‘The Storm’ by Lauren Baker From 2013 Neon Installation
A Note From the Editors E
verything has a beginning; so does everyone. In reaching back to our roots we seek an identity to carry us forward. Yet there is no singular instance we can return to. Each ‘beginning’ is infinite, conceptual; each imagined starting point stretching further away from our grasp. Nonetheless, they do exist; even if they do always slip further from reach. The search for our roots is intrinsically tied to constructions, and understandings of, identity. Hermann Hesse writes that, in the highest boughs of trees, “the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves”. If our identities are rooted in infinity, then the source for growth is inexhaustible. In this issue, we witness how diversely the contemplation of roots can develop. The musician imagines his artistic roots through his studies, personal interests and inspiration drawn from another artist; the daughter engraves her love on her body with a splash of ink; a venue recreates Bristol through the imagined Chicago; a cherished teapot carries China with it to a new home; and others share their experience of seeking roots through their own specific means. If a beginning is universal for all things, then so must be an ending. ‘Roots’ is the last issue produced under the first generation of editors for Unknown, some of us having been here since the magazine's inception in 2013. Our heartiest thanks go out to the entire team, who have spent countless hours making this issue possible. We would like to wish our next Editor-inChiefs, James Blow and Angelica Curzi the best of luck. Lastly, our thanks go to you, the reader. We hope you will enjoy our Issue#6 and that it stimulates you to contemplate how your own roots might offer a source for creative endeavours. It has been a pleasure for all of us!
Editors-in-Chief Ming Li Molly Bell
Charles Dos Santos Alex Payne
Creative Writing Editors Noor Hemani Shannon Webb Bramina Braet
Literature Editors Jasmine Bhatt James Blow
Visual Arts Editor Ruxandra Blaga
Layout Editors Ruxandra Blaga Charlie Benson
Illustrator Rei Yatomi
Stefan Kielbasiewicz Angelica Curzi
Contents The Beauty of ‘I’
It Should Be Announced That Metal Can Burn
Ink Splatters on Flesh
Sanctum: A Place for Bristol to Find Itself
Sheryl M. Medlicott
Romare’s Romare: An Artist Searches For His Roots
Sources 31 Keshia Starrett
‘Roots’ & Female Identity In The Color Purple
Swallowed 37 Snigdha Koirala
<‘Generously Mischievous’ by Eugenia Loli <
Cover Image © Tyler Spangler
The Beauty of ‘I’ Liam O’Dell
is a powerful word in literature today. The difference between first and third person in novels is that, whilst the omniscient narrator briefly explores the lives of multiple characters, the first person is brilliantly restrictive. It means that the reader can only see the world from that one character’s perspective. Because of this we get a greater understanding of how other people think and how they see the world, their roots and their past. As well as this, we also learn about other people’s perspectives. This is the beauty of the first person narrative in literature. For example, do you ever sit on a train and wonder what kind of life another passenger is living? Do you wonder where they’ve come from and where they’re going to? The idea behind people-watching is that we want to know everything about a stranger – their interests, their background, their roots. This is what draws us to books. Usually, it’s about the characters in a story, not the plot. This is why there is pressure on authors to make their characters three-dimensional and believable: because the reader wants the character’s story to be as realistic as
possible. That way, we can learn something from the character’s perspective, and their own background in the narrative. One of my favourite examples of this is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NightTime by Mark Haddon. In this novel, 15-year-old Christopher Boone has a unique view of the world. Whilst Haddon has continued to deny that Christopher has Asperger’s Syndrome – a form of autism – most readers assume that this is the case. Some believe that a unique understanding of the world, like that of Christopher’s, finds its roots in unconventional mindsets and temperaments. Either way, it’s Christopher’s perspective which makes the novel such a captivating read. It is undeniable that Christopher has a very literal and logical thought process. However, it’s this unique style of logic which in turn can give readers a different perspective on life. Christopher is more observant than most people, and this is something extraordinary which encourages readers of the novel to see the beauty in everything just like Christopher does.
