Updated: Mar 17, 2021
I was asked on the panel for a free live Q&A on the 15th JULY as part of #LGBTQ #queereyes #rai #lgbtq #diversity #fringefestival with The Royal Anthropological Institute. The RAI Film Queer Eyes Festival is running throughout July this year and this event discuses the ethnographic film #mirrormirror by #zemmoffat (2006) where I performed as the bastard child of Marilyn & Hendrix alongs with other queer #barwotever performers including Josephine Baird, Trevor 4 Ever, Lazlo Pearlman, Ingo Cando, and Tom of Tottenham.
The Zoom panel consisted of Zemirah Moffat (director), Chloe Dominque (Anthropologist of the Material Cultures of Sex, University College London), Tara Brown (Host & Curator) and myself, Maria Rosamojo (Artist and Writer). The Q&A was live streamed to youtube https://youtu.be/jZ7Igw5uyi0 and the film Mirror, Mirror is free for a week https://raifilm.org.uk/mirror-mirror/
We enjoyed a chilled yet passionate chat about the film, ethnography, ethics and queer identity. Tara was an inspiring powerhouse as the host and kept us secure in a cosy queer bubble where we could speak openly. Plus I was delighted to hear that they, like me, was also raised in Harlesden! Zem wittily spoke of her superpowers of flirtatious persuasion while directing and enlightened us on her own auto-ethnographic journey in the film. Chloe's input on the materiality of sex and queer economies was incredibly insightful and a relevant discussion that I tried to link into the disparity between black and white privileges having never felt confident to apply for arts council funding myself despite working for 40 odd artists and hosts over the years. Out of all of the artists who directly benefited from it, only one was black. How much are you worth in a white western society? More or less than I am? Ethnography is essentially a field strong on ethics so we need to recognise our privilege when embarking on a project that involves others. Last year I found a a similar sentiment in the ethics section in a book on Visual Ethnography. Imagine my surprise when I turned the page and saw a photo of myself and the cast of Mirror Mirror in the book. Another picture featured Josephine Baird, a trans female artist, with a caption that spoke about her genitals. In the film we had all discussed how that particular scene was a sensitive inclusion. Lazlo pointed out that there is an obsession that reduces transpeople to their genitals rather than the recognising the evolved individual. Something the Author seemed to not find a problem by printing it in the book alongside the troublesome caption.
For the Q&A I was attempting to say as queers we need to be mindful and deeply recognise our privileges, because if we can't, how can we expect the wider world to. In developing my auto-ethnographic film Witch finder Phenomenal I'll be constantly checking myself as someone who is in a position of power when including other actors/participants o care for their ethical need and emotionally. I am in no financial position to pay for their services, I'm writing the contract that agrees to pay a fair percentage if any money was made post budget. I also stress that as its a budget student short film, it’s highly unlikely to make a profit. But there's aways the what if. In the past, I've taken part in queer films for the pleasure and never paid money for them (except for one where I was nudey, long story, put me off for life). But there comes a time when you need to know your worth. Know other peoples worth. No more crumbs. Its basic ethics.
I admit I may have communicated clumsily in the Q&A, a therapist once cheekily remarked on my 'knight moves'. In conversation I often experience dissociative aura-like spillages that can obscure my verbal communications, anxiety makes rooms spin for me literally. I still can’t watch the video lol so not sure how I came across. So after I spoke to a fellow queer black female friend Helen Charles. She helped me have confidence with my voice by succinctly capturing my argument "I agree with what you say about auto-ethnography being something to own for the Self. The Other always trying to evade one's own mirroring too. "Accepting crumbs" as you say seems to herald your determination to gain the confidence you so clearly have however, the privileges of white academia will try to "academise" their own reasons for "anthropologising" as I call it: trying to apologise by stealth. Your voice is clear. Your reason for being is essential." I love how Charles confidence builds bin the twilight world of anthropologising! I love her! I love my friends! Radical Love for our kin in the face of hierarchal systems of oppression. Radical love is also tough love so we don't imitate colonial practices when working with one another. I was delighted that the fringe organisers and the RIA gave me the opportunity to speak in such an inclusive and supportive way. I'm also very proud to be part of Zem's film with all the wotever crew, and the legacy it leaves open for many more queer resistances.
