A Little Somethin’ for Megan Markle?

I’ve not been able to watch the fall of the British Monarchy and the Republican Revolution as televised by Oprah. Just not happening! Every time I think of the British royal family, I am reminded of Sue Townsend’s classic, The Queen and I, a masterpiece of Republican humour. As you’ve guessed, I haven’t succumbed yet to the Crown!

Instead, I returned to the influences of Black culture in my own life. The poetry, music, and yes, real struggles, of the hoi-polloi! Struggles that are in flux , ebbing and flowing at particular historical moments, like these blood-stained times we live in. Bob Marley told us, “if you know your history, you won’t have to ask me, who the hell do you think I am?”. So it’s in that spirit I share what’s on my mind . A reaction to the current mainstream furor over the shock about racism in the British monarchy. If you want to check out an insider’s view of the British aristocracy, you can check out Jessica Mitford’s Hons and Rebels, an autobiography of opposing political views and dedication to fascism among the lords and ladies!

Without further ado, I want to share the poetry of Georgina Herrera , a contemporary poet living in Cuba. This writer assumes her Black identity both as humanity and as a weapon, forged in the resistance of rebellion to enslavement. Cuba experienced the end of slavery as late as 1886. I have complemented the words of Herrera with the contemporary music of Ibeyi, an AfroCuban/ French duet of sisters, daughters of the renowned Cuban percussionist Anga Diaz. And to these I have combined my paintings inspired by these songs, poems and struggles. I hope you enjoy thinking about the multifaceted nature of women’s contribution to history, in this Women’s month!

Oral Portrait of Victoria by Georgina Herrera, Cuba

(Translation by Kaushalya Bannerji)

What a great-grandmother of mine, that Victoria.
Rebelling and head-down,
she passed her life.
They say I look like her.
That fifth of November
of 1843, Fermina, when all those
downward gazes were not
able to lower her spirits…

What love put that astuteness in her brain,
that fury between her hands?
What memory
brought from that land where she was free
like light and thunder
gave strength to her arm?

Valid is the nostalgia that makes powerful
a woman’s hand so
that she can cut the head off her enemy.

Tell me, Fermina. Then what
did you miss most?
What happiness did you recover, when
you flew more than ran, over the green abysses of cane
where you were defiled?

A pity
there doesn’t exist a photo of her eyes
They would have shone so hard.

Obeisance, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021

Retrato oral de la Victoria

Qué bisabuela mía esa Victoria.
Cimarroneándose y en bocabajos
pasó la vida.
Dicen que me parezco a ella.  
El cinco de noviembre
de 1843, Fermina, cuando
todos los bocabajos fueron pocos
para tumbar su ánimo…
¿qué amor puso la astucia en su cerebro,
la furia entre sus manos? 
¿Qué recuerdo
traído desde su tierra en que era libre
como la luz y el trueno
dio la fuerza a su brazo? 
Válida es la nostalgia que hace poderosa
la mano de una mujer
hasta decapitar a su enemigo.
Diga, Fermina. ¿Entonces
qué echaba usted de menos?
¿Cuál fue la dicha recuperada, cuando
volaba más que corría por los verdes abismos de  las cañas,
dónde tuvo lugar su desventura?
Lástima
que no exista una foto de sus ojos. 
Habrán brillado tanto. 

Blue Moon, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021
Amazing Musical Sisters
River, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021

Jazz Cats! Music to Explore and Enjoy!

Throughout the last year, since I started this blog, I’ve been delving into the weighty topics of racism, profits before people, the colonization of indigenous peoples, destruction of the environment, and the like. But sometimes I need to refresh and recharge. Music is a key part of getting through being isolated, as the coronavirus rages on, while politicians and businessmen and doctors are at opposite ends of the spectrum with regards to “re-opening” economies and social interactions…

Black music has shaped the Western world’s ear for melody and rhythm, and jazz as an ever-changing genre is born of Black experience in the Americas. It’s been attractive as well, to many Othered”, and outsider musicians. From the light to the contemplative, jazz notes resonate like the words of Langston Hughes, whose “Weary Blues” brought poetry and jazz and even the poetry of jazz, to the foreground.

Jazz has long been an expression of life that defined American music, in spite of white supremacy. It was both the blank page and the story, the pen and ink, of the musically inclined. Jazz, more than any other music, was responsible for breaking down what used to be known as the “colour bar” during a time when the United States was inventing a story of nationhood designed to keep black rage in check. That is why the truth can sometimes be found in sound more than in reading. Jazz can sometimes be the truth which provides a counterpoint to hegemonic fictions!

I’m sharing a playlist of some great jazz musicians and vocalists, as well as some visual tributes to the cool cats of jazz. Drawing on some Indigenous, Black, Latin, and contemporary jazz sounds, I hope this music will help keep you as cool these cats during these blistering summer days!

Jazz Cats, Kaushalya Bannerji, July 2020
Jazz Cats, Kaushalya Bannerji, July 2020

 

Jazz Cats, Kaushalya Bannerji, July 2020

 

Jazz Cats, Kaushalya Bannerji, July 2020

COVID19 Kills Postmodernism!

The other day, a friend asked me if I had been writing. The truth of the matter is, being solitary sometimes makes me unable to concentrate. I think it’s ironic, that I have not watched Netflix once, since the start of official self isolation for elders and those with pre-existing conditions. Part of this has also to do with a psychological reaction— it seems wrong to be “entertained” and actually, I couldn’t care less for more than ninety percent of their offerings. 

More importantly, I have returned to reading, where I feel my imagination and thinking comes more into play. There’s definitely a distinction between those people who relate to the screen more than the page!

This is a time of reflection and fear. Of hope and possible futures, possible only if we confront our reality— and it is a reality— head on, and at the very least, plan our societies. 

Social planning has been an anathema to neo-liberal politicians and their allies for at least 35 years. Yet social planning and the emergence of public health and post WWII social welfare schemes, are what helped industrial and colonizing nations manage their own domestic class discontent. And the ideas and implementation of state-funded socialized medicine are to be hugely applauded, especially if the logic of planning is people, and not profit, centred. 

Much of the crisis in the world during the current pandemic is due to profit being the guiding light through this disaster. Some politicians may pay lip service to helping their fellow citizens. But it is not what they say, but what they do, that counts. Canada is floating in a sea of perfect murkiness when it comes to support for quarantine and self-isolation measures. Online groups speak to heart breaking terror in real time and life. Families are suffering in all concievable ways. Refugees and prisoners are being abandoned to their fates. We did this. 

The Wait, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

A week ago I told someone that the coronavirus had killed postmodernism. There are no competing versions in the marketplace of truth as we can see so clearly today. Something invisible has made everything visible. 

And like all important “things”, truth comes at a high price. Currently, much of this crisis could be avoided- psychological, physical, financial, travel-wise, if we as a world chose early and total testing and planning for both the decrease of contagion and the support of those who are infected and affected by COVID19.  

This takes into account our real material interconnectedness, shows us that most people migrate only out of absolute necessity, whether from rural areas to urban within domestic/national borders (India, China, U.S, Mexico) or internationally. Those countries that are doing better to control the crisis include, Germany and Viet Nam. Because they are testing early and often and coming up with a plan for those test results! Testing without planning is meaningless. Late testing is responsible for critical illness and fatality spikes. Rationing tests when community transmission has already taken hold is the first step to genocide. 

Epidemiologists have criticized Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and other laissez-faire neoliberals for their scoffing approach to the virus and their erections when propping up the stock market and promoting various forms of fascism. Strangely, the WHO is all about praising India, deluded into thinking that the India of the BJP’s Modi is the same as the India of the era of Polio eradication campaigns. All those Phds— and really?

Back in the day when I was a political science undergrad, corporatism was a type of fascism that we studied, with the fascist body led by its God-given head. This fascism, bred in Europe has roots in the feudal conflation of church and state and civil society. 

We saw it in Italy and Spain, in Greece under the Generals, in Portugal and Salazar, and in Latin America, whose post Independence legacies of ruling and constitutionalism have been so clearly derived from their European colonizers. And to some extent in India, where labour, students and activists have traditionally organized on institutional— that is, party camps.  But today, corporatism has fallen by the way side, replaced by religious bigotry, ethnic cleansing, white supremacy, and upper-middle class libertarianism and consumption.

Today’s leaders are demonstrating they don’t care— about people who cannot be exploited (the elderly and the non-employed disabled).

 They don’t care about people who do not have the money to pay for everything that needs to be paid for (from necessities like utilities, water, rent, food, transportation, and even internet and its related technology,  to luxury goods). 

They don’t care for people not lured into constant complusive consumption. Looks at the vitriol and violence unleashed by countless adult men on Greta Thunberg!

Commodity fetishism in the Xanaxocene is what we’re dealing with. Trillions are being diverted away from human survival and potential, into industries run by fossil fools, commodities traders and bankers. These are the people who determine what is health, who is disposable, and what is worth saving. These are the people that dictate our moral compass. 

But they can’t take over our personal consciences. In the absence of human-centred health care, I’ll be staying home— out of both self-interest as a member of a hgh-risk group, and out of love, for all those I do not know, whose imperfect bodies make us all, human. 

I am ending today’s piece with two pieces of art:  a poem that speaks to our global terror, recited by the author, Dylan Thomas. It’s direct counterpoint to the idea that “grandparents should sacrifice themsleves for the DOW” .

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Credit

From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971 New Directions Publishing Corp

And the final word goes to the late great American jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron, offering us a chance to reinvent ourselves, in the face of so many odds stacked against us.

“I’m New Here”

I did not become someone different

That I did not want to be

But I’m new here
Will you show me around

No matter how far wrong you’ve gone

You know we’ve turned around

Met a woman in a bar

Told her I was hard to get to know

And near impossible to forget

She said I had an ego on me

The size of Texas

Well I’m new here and I forget

Does that mean big or small

No matter how far wrong you’ve gone

You know we’ve turned around

And I’m shedding plates like a snake

And it may be crazy but I’m

The closest thing I have

To a voice of reason

Turn around, turn around, turn around

And you may come full circle

And be new here again

[x5]