‘Enlightenment is to Gaze with Undimmed Eyes on All Darkness’, Collage by Eugenia Loli
In a blog post, Mark Haddon talks about the best way to understand a person’s unique perspective on life. He says: “genuinely understanding another human being involves talking and listening to them and finding out what makes them an individual, not what makes them part of a group.” Of course, society has come to realise that there’s more to a person than first impressions. Stereotypes and misconceptions about particular subcultures are fading away because fiction – as well as news stories – are providing anecdotal insights from these specific communities. Third person narratives are declining in these mediums because they require us to imagine what a character is thinking, not through their own perspective, but from an outsider’s interpretation. And in today’s literature, that isn’t as popular. We care about people, how they think, and why they think like that. We see beyond first impressions. This is why I think The Curious Incident became so popular. We would never fully understand Christopher’s actions or how he speaks without the first person narrative, and it is through this
understanding that the beauty of the novel comes through. If Mark Haddon’s novel was to adopt the third person narrative, we would be looking at Christopher’s life from the view of an outsider, which is where misconceptions and stereotypes can, and do, form. It is only through the use of Christopher’s unique perspective that we can see his justifications for acting, speaking and thinking in a way which is different to most people. It is this understanding of different perspectives which must be encouraged in today’s literature if we want to learn about each other’s thoughts, feelings, histories and roots. However, it doesn’t stop there. Since The Curious Incident, other authors have seen the beauty in using the first person to explore extraordinary minds, as well as certain mental conditions. For example, The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer and Elizabeth Haynes’ Into the Darkest Corner allow us to understand those living with schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) respectively and, through this, we discover the roots of their perspectives. I can only hope that this trend will continue.
>‘Opto 2’, Collage by Eugenia Loli >
Image Eugenia Loli Image Eugenia Loli
The Happiest Day of My Youth Bernard Faucon
Image Bernard Faucon
Image Bernard Faucon
‘The Remains’ by Lauren Baker. Matches & Wood. Framed 39X39X5cm
‘The Remains’ by Lauren Baker. Matches, Wood. Framed 39X39X5cm
It Should Be Announced That Metal Can Burn Lucie Vovk
t was small and unassuming, yet when the flat burned down, and Mother searched frantically through the rubble, her eyes were wild with fear. It was a tin teapot. The body that had once been quite round was flat on one side from where it had landed after cousin HuaXiong dropped it. Mother had twisted his ear, hard, before disappearing to coax the teapot back into shape. The spout was too short to pour anything without dribbling onto the table, and the lid had to be held down to stay in place. The sides, Mother said, used to be painted in every colour of a silk scarf, with exquisitely detailed drawings of the Great Wall. Now blackened by steam and dirt, all that was left was an erratic pattern of scratches on the side, made by uncareful hands. It was nothing but a tin teapot, but it was the only thing Mother had managed to bring from China. She hadn’t even been able to bring her name. Mother was born Lian-Hong (蓮 紅), red lotus. But when the war came and
she had to leave, the red stayed behind. She emerged as Lian-Mei (蓮美). Bleached of her colour, she fled the country, clutching the teapot to her chest as though it held her heart. She told us stories when she poured, carefully bracing her fingers on the sides so that the tin didn’t burn her. Her hands were always so steady; her grip never failed. I would watch in awe as she raised the teapot high before lowering it so it almost touched the teacups, never spilling a drop. I would imagine her kneeling on bamboo mats, pouring tea in a country with maple trees lining the roads, surrounded by people that looked like us and loved us for it. The stories were sometimes legends about the lilies on the still garden pond, and sometimes they were about the festivals she went to with her parents, full of bouncing paper lanterns and masks that made you look fierce. When Mother told these stories, her dark eyes glittered in a way that only China could make them, but her eyes would become dull again when she put the teapot down. Sometimes she would sing for us, lilting, complicated melodies that flowed like the
Yellow River. Mother never looked quite like herself when she sang. She seemed younger, sharper, like all the raggedness of America was smoothed away by the music. But she would always forget the words or muddle the melody, and she would stop abruptly, looking lost. Lost, in this new world of bland buildings and rice that only grew in packets on the shelves of supermarkets. I began to wonder if the teapot contained more than just tea, if it hid some elixir that made Mother happier under its fragile lid. I imagined its stout body from the inside as a cavern full of China; the Great Wall snaking through it, white deserts in the north, mountainous rice terraces in the south, and curly blue clouds in the sky, like in the paintings. Mother insisted that we spoke Mandarin at home, and we did, but as soon as we left the house, Yue-Wan, Xia-Li and I donned lazy American accents, attempted to widen our flat eyes, and to have hair that was anything other than straight. We came home sometimes forgetting to shoulder our Mandarin, and Mother would look at us as if confronted with some great loss
