REPRESENTATION MATTERS… BUT WHY

March 4, 2017

Let me start by telling you a story from my childhood.

I was probably about five at the time, I went into my mum’s room, found the baby powder on the dressing table and cover myself from head to toe with it, paying special attention to my hair. Something that a lot of toddlers do when they are exploring, right. I have numerous photographs of my daughter going nuts with the nappy cream! However this wasn’t about exploring. This was a definite thought out plan at the age of five to try and make myself white skinned and blonde haired, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

The reason, you ask. By that age I had been subjected to ridicule at school by other children regarding almost everything that makes me, me. I grew up in an area where there weren’t a lot of black families, and boy did I know it! The other kids (normally white) took issue with my skin colour and called me ‘blackie’ or ‘nigger’. They took issue with my Afro hair. They took issue with the cute hairstyle that my mum did for me (it was a style that girls and some women wore in Nigeria back in the day) and called me worm head. I was even ridiculed for my Igbo name.

That day, I remember having a fight with the blonde haired boy across the street because he had called me chocolate face (not the cleverest of insults, but it was enough to make me want to punch his lights out!), I went home and was so upset and confused as to what it was I was doing that made some of the other children dislike me. I decided it was what I looked like.

I thought by smothering myself in that stuff I would cover up my African-ness and make myself more acceptable to the white children, then they would like me.

I think back to that moment, and my heart breaks a little for the child me who thought so little of herself that she would try to change herself. It was a very childish form of self-hate that has etched itself into my memory, and is one of the reasons I created Dinky Mix.

Growing up the only black people I saw in the media were musicians (mainly rappers), sports personalities or they were playing the drug dealing criminal on any number of programmes. That is not including the images of people from all over Africa that showed only poverty, starvation, mud huts and squalor. So taking that along with the nonsense I had to deal with from the other kids and you can see why I felt that I was unacceptable, and if not for my wonderful parents (and a few good teachers. Shout out to Mr Lewis and Miss Marshall!!!) I may have continued to believe the only option I had was poverty, and if I wanted to make it and be accepted I had to be a sports star or a famous music artist. I think you’ll agree there’s not much to choose from there.

The impact of representation starts when children are young. And it doesn’t stop there. It can overflow into adulthood, effecting lives later on.

Lets roll forward sixteen years after the baby powder scandal. By now I have discovered my love for illustration, and my favourite thing to draw was cool black and mixed race girls with a 90’s & 00’s hip hop dress code. I’m doing a fashion degree at university and loving it. We have to do a lot of fashion illustration on the course I took, which is where my dilemma started. I look around there are hardly any black people, I search for black designers, I look in the magazines, again I don’t see much of anyone that looks like me. That feeling of needing to be acceptable is right there again at the forefront of my mind. But this time it’s in relation to my art. Instead of sticking to my signature style of work, I tried to make my art more ‘palatable’ (Ugh! No one should have to do that). I would draw slim white women with long blonde hair and blue eyes that looked like cheerleaders, because that’s what i saw around me. Even then the thought was still there that, that’s what people want to see. It was my tutor who was looking at my work, and saw some of my actual signature illustrations and asked me why I was only drawing white women now. I remember being embarrassed to explain, but I think she got it, because what she said made it clear to me that under no circumstances should I need to hide my race, ethnicity or culture to be accepted. I think that was the final cog in the self-love machine, that all the positive input that various people had downloaded into me over the years had been building. From that day I decided to unapologetically, unashamedly take pride in me… ALL OF ME.

I think that all children need to be able to see positive representations of themselves and of others. Whether that is race, gender, physical capability or an array of other differences.If not there is a strong possibility that they will grow up feeling inferior and not worthy. Or on the flip side, they grow up thinking that others are inferior to them and not worthy. Not cool either way. Representation has the power to show us our own potential, and the potential of all around us. It stops us putting certain parts of the demographic in boxes, and allows us to see that all of us have shared experiences and great potential.

Let’s be honest it feels good seeing representations of yourself. When I see Viola Davis with an Oscar, standing there looking amazing… I feel pride. The same goes with little ones. My children have a book called ‘Too Many Tickles’ by Thomas Taylor and illustrated by Penny Dann. My daughter loves this book, and goes through it by herself looking at the pictures. Anytime she see’s the lead female character, she points at her and shouts out her own name. Why? Because this character has the same hair as her. She has the same skin colour. She relates to her. This is what we need for all children from a young age. So that is why I draw these kids’ illustrations and started Dinky Mix.

There are clearly characters missing from the kid’s art scene and I hope to fill the void. I want our children to see the potential in themselves. To look at themselves and others and think we’re all great. I want them to begin to imagine and to dream about what they can become, and one of the ways to start is by being represented in the media and arts. Hopefully they then go on to proudly share who they are with others.

Obviously in the short time since I started Dinky Mix I haven’t been able to draw representations of everybody. But I can draw. And I can keep on drawing. Filling the need of children to be represented one art print at a time. If you have an idea of the next character I should draw, please, please, please can you buy fluoxetine over the counter contact me. or make a comment below. I am so happy when I get suggestions from you all.

So why not have a look at what I do buy Pregabalin cheap here. Or if you would like to be updated on new artwork and blog posts leave your email address http://familymedspa.net/wp-content/themes/sketch/content-wp-access.php here.

Till next time. Peace, I’m out. x

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One thought on “REPRESENTATION MATTERS… BUT WHY

  1. Victoria

    So inspiring! There is a common concept here, that I think all readers of this blog post will be able to relate to, and that is the felt conflict between ‘who we know our self to be’ (our true self) and the identity that others impose upon us based on an underdeveloped binary expectation of you resulting from one external characteristic or another., ‘lazy’ homeless person, ‘silly woman’ ‘unemotional man without feelings’ or equally the marginalised ‘black'(ethnic minority) within a national context.

    I think everyone can take something this post – inspiring! Thank you.

    Reply

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