Alice Te Punga Somerville, Always Italicise: How to Write While Colonised - Kupu rere kē
[ID: A poem titled: Kupu rere kē. [in italics] My friend was advised to italicise all the foreign words in her poems. This advice came from a well-meaning woman with NZ poetry on her business card and an English accent in her mouth. I have been thinking about this advice. The convention of italicising words from other languages clarifies that some words are imported: it ensures readers can tell the difference between a foreign language and the language of home. I have been thinking about this advice. Marking the foreign words is also a kindness: every potential reader is reassured that although you're expected to understand the rest of the text, it's fine to consult a dictionary or native speaker for help with the italics. I have been thinking about this advice. Because I am a contrary person, at first I was outraged — but after a while I could see she had a point: when the foreign words are camouflaged in plain type you can forget how they came to be there, out of place, in the first place. I have been thinking about this advice and I have decided to follow it. Now all of my readers will be able to remember which words truly belong in -[end italics]- Aotearoa -[italics]- and which do not.
Next image is the futurama meme: to shreds you say...]
Many of the questions I see about cultural appropriation in different rituals, practices, and communities on witchblr I think come from a misunderstanding that could be helped if people made some effort to decolonize their thinking. A paradigm shift from the usual Western style of thinking about things in general.
Sometimes when I see white people asking about certain closed practices, I can see how a colonizer mindset is confusing them. Maybe their indigenous friend taught them to smudge and now this lady on TikTok is telling them that’s appropriation and now they’re thinking, which one is right? So they ask:
Who can practice this?
And they expect one answer.
“Oh,” they say, “Of course, I understand that this community is not a monolith BUT….”
“But of course, there must be some kind of consensus or authority. Of course, there must be a RIGHT answer, at least? Or a safe answer where I can keep from getting in trouble? Can I burn palo santo my friend gave me? If my friend taught me how to do an egg cleanse on myself but Tumblr says I can’t, which is true? Which is the RIGHT answer?”
Before I answer that question, I want to explain why it is a question wrongly asked. In Western thought, there is a pervasive idea that Being is what makes reality. Something is Real and Good and Genuine if it is in a constant state that is unchanged and unchanging. It cannot have facets or degrees. We see this in the dissonance we feel in ourselves when we have a work self and a friend self. If we’re Real then we have to have One Self right? Otherwise we are Two-Faced. For Love to be real it has to be Enduring and Eternal, and if we fall out of love then they weren’t The One, because REAL things are constant.
If you want to decolonize your thinking, you have to let this go. You have to accept that all of your relationships with people, communities, and cultural practices, are in constant flux and will never have a single unchanging and unchangeable truth. They and you will always have different facets that you are showing and hiding differently all the time as you grow together and apart. That’s okay, that’s Real and True.
So if we go back to the question; What can I do so that I know in all contexts at all times if I am or am not allowed to engage in a ritual practice? Now it is very clear why this is a question wrongly asked. A right answer that is always immutable correct is simply not possible. It’s not just about knowing that Black, Latine, and indigenous people are not a monolith, it’s about knowing and understanding that every community, every person, is always going to have a different and ever-changing relationship with these practices and that they and these practices are not separable from each other.
Each time, each place, you will have to think about your relationship to this time, this place, these people who are with me now, this land I am standing on, my ancestors and their ancestors and the ancestors of the earth and you will have to decide what is right, not just for you but for all the different facets and intersections you are sitting in now, in this moment.
There is no dissonance between not buying a smudging stick at Five Below and burning Palo Santo that your friend gave you. Going to the botanica to buy cascarilla so you can do as your teacher told you is not wrong just because refusing to buy a 600$ limpia from a hipster from Wisconsin is right. One had a wrong time-place that increased oppression and commodification and another enhanced your relationships empathy and connection with your community.
Finally, because all of these things are related to each other in a thousand different ways, no one can tell you how to practice so that you never make anyone mad, ever. That’s just not going to happen. If you refuse to practice with someone because you’re white and they’re not, you may alienate them. If you choose to practice something because it deepens your relationships across fronteras, you will alienate other people. Pissing people off isn’t necessarily immoral, as we all know.
P.S. This is not permission to go white-girl smudge your house or go on Amazon and buy copal at astronomical prices. That shit is always going to be lame and commodifying.