before sending us to our rooms. We would bow our heads as we walked past her, and my eyes would catch the teapot steaming forlornly in the middle of the low glass table. The night of the fire had been an island of calm among a hailstorm of news reports about Vietnam. The neighbours had shot us such filthy looks as they moved out the week before. To comfort us, Mother told us about the little jade Buddha on her bedside table, how its kind face was the last thing she saw every night. She had said flatly that she could remember the Buddha’s face better than her father’s. We woke up because we couldn’t breathe. The smoke creeping under the door was thick as ink. Yue-Wan screamed for us to get out. In the hallway, the smoke was thicker and blacker, pushing into my lungs. I grabbed Xia-Li by the hand and pulled her close to my chest, tugging my nightshirt over her head and up to cover my nose and mouth. With the other hand, I felt towards the door, trying to ignore the cruel heat of the flames around us. I couldn’t tell where
the fire had started, but it was everywhere, pressing in, blistering my skin and making Xia-Li buckle and wail. We reached the front door and exploded out of the flat, bent double with backbreaking coughs. My lungs felt full of tar; my nose ran black. The fire alarm had gone off by now, and neighbours crowded out of their flats half-scared, half-annoyed that they had been woken. I shoved XiaLi towards the stairs, promising to join her. I hesitated before pushing back into the smoke, my nightshirt back up over my face. I met Yue-Wan in the hallway, dragging Mother, who lay unconscious, by one arm over her shoulder. I took the other arm and together we pulled Mother through the door and down the stairs, to where the air was cleaner. Yue-Wan wheezed, her arms were streaked with soot and her eyes wept. She did not stop until Mother was laid out on the concrete outside with her head in my lap, the newly-gathered crowd milling around us. Then she set one hand on the wall next to her and bent over, coughing so hard that I thought one of her lungs might come out. Xia-Li joined us and stroked Motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hair, soot rubbing off on her fingers.
Mother woke so suddenly that it was almost theatrical. Her eyes fluttered and stayed oddly flat for a few moments, taking us in. Then she sat up straight and bolted towards the door of the building where firemen fought the flames. Yue-Wan had to grab her by the waist and pull her back, writhing like an ashen snake. The morning dawned red as the New Year. The fire had stayed in our flat. No one was hurt. We watched from the ground, Xia-Li with her thumb in her mouth, Yue-Wan with her arms wrapped around her knees, as Mother came down the staircase, cradling the spout of her teapot in her hands, the cold, mangled dregs that remained of her China. Her eyes were hollow and I was the only one who wept.
‘You Brought Clarity Amidst Confusion’ by Lauren Baker. Mixed Media on Canvas.
Ink Splatters on Flesh Taylor Findlay your opinions, keep to your principles; change “C hange your leaves, keep intact your roots.” Simply put, know
who you are, keep your morals, but always be open-minded. Victor Hugo’s preceding quote plays as a reminder that we come from places. We come from people, we come from backgrounds, we have a history, and consequently, our roots have been planted. However, these are not the barricades in which we must constrain ourselves. Growing up is a necessary part of life, but so is growing out. Growing out of comfort zones, ideologies and, sometimes, out of what has been previously taught to us. One of the definitions of ‘Roots’ in the dictionary is “the basic cause, source, or origin of something.” Finding a way to represent our beginnings can be a strenuous task, as you find yourself trying to sum up something that carries so much weight and detail, but must be displayed in one small act. As John Green once said, “Maybe our favourite quotations say more about us than about the stories we’re quoting.” Quotes, and language as a whole, have a way of rooting themselves within us. Literature provides a connection we may not be able to make with people, even the family and friends we hold so near. However, the identification that can be found within literature – written by someone we most likely have never met previously – can be an extremely liberating experience. Virginia Woolf sings literature’s praises as she writes in A Room of One’s Own,
<‘Electric Aura’ by Lauren Baker, Mixed Media on Canvas.<
