Watercolour painting on a streetscape in Lahore, Pakistan. The streetscape features colour canopies in blues, yellows and reds, balconies and windows.

Language: A Squatter’s Home

By Iffat Mirza

Artwork by Iffat Mirza

Edited by Katya Zabelski

There are some decisions that are made for us which completely change the trajectory of our lives. This experience is not anything particularly shocking or controversial, especially when those decisions were made for you as a child. As a nine-month-old, my family relocated from Lahore, Pakistan, to London, England. As I’m sure most children of immigrants feel, growing up with two cultures gave me a unique lens from which to interpret my experiences. Alternatively, is the realization that you are essentially an orphan of both cultures. Now I find myself quietly asking my mother what certain words mean during conversations at family gatherings, or I avoid wedding functions because I don’t know the words to any of the songs sung. It is the quotidian bumps in the road which remind you that you’re not quite home.

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Digital artwork - a blue background with circular shapes overlayed in yellow and black. On the left hand side there is an outline of the African continent

History as Imagination: Black Dreaming as Liberation

By Alma Alma

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Artwork by Natasha Ruwona

Words are important for history as it is through words that history is told. So, what is the language of an untold history? It is the language of imagination, dreams, of interpretation of the tongue. For marginalised communities, history is the study of loss – a loss that is sometimes irretrievable. Without conventional historical sources, the past remains a locked door, but with an imaginative approach through a combination of personal experience, memory, and creativity there can be a re-construction of the past. With black history often found in oral traditions, folklore, and music, these stories are frequently at odds with more conventional historical practices such as written documents and official records, thus leaving them unexplored and untold. The work of black women writers such as Dionne Brand and Toni Cade Bambara shows how this hurdle can be overcome through an illustrative and imaginative writing practice.  

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AM SESSION: Decolonising the Curriculum – Dr Hannah Marie Robbins

Join us for a discussion with Dr Hannah Marie Robbins on Decolonising the Curriculum at 11:00 AM.

Hannah Marie Robbins (she/they) is an Assistant Professor in Popular Music and Director of Black Studies at the University of Nottingham (UK). She is an expert on the intersections of Blackness, queerness, and gender in American musical theatre. Last summer, her short-form article on diversity and representation in the hit musical Hamilton went viral and has received over 100,000 views. Hannah is an advocate-in-progress for equality in higher education. She is a co-founder of the international network Black in the Arts and Humanities and a member of the radical collective, the Free Black University. 

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A UTOPIAN CURRICULUM PART FOUR: VOGUING

PART FOUR: VOGUING

By Ibtisam Ahmed

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Illustration by Iara Silva

As I continue to write this Utopian Curriculum series, it feels important to address questions raised from previous essays. In online conversations and email exchanges around parts two (Black Panther) and three (Sultana’s Dream), a particular point raised was whether something can be truly utopian if it is only positive and ideal for a specific demographic. It is apt, then, to dedicate part four to the art form of voguing.

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A UTOPIAN CURRICULUM PART THREE: SULTANA’S DREAM

PART THREE: SULTANA’S DREAM (1905)

By Ibtisam Ahmed

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Illustration by Iara Silva

Welcome to the new year and welcome back to the Project Myopia Utopian Curriculum series. So far, I set up a broad overview of the discipline and the series in the first post, and then looked at the anti-colonial Afrofuturism of Black Panther in the second. In part three, I will be exploring Sultana’s Dream and how it uses satire and humour to highlight how oppressed communities can create a specific vision of liberation and utopia.

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Basking in the Afterglow: Barry Jenkins’ ‘Moonlight’

Laura Hackshaw

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Artwork by Maia Walcott

Moonlight has been an unprecedented and much needed piece of art which transcends the basic categories and labels that accompany the ideals of it simply being a unique ‘independent’ movie or at its most reductive, a movie about what it is like to be a young, black, gay boy becoming a man. Moonlight is about running through doors with your eyes closed not knowing how to find your way to the other side. It is about the fear, the panic, the discomfort and the frustration of having to come to terms with your own identity when your identity itself is based on societies preconceptions and expectations of who you should be, how you should talk, walk and who you should love – all before understanding how to first love yourself. It is profound because it transforms and challenges common ideologies surrounding black male-hood; black male tenderness and affection, the redemptive power of mentors, music and community and how these all shape the people we become. 

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Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman: a Mirrored World

Erin Hutton

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevado

Artwork by Natasha Ruwona: https://www.behance.net/natasharuw40cf

I read Noughts and Crosses when I was about thirteen. It is the first powerful book that I can remember reading. However, re-reading my slightly battered copy at eighteen was a very different experience.  It was easier to understand that good people, like the characters in the book, could react so badly to violence. The terrorism in the story is painfully similar to current news headlines. Finally, after studying the fight for Black American civil rights at school, I could clearly see where Blackman got her inspiration. The scene where nought children face a mob of angry crosses to get into a decent school could have been drawn straight from the textbook photos of Little Rock Central High School, Arkansas, 1957.  This seems especially important when one considers the things people said to the author as she was writing: “‘Slavery is in the past’, ‘Why d’you want to rehash something so painful?’, ‘Why do black people always harp on about slavery?’”(Penguin Random House, 2016). Perhaps, if books like Blackman’s were studied at university level, people would be less likely to have these attitudes, especially if the novel’s stark confrontation of cruelty made them consider that their comments are insulting. There are many example of history where people have ignored atrocities as they occurred.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Jasmine Thakral

Edited by Karl Egerton

Illustration ‘Double Consciousness’ by Natasha Ruwona, https://www.behance.net/natasharuw40cf

The Hate U Give deals with the way in which police brutality and systematic criminalisation of black bodies damage African American communities, depicting the struggle often felt by people of colour between who they are and how they are perceived by the world. The events of the novel are particularly resonant in light of recent cases of police brutality which have resulted in the death of victims such as Trayvon Martin, which sparked the activist movement, Black Lives Matter. The Hate U Give follows Starr Carter as she negotiates the fallout from the horrific police brutality suffered by her friend Khalil. The novel explores Starr’s journey to finding her voice so that she can explicitly challenge police brutality against African Americans.

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The Inner Courtyard by Lakshmi Holdström

Avani Udgaonkar

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

Illustration by Olivia Prenderghast: https://liviprendergast.wordpress.com/

TW: sexual violence mention

The study of Indian literature in Western universities has always been disappointing. Even in the best of courses, Indian literature is still limited to the Salman Rushdie – Jhumpa Lahiri – Vikram Seth (if you’re lucky) trifecta that is as irresponsible as it is exhausting. While the works of second-generation and diasporic writers are important, to use their limited voices as representative of an entire subcontinent with hundreds of languages and cultures, hardly constitutes an education. The depiction of Indian women, in particular, from Slumdog Millionaire (2009) to The Satanic Verses (1988), are hardly more than one-dimensional stock caricatures of stereotypically oppressed “third world” women. Individuality, independence, rebellion, and cultural nuances, all vanish against this overwhelming backdrop of Bollywood tropes and toxic masculinity.

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The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Lily Thwaites

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Illustration by Holly Summerson hollysummerson.wix.com/arts

Ying-Ying, you have tiger eyes. They gather fire in the day. At night they shine golden”’ – Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club 1989) (246)

Many times in my life I have wished to be more like my mother; she is strong, independent, smart, but also a little bit wild. When I was eleven, I went over to one of our bookshelves and found a fairly worn copy of The Joy Luck Club, picked it up and brought it to her. She told me to read it and I did.

Seven years later and only now am I beginning to understand the significance of this book for women like my mother; strong and independent women who were once caught between cultures, but also for others, who cannot grasp the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship strained in a cultural cross-fire. It is a book my mother and her friends have all given their partners to read, and it is one that deserves attention, specifically in English Literature syllabi, where I find texts with Asian influences are often disregarded.

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