I recently compiled these to add to a comrade’s post about Land Back, but actually I think they deserve their own post as well.
Amílcar Cabral - Return To The Source
Frantz Fanon - The Wretched Of The Earth
Hô Chí Minh - archive via Marxists.org
Thomas King - The Inconvenient Indian
Abdullah Öcalan - Women’s Revolution & Democratic Confederalism
Edward Said - The Question Of Palestine
Thomas Sankara - archive via Marxists.org
Eve Tuck & K. Wayne Yang - Decolonization Is Not A Metaphor
Other key names in postcolonial theory and its practical application include:
Homi K. Bhabha
Léopold Séder Senghor
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
All of these will help you interpret and confront the realities of colonisation, and ideally help us understand and extend solidarity to comrades around the globe. Decolonise your mind, and don't stop there!
Here’s just one example from one small corner of one small Estonian town, Viljandi.
Picture 1: An ugly communist party building and car park, built by the soviet occupiers on top of a memorial they demolished for local people who died fighting for independence.
Pictures 2 & 3: The memorial, lovingly recreated down to every last detail, is back at the heart of a public square.
There are some commentators abroad who like to lecture russia’s neighbours not to “erase history” by removing the scars of occupation.
It’s weird because this kind of thing is normal everywhere else in the world. In fact, the very same people who get particularly upset about occupation monuments being removed here also tend to be very articulate about the importance of removing statues to ousted oppressors elsewhere. They just think russian imperialism gets a free pass.
Newsflash: It doesn’t.
Rather than erase history, plenty of occupation junk across the Baltic countries has been transferred to museums so that future generations can learn about it in its proper context. But it doesn’t belong in our public spaces. Local people here hated that brutal communist party building, which desecrated the memorial in a way so symbolic of the wider ugliness of russian imperialism.
Public spaces belong to the people who actually live here and should reflect the kind of free, modern, open, independent countries that we are - and which remember those who made it possible.
The other bad take on this issue is to constantly frame this kind of thing as a ‘reaction/response/message to russia’. That, again, is imperialist thinking. We make decisions for our countries based on what we want our countries to be. We’d want to remove this kind of junk even if russia had ceased to exist in 1991 or if it had flourished into a friendly democracy.
In fact, here in Viljandi, it took three decades of planning and sculpting to recreate the monument based off grainy photos of the original. The building was finally knocked down a couple of years ago and the memorial unveiled this midsummer.
In the interim, the building was expanded after the occupation to serve as Tourist Information, which was pretty ironic considering the communist aim was to keep us closed to the world. But that has a new home and the time has come to return the space.
There was quite a debate locally about whether to recreate it exactly or update it with some kind of modern reinterpretation. Both are legitimate, interesting ideas.
In the end, the only difference is that the materials are now of a much higher quality. I think they made the right decision.
And the fact that it was recreated in perfect detail by people who never saw the original but emerged from occupation with the same determination to live free does send its own new message from our time too. We will continue to exist.
Decolonisation can suffer setbacks, horrendously painful as we see in Ukraine, but the long term trend is unstoppable. The special protection that russian imperialism still enjoys in the minds of many around the world is starting to shatter.
I stopped by to take a photo of it for you all and a rainbow appeared. 🙂
The main effort in a process of planetary degrowth must be made by the countries of the industrialized North (North America, Europe, and Japan) responsible for the historical accumulation of carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution. They are also the areas of the world where the level of consumption, particularly among the privileged classes, is clearly unsustainable and wasteful. The “underdeveloped” countries of the Global South (Asia, Africa, and Latin America) where basic needs are very far from being satisfied will need a process of “development,” including building railroads, water and sewage systems, public transport, and other infrastructures. But there is no reason why this cannot be accomplished through a productive system that is environmentally friendly and based on renewable energies. These countries will need to grow great amounts of food to nourish their hungry populations, but this can be much better achieved—as the peasant movements organized worldwide in the Vía Campesina network have been arguing for years—by a peasant biological agriculture based on family units, cooperatives, or collectivist farms. This would replace the destructive and antisocial methods of industrialized agribusiness, based on the intensive use of pesticides, chemicals, and genetically modified organisms. Presently, the capitalist economy of countries in the Global South is rooted in the production of goods for their privileged classes—cars, airplanes, and luxury goods—and commodities exported to the world market: soya beans, meat, and oil. A process of ecological transition in the South, as argued by ecosocialists, would reduce or suppress this kind of production, and aim instead at food sovereignty and the development of basic services such as health care and education, which need, above all, human labor, rather than more commodities.
Michael Löwy, Nine Theses on Ecosocialist Degrowth
Okay, let me talk about one thing that a lot of white folks don't quite seem to realize. And that is the fact that colonialism never really ended.
Like, the official telling of it was: "Oh, yeah, after world war 2 the colonizing nations realized it was wrong." Or, if it is more honest, then: "Yeah, after world war 2 the colonizing empires were out of money to uphold her colonies." But even that still very much is a total lie. We still live under colonialism - both settler colonialism and extractionist colonialism.
Probably the easiest way to realize, we still have settler colonialism in place, is to look at the amount of land that never was in any way or form given back to the indigenous folks who once called it their home. No, they do not get to live there again. And also, no, they will not see a penny of the money that might be extracted from their former homes through development, agriculture or for example oil extraction.
In the US the state that shows it maybe the strongest is Hawai'i, in which indigenous folks are more and more pushed away from where they were living and praying, as parts of the island get used for tourism, rich people homes, military stuff or maybe a nice observatory on one of their sacret sights. More and more indigenous Hawai'ians are forced to move away from Hawai'i. Because through the rich folks and their development, they cannot afford to live on their own islands any longer.
We also see it through extractions. I already spoke about the land in the USA, but the same is happening in so many other places. A lot of land (especially mines) all over Africa are still owned by white people directly or indirectly. So they will still, to this day, extract the wealth from it.
Or, heck, we have all those exotic fruit plantages all over the tropical regions. Like how the US literally overthrew a government to keep the banana productions going and keeping it in white people hands.
Or there is of course the fact that the fucking lines onf the maps we have now have been drawn by white people, artificially grouping people together, who might not even be from the same culture. Something that often instabilized nations - an outcome that was very clearly intended, to make it easier to control and extract value from the nations in question.
Just look at the entire thing with the Sykes-Picot-agreement, that is responsible for so many of the wars happening in the Arabian world right now. Or at the division of India, that was and still is cause for so much violence.
And of course, while Slavery is officially outlawed, the US kinda contructed its justice system all around keeping it further going. By criminalizing Black people for all sorts of stuff and then making unpaid prison labor legal.
Colonialism is still going strong. And really, whenever western nations go crying about China's neocolonialism, what they are really crying about is, that it loosens their own colonialist control over them. Not that there is colonialism happening at all.
And we cannot have a just world, until we fully decolonize and until reparations are paid for the evils that have happened for now five hundred years.
This is also, why we cannot have anything in terms of solarpunk futures, until we decolonize. Because solarpunk aims for a just world. A just world that cannot exist unter colonialism.
from The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution, by Dan Hicks.
[Image ID: The book has been written with this motto in mind: as the border is to the nation state so the museum is to empire. Like the border uses space to classify, making distinctions between different kinds of human, so the museum uses time. Like the telegraph, the camera and the disciplines of archaeology and anthropology themselves, the museum seeks to annihilate time and space, to weaponise distance. Like the camera, the museum does not freeze time but controls exposure, measures out duration. A time of taking is giving way to a time of returns, like the gun that shoots twice, a second moment is coming. From the outset, therefore, we need a theory of taking. /end ID]
Happy Portuguese Freedom Day! 🌸
Today Portugal remembers the nonviolent rebellion that ended a 50-year long dictatorship; reestablished democracy in the country and led the path to decolonisation and independence for Angola, Cape Verde, São Tomé e Príncipe, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau.
Kupu rere kē
My friend was advised to italicise all the foreign words in her poems.
This advice came from a well-meaning woman
with NZ poetry on her business card
and an English accent in her mouth.
I have been thinking about this advice.
The convention of italicising words from other languages
clarifies that some words are imported:
it ensures readers can tell the difference between a foreign language
and the language of home.
I have been thinking about this advice.
Marking the foreign words is also a kindness:
every potential reader is reassured
that although you’re expected to understand the rest of the text,
it’s fine to consult a dictionary or native speaker for help with the italics.
I have been thinking about this advice.
Because I am a contrary person, at first I was outraged —
but after a while I could see she had a point:
when the foreign words are camouflaged in plain type
you can forget how they came to be there, out of place, in the first place.
I have been thinking about this advice
and I have decided to follow it.
Now all of my readers will be able to remember
which words truly belong in Aotearoa and which do not.
Alice Te Punga Somerville, Always Italicise: How to Write While Colonised - Kupu rere kē
No one would call an artist from India “British” or an artist from Peru “Spanish,” so why do museums continue to label Ukrainian artists as “Russian”?
The misnomer issue is nothing new. Researchers and curators from Ukraine have been contacting institutions like the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Centre Pompidou for years to ask them to acknowledge the Ukrainian descent of some of the artists in their Russian collection. These requests were mostly ignored before the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Ukrainian culture (and any other post-Soviet/post-Russian Empire oppressed culture, for that matter) is successfully erased from global art history. And virtually every museum collection is an example of this erasure. Ukrainian art historian Oksana Semenik, who is now studying at Rutgers University, provides more proof of that. As an assistant curator at the Zimmerli, the biggest collection of Soviet non-conformist art in the US, Semenik examined the museum archive to find out that out of 900 artists labeled “Russian,” 71 were Ukrainians, and 80 were artists of other nationalities like Belarusian, Latvian, Lithuanian, etc. “About 15% of the ‘Russian’ collection is misidentified. But when I asked if this could be changed, the response was: The identity question is not relevant these days,” Semenik said.
If this question is irrelevant, then why does “Russian” remain? “Some curators told me that using Ukraine in the caption is incorrect since there was no such country at that time,” Semenik continued. She also checked the online archive of the Smithsonian Institution and found 42 Ukrainian artists labeled “born Kharkov, Russia” or “born Odessa, Russia,” among other examples. In fact, a country called “Russia” did not exist before 1991, either. But the problem is bigger here — attributing Ukrainian cities to Russia, especially in the current context, rings like blatant Kremlin propaganda.
To be unable to recognize the difference between the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and the Russian Federation or Russia is a shameful mistake for institutions whose archives are used as credible academic sources. “It’s tough to acknowledge that the history Western art historians were learning for years, all those tons of books about Malevych and the Russian avant-garde, were part of the Russian propaganda,” Semenik added.
‘Extraction and assimilation go together. Colonialism and capitalism are based on extracting and assimilating. My land is seen as a resource. My relatives in the plant and animal worlds are seen as resources. My culture and knowledge is a resource. My body is a resource and my children are a resource because they are the potential to grow, maintain, and uphold the extraction-assimilation system. The act of extraction removes all of the relationships that give whatever is being extracted meaning. Extracting is taking. Actually, extracting is stealing—it is taking without consent, without thought, care or even knowledge of the impacts that extraction has on the other living things in that environment. That’s always been a part of colonialism and conquest. Colonialism has always extracted the indigenous—extraction of indigenous knowledge, indigenous women, indigenous peoples . . . Children from parents. Children from families. Children from the land. Children from our political system and our system of governance. Children—our most precious gift. In this kind of thinking, every part of our culture that is seemingly useful to the extractivist mindset gets extracted. The canoe, the kayak, any technology that we had that was useful was extracted and assimilated into the culture of the settlers without regard for the people and the knowledge that created it.’
Mainstream news is barely covering this, but Borikén (puerto rico by its colonial name) was hard hit by hurricane Fiona yesterday.
As my friends reach out despite widespread power outages, they’re sharing that flooding is happening where water didn’t even reach during Maria.
Grass roots organizations need our support right now, but for those of us showing solidarity from overseas it can be hard to find the right places to donate. During Maria in 2017 literally thousands died, not just as a result to unequal exposure to the natural disasters of climate crisis and instability, but even more so due to the US government’s colonialism and negligence and the incompetency and corruption of the Puerto Rican government.
DO NOT give money to the government or organizations closely working with it unless you want aid materials to rot in a shipping container. Or to buy people KitKat bars. Here are some alternatives I and my close friends trust:
Finally here is La Colmena Cimarrona, an Agro ecological farm working towards food sovereignty and collective land ownership in Vieques. They need some resources and financial support after the hurricane, so feel free to pitch in to their work, which will address both short term relief and long term survival strategies. https://www.hasercambio.org/colmena-cimarrona/
Hope this helps some of you direct your support. Y Fuerza Borikén