“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others.” Therefore, is it so strange that we may find words printed on a page that encourage us to print them on our bodies? Is it so different to want to be able to wake up every morning and remind ourselves that our past has made us, and our roots still hold strong, no matter the hardship or the toil that may have been endured to get us where we are today? The ways in which we, as humans, choose to face and appreciate the places in which we come from can differ. In literature I found home, a sort of solace I knew had always been there. Through my chosen literary journey, I found pieces of myself within characters. And not just parts that I already possessed, but others that I wanted to be. I recognised the evolution of madness progress in Esther Greenwood from The Bell Jar as she comes to realise that the life her parents planned out for her is not at all what she wants. Jane Eyre brought me peace, as her struggle to find the type of freedom that suits her was a problem I was trying to solve at the time. Although these heroic women were talking about their impending futures and changes they wanted to bring to it, it is imperative to the story – and to the reader experiencing these pieces of literature – that though there is knowledge the future
may bring change, what comes with it is a long and detailed background. Through digging deeper, down to the beginnings of who we are as people, we can start to recognise why the quotes we write in our journals, on the post-it notes on the mirror, or get tattooed on our bodies mean so much. This type of selfexploration, however, would come down to the individuals themselves. The reasons in which one person may tattoo the everpopular quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, “So it goes” on their body forever may be vastly different from why another person does. Readers are individual in the ways they process what they are reading. Edmund Wilson once said, “no two persons ever read the same book.” How perfect a state, then, to be in when one quote, or even a single word, could mean something so private, so intrinsically yours that it is without reservation you walk into a shop and excitedly say “This, please.” Acknowledging that language itself has incredible power is part of understanding the obsession and allencompassing appreciation that develops for literature. It can bring people together, or break them apart. Through language we learn communication, love, strength, and understanding: “Words can light
fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” I do not know whether Patrick Rothfuss knew just how truthful his statement from The Name of the Wind would turn out to be. Nonetheless, words imprint themselves on us mentally and sometimes physically. The real notion of tattooing a quote is not only showing loyalty to a writer, but exposing the roots in which we are grounded in literally on our sleeve (or back, foot, thigh, etc). One of my favourite writers of all time, Sylvia Plath, once wrote “Wear your heart on your skin in this life.” The first tattoo I got was a small, simple heartbeat line on my wrist. When I told my Mum that this would be my first tattoo, she decided she would like to share it with me. Now, whenever I look at my wrist, my Mother is with me, and I know her heart beats at the same time as mine. I made the choice to wear my heart on my flesh, along the rooted history I am forever grateful for. Although this may seem extreme, the commitment to mark up my body for the rest of my life is not one I will soon regret.
> Work by Bom.k >
Sanctum: A Place for Bristol to Find Itself S
anctum is a place for Bristol to find itself. Its creator is an artist from a long way out of town, but this is no contradiction. In his hometown Chicago, artist Theaster Gates has on occasion been a background singer for visiting entertainers that he admires. In doing so, he has formed relationships with other background singers he didn’t know before, despite them also living and working in Chicago. It amazes him how the visiting performer has this capacity to reach out in a way the individual might not. In his first public project in the UK, Theaster has become that facilitator for the city of Bristol. His artwork is a temporary space constructed within the bombedout ruins of Temple Church, in which a continuous 24 hour programme of music and performance poetry is running for 24 days. All those performing are Bristol residents. It is, as Gates calls it himself, a “big amplifier” for Bristol.
by Sheryl M. Medlicott
find yourself implicated in the palimpsest that is the site. It is a place where histories succeed each other, without entirely removing the trace of what was there before. Visiting Sanctum, you are the latest inscription on the palimpsest, you are the top layer of this rich stratigraphy. If you’re familiar with Bristol, you might have seen Temple Church with its leaning tower on your right as you journey from the train station to the city centre. The church gets its name from the Knights Templar, who built the original circular 12th century church on the site. The church in turn gave its name to the Temple Meads railway station. Temple Church was bombed 75 years ago during WWII, leaving it in ruins.
However, this isn’t merely for the benefit of the participating performers. It isn’t even only of interest to Bristolians.
The remains are not usually open to the public. Sanctum allows us into that space, on a suspended floor made from boards reclaimed from an 18th century Bristol sugar warehouse, under a roof handcrafted by those in the city still in the trade of shipbuilding.
