“But in my case everything takes on a new guise. I am given no chance. I am overdetermined from without. I am the slave not of the “idea” that others have of me but of my own appearance.” –Frantz Fanon
The image holds an ever-steady beat, permeating through the consciousness. The beat can transcend the music held before its composition, or it fights through the impressive amount of noise surrounding it. The African-American female image works over-time. As gifted student of the culture, Kiri Davis, demonstrates in an entry to the Sixth Annual Media That Matters Film Festival, there is a very present dissection of the “proper” image and the image of the African-American self. This concept of beauty is buried underneath the guise that dark-skin is still associated with “badness” or “ugliness” while lighter skin is associated with “goodness” or “beauty.” As the investigation continues, Davis juxtaposes (ever so appropriately) the experiment used by Dr. Kenneth Clark to justify segregation in the Brown vs. Board of Education case with a contemporary experiment of identical proportions. African-American children were given two dolls, black and white, and positioned to choose which dolls (yes, dolls) were better, nicer, prettier. The majority of the children preferred the white dolls over the black dolls. Davis consorts with this experiment in 2006 and little has changed. The power of the image has transformed into a louder/brighter force, suffocating the eyes/ears of human beings of African descent. We also see the opportunity of this toy-takeover in Republic of the Congo, thanks to the prolific work of Hector Mediavilla.
The dolls/mannequins represent what Fanon emphasizes as the need to become white at the expense of the dark skin or the “dark” image. The dolls also give a diagnosis of the destruction of the self-image in the African-American consciousness. The doll becomes the embodiment of the beat/image, its power only determined by the ability to be absorbed or (hopefully) purged.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Prolegomena to a Theory of the African American Imaginary
SDSU English and Comparative Literature Graduate Student Bianca Chapman checks in with some semantic and semiotic fire: