Stephen Rothenburg
Zanele Mashinini
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Love, sex and intimate relationships

21 february 2006


From: jean meeran   
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2006 15:31:24 +0200
Subject: RE: Jimmy Roberts

Interesting that link between black male sexuality and white woman issues. But I dont think that a backlash against feminism will result in a similar one occuring with black men. Though both the blac k man and the white woman are definitely in a state of transition as regards how they are perceived in the world. But I look forward to the day when black man and white woman have so intermixed that the resulting sea of shades of brown will fracture the sexual-racial landscape into such diversity, that we will be in such a daze that the only solution will be to get lost in the delights that this diversity offers. Anycase, that day isn't here yet, so until then I dont really have any answers. Jean Meeran


Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2006 15:59:27 +0100
Subject: Re: Jimmy Roberts
From: "Mieke Van de Voort"


black male body triggered a lot of thoughts.
writing from a white heterosexual perspective. when I lived in South Africa, from 91 to 94, I had not been intimate with black bodies except for when I was a child (this is all going to sound  odd and impersonal) in a physical way. but the black body was psychologically very present. the black body, especially black male, was an abstraction that pervaded in many ways. I was not so conscious of it at the time, but in looking back I remember how it was always under the surface. I am saying bodies on purpose because there is a difference in the experience of colour when one is personally intimate as compared to when one is not.
in its most abstract way, the image of the black male labourer was the holy cow of the struggle. the aesthetics of his body combined with his oppressed position and dedication to the struggle were a muse to activism. invoking a desire for unison.

in contrast on a daily basis the black body was represented by an economic class. though university was mixed, my neighbourhood was mixed, my circle of friends was mixed, there was this thing with the black body out there, that had nothing to do with the black bodies of people I personally knew. that body belonged to another economical-political class. it would be in colour on the frontpage of the newspaper every other week when there had been yet another outburst of violence. maimed and exhibited (through photography) to the public. don't know how to put my finger on it, but there was this gap between on the one hand the availability and cheapness of the black body and on the other hand this saintlike conception.

once a friend of mine told me in an intimate conversation that one of the hardest things, stemming from the apartheid era, to get over was the feeling of being ‘stained', feeling dirty. a deep psychological damage toward his own colour.
somehow that is what I think has happened to the image of the black male with the rise of aids. he had hardly any time to begin to recover from his stigma as exploited underdog in the apartheid era when the aids epidemic hit him.
and again his suffering body is exhibited to the public in photoreportage and documentaries.

in the Netherlands I noticed that although black Surinamese men (different from black immigrants from Africa)
and women are very much integrated here, they are often exoticised in advertising. there is an awkward mixture between explicit bodyculture in general, desire for the exotic and a certain ignorance toward the political aspect in representation. I have stumbled upon such issues in some of my artwork and noticed big differences in perception of people from different places. it is complex to reach into intimacy and love when at the same time using existing tools of representation. it seems that the work quickly ends up being regarded as political, provocative, indulgent, or outdated and boring.
as though it is all about political correctness and that has been dealt with before, so the issue has been addressed and that was that. now free reign can be given again to indulgence. that is part of a larger movement in popular culture. not just mtv but notably the real life tv series or whatever they are called thrive on sensational sharing of intimacies made superficial by turning the personal into the public domain. a blind alley for desire.
in contrast with this stands the recent presence of the veiled woman.
have issues of emancipation and ethics of representation shifted to the Islamic identity? has the power deal?

in any case, I'm afraid the African male (more than the ‘black male'?) looses out in spite of the African Renaissance.
or am I completely off?


From: jean meeran
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2006 23:28:03 +0200
Subject: Jimmy roberts

Hey good point there mieke, that it might be the Islamic Women (or Man) which will become the next site of struggle. I dont think its happened yet, but I think your foresight is spot on. The dominant media aways toy with that which the dominant culture is wrestling with. The interesting thing is that whereas with black males those they were toying with were very much disempowered, Islamic responses to their body image being toyed with A(or portrayed, investigated, used etc) will be harsh, when it feels threatened. As a muslim person myself, and my films being set in amuslim context (both religious and social), though in a new Urban Islam-Chic world, which borders on the futuristic, and is often erotic, I myself cant wait for the films to finally be made and we can see what Muslim people feel about these representations. We had these representations in western society a long time ago, with the Arabian Nights etc, but now the media will begin to (tentatively at first) wrestle with how to portray this global presence. And then this portrayal goes on until that struggle becomes exhausted and passe (and raped) and they look for the next. But Islam, which sometimes has a hysterical response to its representation by the West, will not let itself be fucked with. Hmmm, lets see.