You may have just arrived in Bristol that day; still, when you enter Sanctum, you
But despite how interesting these objects are, these are the marks left behind by
<Theaster Gates’ Sanctum. Courtesy of Situations. Photo: Max McClure<
others, and as such are only the beginning of what Sanctum is about. Sanctum is really about what is being created during the 24 days in which the space is filled with people. It is unlike other forms of public art that are presented fully formed, like statues or monuments. Here Gates is not asserting his presence as artist, rather he is in his facilitator role, pointing us towards the place in history that is ours to write upon. The experience of the present moment, therefore, is key. This is built into Sanctum through this device: when you visit Sanctum, you do not know which of the artists on the programme will be on stage when you get there. The schedule of performances is a closely guarded secret. It allows you to arrive, and see what you make of it there and then. So what is it like to visit? I have been twice so far, both times as a performer. The first time was with a dub band and Sanctum as a venue was a bespoke chalet, all reclaimed timbers and quirky design. The warm glowing light against the dark night, the group of flushed happy people within and the presence of Theaster Gates himself made it feel like an exclusive, yet welcoming, aprĂ¨s-ski party. The second time was with a community orchestra and choir and in the same space it felt like we were under railway arches.
The main double doors were wide open, the wall of windows at the opposite side of the space created a sense of openness too, and there was a draught. Sanctum has been produced as part of Bristol 2015 European Green Capital. In a sense, by repurposing older materials it is a nice, artistic example of upcycling. But its green credentials extend much further than this. Through Sanctum we become conscious of the impression we are making on this communal page of Bristol in our own time. By changing how we perceive, identify and relate to the city both past and present we are inspired to connect more with each other and make more sustainable choices, ones that support our neighbour and the Bristolians of the future. In his success in this regard, Theaster Gates has made mighty his power as the visiting artist.
*Sheryl M. Medlicott is a student of Literature, Landscape and Environment at Bath Spa University and a violinist with Bristol bands including Future Dub Orchestra and The Fantasy Orchestra, both of which have performed at Sanctum.
Romare’s Romare: An Artist Searches For His Roots Projections, 2015 electronic R omare’s dance/house music album explores
the diverse roots of modern American music and culture through stylistic variation, samples, and creative genius. Although London-born, Romare’s music has far-flung roots in AfricanAmerican sound worlds, following his study of African-American visual culture at university. In particular, Jazz Age American artist Romare Bearden forms an unusually strong rooting for Romare, being his namesake, inspiration, and artistic influence. Bearden documented aspects of contemporary AfricanAmerican life in collage-style artworks, cutting and pasting various materials together to create intriguing overall images. It is this aspect in which Romare roots his creative method, fusing eclectic sound samples (ranging from piano riffs to documentary excerpts) to create musical ‘collages’ with widespread musical and cultural roots, that exceed far beyond generic expectations of works commonly found in electronic dance music. At 7:54, ‘Roots’ is the most substantial track on ‘Projections’, and the bringer of the most significent theme. Conceptually,
‘Roots’ are explored throughout the album, with each track functioning as a homage to aspects of African-American culture that form roots of modern music. Listeners can audibly explore this through ‘Projections’ in its musical references to genres such as Juke and Dixieland. Arresting cultural roots (albeit not those of Romare himself, hereditarily, but of African-American’s) are also referenced via a speech sample from Malcom X: “You can’t hate the roots of a tree, and not hate the tree”. This is a sample which, when coupled with the allencompassing title ‘Roots’, indicates the importance that acceptance of our roots bears. Although not hereditarily watered in this culture, Romare immerses himself in the African-American world through personal study, and via his fixation on Bearden’s visual art – the monosyllabic statement title of ‘Roots’ boldly asserts this as the style in which his music has found root. It may come as no surprise then that ‘Roots’ is in fact the name of a Bearden’s artwork, and ‘Projections’ the title of his most successful exhibition. The degree to which Romare posits his creative self in that of Bearden raises a number of eyebrows. By taking names, features, and ideas of content from