Josephine Baird's podcast link https://shows.acast.com/it-is-complicated/
BACK TO MY BLOG
Eek! I'm close to finalising my MA by Project deadline this September 2020, I'm feeling so drained but still thankfully creative and positive. The above video shows extracts of themes and ideas I'm working on at present and I would really appreciate your feedback via my instagram or twitter @rosamojo. Also check out this link for our courses new 'Liveness' page' that features work from yours truly and ace fellow students Caroline Hope & Pippa King https://liveness.org.uk/2020/art/ma-project/
I am performing a hauntological enquiry into my own identity as a British queer mixed-race female with mental and physical health challenges with the aim of producing an auto-ethnographic short multimedia fantasy horror. My thesis is also exploring how other marginalised identities inform themselves within western society while positing that society’s need for whiteness, patriarchal logic, order and absolute obedience in all areas from schools to government, produce growing pain spectres that perpetually haunt to disempower subjects who do not fit within normative realms. The Othered subject threatens the natural order by appearing to exist, as if supernaturally, out of place and time. So when a subject is identified as Other, they experience a type of dissociative fugue under the impact of society’s role as witch-finder. My creative practice is led by my phenomenological experiences of growing up in 70s/80s Harlesden and existing within a racist, abusive white privileged culture for almost five decades. I embarked on an auto-methodological approach which points to themes, signifiers and serendipitous occurrences that occur in my inner and outer worlds, so that I can externalise the internalised and haunt back the society that has haunted me and thwarted my identity as it formed. Re-searching role models for empowering relatedness, I realised I could metaphysically and archaically identify with the power of the witch. I conceptualised the invisible illness witch comic and white privilege doll video as a satirical and empowering way to make the invisible visible. My third female symbol of empowerment will be unveiled in my film, but I will say The Witch Finder Phenomenal is the narrator. By creating representational stories that place the disempowered in empowering positions, I hope to invoke the promise of a trauma healed which can be utilised for queerly empowered resistances.
Thats how you come in. If you wish to share your recent experiences of resistance, 'hashtag' queerresistances witchfinderphenomenal, and I'll post some in my next blog. I need companions so that we can fly on our diverse brooms together and not be burned by the evil witch finder general, but fight fire with fire by supporting and embracing other witches, like only a witch finder phenomenal can. This leads me to today's queer resistance. I love my course and admire my tutors and fellow students. BUT. In future (starting from the century before last) academia has to seriously make up for its failure to provide black students course feedback from tutors who are representative. As a queer mixed race cis woman blah blah I can only speak from my experience. I resent constantly needing to patiently ask or remind people in the institution that my academic experience is whitewashed, and therefore I need representation and feedback from a black tutor thank you very much. Its taken 2 years to find one which I am grateful for now. But I still had to ask again today for assurance as there have been communication problems. I was told that they haven't heard from them and that I needed to to ask your fellow students and the university if I outsourced black tutors. This was said to me as if I hadn't been trying to do just that for 2 years. So I let it sink in, then sent an email to explain AGAIN why this seemingly trivial matter was so important to me. But this time I also informed what was triggered inside me when it was said to me. What does it feels like to ask permission for something that every white student takes for granted?
Dear White Academia
Why the wait? The crux is that we black folk have to deal with a lived experience of everyday racism and worse, so I personally have become quite the expert in getting used to the 'way things are'. People of colour have had to get used to accepting and making do with crumbs because otherwise we'd be fighting every seconds of our lives which would leave us no time to write very special and important ranty blogs. Why is it that the micro action of asking for black representation within white academia feels so demeaning?
I'll say it as it is. It’s humiliating. I know this can't be the intention, how can white academic staff provide answers if the institution is white biased by default? This can only change, if members of white academia fight alongside people of colour to rock the boat until a black persons lived reality hits home. What is it to ask a white powerfully positioned person for a permission that every white person takes for granted? Have you ever had to kindly ask for white tutor? No? ell, let me tell you, it's like asking the master for a crumb after slaving and starving all day. And yet we wonder why the masters dining room is full of white people either obese with the knowledge of their power, and/or conveniently blissfully ignorant of their privilege. One of you even thought I'd made up the term 'marginalised' because it wasn't in Ye olde Oxford Dictionary
I’m not even being radical here. Although I do promote a radical love-filled-fury for change and justice inspired by those who've gone before like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. But I am not making a brave political statement, nor am I risking my life nor being arrested for my truthful beliefs. I’m just an ordinary woman being a black student wanting the same rights as other ordinary people who happen to be white students. I simply want the same equal rights of representation because I do not have the same rights as a white student.
Thanks, and yes I have received lots of helpful and considerate feedback from white tutors but isn't it my right to also have that from black tutors? And why are black tutors riduculously almost non existent in an arts university with multicural students? Its been a struggle (read my previous miss white privilege blog). If the university cannot provide feedback from a black tutor, then the least they can do is to offer to outsource one. Outsource and pay for black advisors and tutor services If thats what it needs to make a change in academia. Institutions need to acknowledge and recognise their educational, cultural and ethical responsibilities. Maybe that way, future generations won't have to feel demoralised and stressed out while simply asking for crumbs.
Im tired of crumbs. I’m over crumbs. Say no to crumbs. Boo hiss to crumbs.
Join in. Share the fight. Don’t be frightened. I don't bite.