on the initial paste-up they put up. Greeting me are the rest of the images, a bit wrinkled from the haste of the paste, but still proudly defiant. I remember Dani's sentimentâ&#x20AC;Ś Dani: I remember when Alex and I were doing this,

as soon as I let it go through their boards and all

he sent me a quote - something like, 'art is not just

their rules, then it becomes something about

meant to adorn, it is the hammer with which we

'diversity lives here, U of T' and it becomes more a


project of selling the university.

we do it again? Should we do it again?'. Next time, you get smarter. That's what it is. No

"Does diversity live at the university?"

matter what you're doing, you just get smarter every time.â&#x20AC;˘

Dani: Absolutely not! Resistance lives at the university. But I'm really not interested in repping this space on their terms.

As soon as it becomes something that you ask permission for, then it becomes their political project. "And after this? Any new projects on the horizon?" Dani: Yeah. We won't stop. I remember last time we got stopped and me and Adena were talking: 'Should

38


39 Artists of 1:2 Cynthia Oka is a Javanese-Chinese poet, popular educator and community organizer currently residing in Vancouver, Canada - Unceded Coast Salish Territory. She writes to create and liberate. Nadijah Robinson is a mixed-race, queer artist and community organizer currently living between Ottawa and Toronto. Working primarily in visual arts, Nadijah explores the experience of diaspora, dislocation and intergenerational memory. She also sits on the executive board of Agitate! Queer People of Colour. Currently finishing a degree in Fine Arts and Global Politics, Nadijah is more than ready to bust out of the institution and start getting into trouble. melannie gayle is a queer writer reader crafter buffy-lover. born a jamaican-suburbanite she now spends her time amidst bookshelves in Toronto, Ontario Aruna Zehra was born and raised on Mississauga's of New Credit land. She loves offending people, and considers it a sign that she's doing something right. She comes from a long line of fierce matriarchs that taught her to fight, and only hopes to make them proud. Intensely devoted to music and her politix, Aruna Zehra doesn't have much free time to have many hobbies, but if she did, she'd consider making music and remixing tunes while continuing to call peoples out on their ish. She sincerely thanks the peoples at SCHOOL magazine for publishing this piece, and Kenji, the editor, for believing in her (and her work). She is also eternally grateful to Dr. Katherine McKittrick, for always pushing my limits and being an incredibly amazing professor who made my academic career bearable. Tanya Pillay is a graduating member of b current's rAiz'n ensemble of artistic collaborators. Together they have devised, written, dramaturged, and performed Seventh Generation (rock.paper.sistahz 2008) and The Centre (SummerWorks 2009). As a solo writer, Tanya resists recognizable forms and mediums, which makes her work easily adaptable to print, stage, screen, or radio. For the stage, she likes to build audience curiosity through interaction. Her hour-long relational storytelling piece, All of Him, documents her father's contentious journey as a loving father and known pedophile (rock.paper.sistahz 2009) and is seen here adapted as prose. When she's not writing, Tanya offers Hypnotism for motivational purposes (www.HypnoSage.com). Kenji Haakon Tokawa is a Japanese-Canadian mixed-race artist and student, homesick but grateful for being born onto Anishinabek land that continues to sustain him as a settler in Toronto. He is the coordinator of Asian Arts Freedom School, arts-based workshops of radical Asian history and activism for pan-Asian youth, and


40 GenderFOC: writing workshops for trans/gendervariant people of colour. He started SCHOOL Magazine in the hopes that all the marginalized talent he continues to meet and experience around him gets to be shared with a wider audience.


SCHOOL Magazine April 2010 - 1:2