Bearden, does Romare to some extent depersonalise his work? In revealing the quantity of his ideas that are ‘borrowed’ from this earlier artist, Romare can seem a little undermined in originality. These many raised eyebrows serve to highlight the troubling extent to which our post-industrial culture seeks progress and originality. For upcoming artists, originality is a necessity: they must be seen as developing the new and leaving the old. Yet this notion has the potential to negate previous schools of practise, and develop an obsession with uniqueness. By contrast, Romare’s acknowledgment of his artistic sources set him free from this stigma of extreme originality, accepting that not every aspect of his work has to stem exclusively from his creative self. Romare approaches the roots of his art openly, acknowledging his influences through name, titles, and samples. More than questionable, this approach is in fact quite refreshing. Now taking a step back, Romare is flattered by his record label Ninja Tune with the attitude that Bearden “inspired the young musician”, although the extent of this influence can seem excessive, the creative artworks Romare produces are unarguably undiminishable. Yes, much of his music is rooted in a culture he has only
studied and has no personal hereditary roots in, and yes, ‘Roots’ and ‘Projections’ are entirely borrowed titles. But it is the artistry with which Romare sews together roots and influences by incorporating sound samples from across the continents to create flowering, varied, vibrant pieces, that mean his somewhat obsessive grounding in another artist cannot diminish his own artistic products. As his record label evaluate, having been inspired to develop this cut-and-paste approach to creating music, Romare ends up with “an approach that was hugely fruitful, and remains central to his work” as he takes unusual and widely varying samples to layer into his music. In this sense Romare has not appropriated the ideas of Bearden, but utilised and developed them to extend the artistic reaches of his artworks in this very different genre. Through the nuanced inclusion of Malcolm X’s speech sample in ‘Roots’, the origins of the problem in regards to our cultural obsession with originality and progress is subtly highlighted. The problem lies in our perception. This interpretation of Romare’s message stems from the original Malcolm X speech which alludes to the problem of African-Americans’ negative perception of their African roots, rendering selfacceptance impossible. This parallels the
fact that without accepting the hugely significant aspect of our roots as people or artists we cannot fully accept ourselves or produce our best creative output. This is a problem which Romare quite overtly overrules with his explicit reference to, and acceptance of, his artistic expression. Romare’s open acknowledgement of the varied roots of his music and himself as a character and creative musician, allows us to admit that our creations and selves are constantly influenced by others. We are all simply different bundles of experiences, with roots being formed in every new influence and experience we encounter. It is exploring and accepting these varied influences that allows us to find the places we truly feel rooted as artists, and these are the places from which our best new artworks will flower. The acceptance of how widely our roots can range is what liberates Romare’s music to become so exciting and varied, moving far beyond its potentially restrictive
>‘1000ft View’ Collage by Eugenia Loli>
roots of primary-purpose electronic dance music. *Romare’s Projections was released in Febuary 2015.
Work ÂŠ Tyler Spangler
Sources Keshia Starrett I've been told that Wikipedia is an unreliable source and my word document keeps highlighting it in red which suggests they might be onto something. perhaps it's time to become more critical and only rely on credible sources wouldn't that be incredible? I've been reading some history books and these (in)credible historians have taught me some things I never knew about the world: slavery was actually a mass immigration project to introduce black labour to america christopher columbus was a hero. we're still printing history in black ink on white paper and I find that entirely incredible.
‘Roots’ And Female Identity In The Color Purple Megan Wallance Walker’s The Color Purple, published to A lice critical acclaim in 1982, remains one of the
Walker’s protagonist, Celie, is a black woman living in the early post-slavery period in North America.
Work © Tyler Spangler
most widely contested works of modern fiction. Despite winning the Pulitzer Prize, the novel has faced censorship due to explicit content and, in particular, its treatment of taboo subjects such as race, female sexuality and lesbian desire. While this has prevented The Color Purple from being taught in many schools, the author’s outstanding talent has long been recognised and the novel has made an incredible cultural impact, having sold five million copies and been adapted for both stage and screen. Perhaps this is due to the politically important nature of Walker’s writing: she uses the Bildungsroman (for so long a literary form pertaining to the stereotypical white European male) as well as the epistolary form to give a voice to the black women silenced by the western literary canon. Indeed, The Color Purple’s main concern is arguably that of identity and one’s roots, with the novel exploring the question of how to establish a sense of self in light of the geographical and cultural upheavals of the colonial system.
