A UTOPIAN CURRICULUM PART FIVE: SUPERMAN

Written by Ibtisam Ahmed

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Illustration by Iara Silva

Before I delve into this part of the Utopian Curriculum series, I must offer some thanks. First and foremost, to the incredible team at Project Myopia for their patience and compassion for me as an individual. The past several years have been difficult for so many of us and it is encouraging to see a publication actually embody the ethos of care and utopianism that we collectively agreed to explore when this series was first pitched. It is rare and makes all the difference. Second, specifically to Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevodo for your feedback and nurturing editing. It has been a real joy being asked to delve deeper into my thoughts in a way that was constructive and empowering. Third, to Iara Silva for your incredible artwork. Arresting visual media is a wonderful way to express complex thoughts – all the more relevant for this particular essay given the graphic nature of the source material.

And finally, to you dear reader, for sticking with this endeavour. It feels serendipitous offering my gratitude halfway through this curriculum, especially as so much has changed since it was first pitched. Part of this change is the actual source material itself. When I first included Superman as an example of utopia, it was a more generic take on the character and his history. But Superman has evolved since then and it is the specific take on his latest iteration – an openly queer child of a refugee with intentionally inclusive politics – that I will be exploring here.

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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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The otherness of South Asian Art in British academia

Apoorva Singh

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

Chila Kumari Burman was a member of the British Black Arts movement in the 1980s and one of the first South Asian women to make political art in the UK (Buck, 2020). Her work was most recently exhibited by Tate Britain in 2020, where her piece remembering a brave new world, filled with imagery of iconic Hindu deities and South Asian aesthetics, was the gallery’s winter commission. South Asian feminist perspectives on post-colonial Britain are centred in Burman’s work, which spans multiple media, from printmaking and painting, to installation and film. In my exploration of Chila Kumari Burman, I started to wonder: How do we read and understand her artwork? Is it post-colonial, South Asian, feminist or British? How should we define the artwork’s aesthetic and cultural underpinnings?

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Lino print of French-Mauritanian film director, Med Hondo. Hondo is depicted holding a loud speaker and standing in front of a banner emblazoned with the national motto of France and Haiti, "Liberté, égalité, fraternité".

The Visionary Films of Med Hondo

Illustration and article by François Giraud 

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

Although he worked at the margins of the film industry for half a century, pioneer French-Mauritanian filmmaker Med Hondo (1936-2019) is not an obscure artist. As recently as 2020, the German publisher Archive Books compiled almost fifty years of interviews with Med Hondo, which shows the interest that his transnational and anticolonial cinema continues to elicit, decades after many of his films were released. In 1970, his first long feature film Soleil Ôwhich powerfully denounces racism in French society and the exploitation and discrimination of African emigrants in Paris—received exposure at Cannes Festival and was awarded a Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Festival. Some of his later films, such as Sarraounia (1986) and Black Light (Lumière noire, 1994), have been studied in academic journals specialising in African and postcolonial studies. 

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An abstract, geometric representation of a human face in red, green and gold, consisting of collaged elements and textures in shades of pink. Artists description: “The idea behind it is to ask the viewer to deconstruct, enquire, and reconstruct what is being offered, especially since 'Utopia' as a topic can be a very subjective concept.”

A UTOPIAN CURRICULUM PART ONE: INTRODUCTION

Part One: Introduction

Ibtisam Ahmed

Edited by Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Illustration by Iara Silva

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”

The Soul of Man Under Socialism, Oscar Wilde (1891)

This is how Oscar Wilde described utopia in The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891). For him, the journey towards a better world was always a part of the human impulse, and it is in that spirit that I am pleased to offer this series with Project Myopia. Utopian Studies is often considered a niche field, but it has the potential to be a useful tool in the broader academic decolonisation movement.

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‘IN ORDER TO LIVE’ BY Yeonmi Park: VOICE FOR A SILENT NATION

Giulia Colato

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Illustration by Maia Walcott

“You have to tell the world that North Korea is like one big prison camp . . . If you don’t speak up for them, Yeonmi-ya, who will?” (Park 264). After her mother said these words, Yeonmi Park decided to put aside her insecurities, her fear and the shame she felt and to write about her life.

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Sun Ra’s Space Is The Place: A Radical Black reimagining of a better future

Oluwaseun Matiluko

Edited by Maria Torres-Quevedo

Artwork by Olivia Twist: YesOliviaTwist

I am currently in the final year of my Law degree. When the time came to select the modules I would study this year I decided to pick the modules in which I knew I would feel represented and seen. Although I enjoyed the previous years of studying ‘Contract’, ‘Tort’, ‘Criminal’ and ‘Property Law’ I felt the need to expand my horizons; to study something that I had never had the opportunity to study before and probably would not have the opportunity to study again. So, alongside my modules ‘Equity Law’ and ‘Employment Law’, I elected to study modules in ‘Sex, Gender and Law’ and ‘Law and Race’. I had one more option left, and I was struggling to fill it when I spoke to my good friend Sheila. She had seen an open module listed on our University website– ‘African-American Music in the 20th century’– and when I clicked on it I immediately smiled. A module focussed on the music that I love but also drew on its West African heritage seemed to perfectly intersect with my interests and my personal heritage and so I jumped at the chance to study it. I am so grateful that I did.

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Learning To Listen To The Real Refugees: An Exploration Into The Wider Message Behind Candice Breitz’s 2017 Biennale Showcase

Elspeth Walker

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Illustration by Alice Tyrell

In 2017, artists Candice Breitz and Mohau Modisakeng showcased for South Africa in the Venice Biennale country pavilion. Both used film installations and/or photography to create poignant pieces of work. For her piece, Breitz looked at refugee narratives within the wider context of identity under capitalism – a prevalent theme throughout the art exhibitions.

Breitz is an artist renowned for her video installations that mix both mainstream media and Hollywood cinema to create out of context work delivered by famous actors, often against a blank screen. This style is evident in her work exhibited in the pavilion.

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