Through the abuses she suffers, we gain a sense of her precarious social position. Not only is Celie oppressed on racial grounds but also because of her gender, and later, her sexuality. The negative effect of these layers of oppression is exacerbated by the fact that she has no strong community to rely on. This lack of ancestral roots is furthered by the fact that her only means of spiritual support comes from the image of a Christian God relayed to her through a church organised by the white oppressor. It is the sexual liberation she experiences in her same-sex relationship with Shug Avery that gives her a sense of self, enabling her to build a new community built on love and trust. Essentially, Walker examines the lasting effects of colonisation upon the African American psyche, showing how even after the abolition of slavery, black Americans still lived within a colonial system that thwarted attempts made by them to retain any connection to their own identity, and indeed, to their roots. As the novel progresses, Walker goes on to suggest how the identity crisis amongst African Americans living in an institutionally racist society was further complicated by their displacement from Africa to the United States. Correspondence would have been almost impossible and this means that the
link to their roots had been weakened, forcing them to try and create a sense of identity and heritage from a more recent past in North America. Far from being simple, however, the mistreatment of African Americans in the United States may have led to a reluctance to identify with many aspects of this more recent past, spearheading a wish to carve out an entirely new identity. Walker presents the rejection of both African and North American identities as a way to champion the progression of a new one: African American. Walker’s novel focuses specifically on how this impacts the African American woman, and she suggests that the key to forging an identity free from racial constraints lies in the creation of a sisterhood of black women. Indeed, it is through her relationships with other women that Celie gains her sense of self worth. Celie is motherless, meaning that, if we believe Freud’s theories on motherdaughter relationships, she does not have an integral female identity. Walker portrays her creating this through the friendships she builds with other black women, each of whom represents a different version of femininity. Originally, however, Celie’s gender identity is imposed upon her – she is forced into motherhood by the sexual
abuse she experiences at the hands of her stepfather, then married off against her will to an abusive husband, leaving her no choice but to undertake the role of wife and mother. This version of the female role is based on subjugation and servitude whereas by the end of the novel, with help from Shug and other female friends, Celie can be a woman as well as an independent and liberated individual. This suggests that, through rejecting the image of themselves created by the oppressor, oppressed groups can gain a sense of self by looking at their roots, and the strength and virtue that these roots display. In The Color Purple, the issue of roots is extremely important, combining both issues of racial and gender identity and exploring the effect that this could have on African Americans through Walkerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s portrayal of Celie. It may not be an easy read, but The Color Purple is as hardhitting, touching and thought-provoking as it was when it was first published in 1982. It is rare to encounter such a sensitive portrayal of rootlessness, which faces so many marginalised groups today.
Work ÂŠ Tyler Spangler
Swallowed Snigdha Koirala The building soared up to the sky and ended right below the stars. “32 floors,” I heard Papa say, “This building has 32 floors.” My mouth gaped open. The tallest tower back home only had nine floors. How could this building have more? There was a clatter and a clunk behind me. The taxi driver lifted out our suitcases as Mamu pulled out some cash to hand over to him. 32 floors. 32 floors. It rang in my head. 32 whole floors. The ringing travelled down to my stomach, clanging inside me. The night sky above covered us. We were stuck here now. Back home, it was already morning – the sun probably burst through the bright blue sky, skimming over everyone’s eyes. Parents were probably enjoying cups of tea as kids sipped on towering glasses of fresh milk. I could almost hear the jokes my cousin would make – something about an elephant and its trunk – and my grandma hurrying us to finish up, the shawl of her sari wrapped tightly around her waist. “Look at that balcony, Nanu. Somebody has put up a plastic flamingo,” Amar squealed, waving his little arms about. He always squealed when he spoke. Looking up, I saw the pink plastic thing sticking above the railing. It looked at us, inspecting us very closely, with bulging eyes, and I could almost see the veins popping around its orbs. The ringing in my stomach now swelled into thuds. The thuds rose up to my throat and threatened to spill out onto the gray concrete ground in front of me. Look away, I told myself. It’s the stupid flamingo making you feel sick. But I couldn’t look away. The flamingo had locked eyes with me and I had no choice but to remain trapped in its gaze. Its black eyes seemed
<‘Stress Test’ , Collage by Eugenia Loli<
to grow larger. It wasn’t inspecting us, I realised. It was trying to tell us something, something important. “Nanu, can you please take your backpack off the ground? God knows how dirty it must be,” Mamu said. “Okay,” I replied, doing as I was told. I don’t think she heard me. She and Papa were talking, their voices loud mumbles that would usually tempt me to eavesdrop. But not today. The flamingo’s eyes hadn’t left me. Its gaze seeped through my shirt, stinging the skin underneath. I scrunched up my sleeves just to make sure that there were no marks forming. What is it trying to say? I wondered. Why is it looking at me like that? The loud mumbles grew and grew, and the flamingo continued to stare. The thudding forced my mouth open when I realised what it was trying to tell me. It was scared. It was being swallowed. Everyone in those 32 floors was being swallowed. That’s what the building did – it swallowed people and their lives, and then licked its lips in satisfaction. We were going to be swallowed up too. I wanted to tell Mamu and Papa. I wanted to yell it, scream it, cry it out. Mamu rushed to me and pulled my hair out of my face; Papa kept asking me if I was okay; Amar looked like he was going to cry. I was confused: Didn’t they see the building’s sharp teeth, or its hungry smile, or hear its sinister laugh? But then I looked at the grey, concrete ground, and knew why they were worried about me. The loud thuds had jumped out of my mouth.
â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Filtering Mechanism, Collageâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;
Rocky Start, Collage
Horses in 4k, Collage
Tyler Spangler Tyler Spangler’s work focuses on the formalist relationship between images which have been removed from their original context. He explores the connotations of colour, form, and photography through the medium of digital collage. His designs are colourful and unabashedly chaotic. Over the last three years, Tyler has created six 440 paged books filled with his own designs and worked on countless collaborations internationally. Tyler has a BA in Psychology and is an Art Center College of Design dropout. He ran an illegal punk venue for 13 shows until it got shut down by police. Tyler currently freelances and works with clients in the music, surf, and textile industries. Check out more of Tyler’s works at: firstname.lastname@example.org 949.306.4861 tylerspangler.com @tyler_spangler
Eugenia Loli Hi, I’m Eugenia. I’m a filmmaker and a modern vintage collage artist. Before art took over my life, I was in the technology sector. I’m originally from Greece, but for many years I have lived in California. It’s important for me to ‘say’ something with my artwork, so for the vast majority of my work there’s a meaning behind them. I usually do this via presenting a ‘narrative’scene in my collages, like there’s something bigger going on than what’s merely depicted. Sometimes the scene is witty or sarcastic, sometimes it’s horrific with a sense of danger or urgency, sometimes it’s chill. I leave it to the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks.
See more of Eugenia’s collages at: www.cargocollective.com/eugenialoli/ www.flickr.com/photos/eugenia_loli/
Bernard Faucon Born in Provence in 1950, Bernard Faucon pursued his education in philosophy and theology. After completing his master’s degree, he became one of the first artists to explore the universe of staged photography. His photographic work, which he began in 1976 and ended in 1995, consists of seven large series of “true fictions." “From 1997 to 2003, I organised celebrations in 25 sites around the world. Each time a hundred young people were invited. Each of them was given a disposable camera. Using the thousands of photographs taken on these occasions, I invented Le plus beau jour de ma jeunesse (The Most Beautiful Day of My Youth). From Morocco to Japan; from Burma to Cuba; from Cambodia to Sweden, it seemed to me that this image of youth in the world resembled the festive and playful atmosphere of Happiness Regained, my first staged photographs taken twenty years ago. Bernard Faucon
Check out The Happiest Day of My Youth project in full along with the recorded testimonies of the participants and more of Bernard’s work at: www.bernardfaucon.net/v2/bernard_faucon_english.html
Lauren Baker Lauren Baker is a British contemporary multidisciplinary artist who exhibits internationally. Her work explores the fragility of life, energy-fields, the afterlife and other dimensions. She’s created installations at Tate Britain and The V&A, ran an art workshops at Tate Modern and directed the windows of Selfridges. Passionate about animals and conservation, Lauren is an ambassador for Save Wild Tigers. Her artwork has raised over £50k for charity. Lauren’s work is inspired by her time spent in the Peruvian Amazon, the power of nature and primordial energy sources. Just three and a half years ago her art career started with a life-changing trip to South America. Lauren joined a mosaic street-art project in Brazil and spent time in the Peruvian Amazon jungle surrounded by dense vegetation and wildlife. She then researched the best place to study mosaic in the world and developed her skills in Venice (Orsoni, 2011). See more of Lauren Baker’s artworks at: www.laurenbakerart.com/