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The White Tent

12 Oct

I took this entry from a blog I used to write when I was living abroad on a French speaking island near Madagascar, called La Réunion. My time in La Réunion was well and truly one of the most interesting yet sometimes frustrating experiences I have ever had. The mix of French and Creole culture is both beautiful and fascinating but can sometimes be a source of contention. Many of my blog entries are just generic ramblings about life away from home but I found one experience particularly interesting. I wanted to include this entry here because I think the issues it raises are symptomatic of the underlying issues that still exist on the island.

So anyone who has had a conversation with me lately will know how disappointed I am by the fact that I don’t really know many Réunnionnais people here. I know a few French people but most of the friends that I spend time with are foreign. While I realise this could seem closed and small-minded on my part, this is really not from want of trying. The proof? The visual art exhibition I found myself at yesterday night. A visual and interactive exhibition called “La Théorie d’Antoine- Extension” which meant that I had to leave my bag outside and step into what can only be described as a room made out of sheet, kind of like a white rectangular tent.

Inside were four dancers, all dressed in white, and a chair in which they pushed me around and swung my legs. Through the course of this experimental session the four of them proceeded to carry me sky high, each dancer taking a limb and turning me clockwise like a twirling star in the sky. Afterwards I was led to a makeshift door, again made of cloth, with just a hand sticking out. Feeling very Alice in Wonderland-esqe, I took the hand and was led into a dark room where I was taken through the same procedure, only now in sheer darkness. As this finished, I was led back out into the terrace to view the rest of the exhibition. The whole concept focused on the role of choreography and how each new person who entered the tent played a role in this dance sequence without actually doing anything.

The exhibition, however interesting, was overshadowed by something else; I was there, surrounded by seemingly interesting people, but I had never felt so invisible. I purposely came by myself with an open mind and the intention to meet new people, but I didn’t talk to anyone. I’ve never silently pleaded anyone to talk to me like I did that night (even the scruffy guy, walking barefoot with  his shirt barely buttoned, I would have gladly talked to) If I had been rocking back and forth in the corner mumbling to myself, I’d have understood the reluctance to engage. But I’d like to think that I’m a fairly sociable creature Continue reading

Film Review: All White in Barking

12 Oct

Director and writer, Marc Issacs, explores the growing levels of contention for the increase of immigrants in Britain. Using Barking, a town with one of the highest levels of immigration and a large BNP following, as his location, Issacs explores the multifaceted attitudes surrounding race and immigration in 21st century Britain.

Issacs portrays his characters with startling honesty and originality. Far from the stock BNP fanatics we have become accustomed to seeing in the media, Issacs’ approach is far more clever than that. His subjects are engaging people dealing with the same issues and living the same lives as everybody else. We are presented with three-dimensional, and sometimes contradictory, characters such as the Dave, a BNP activist, with a mixed race grandson who he openly shows love and affection for. Or Sue, who despite her prejudices (which are later challenged) against ‘Africans’, instantly becomes more accessible when mourns over the grave of her son. Through this, we are able to glimpse at the complexity of human nature and the unfounded roots of people’s pre-conceptions.

Issacs explores the concept of ‘otherness’ and the ambiguous and blurry grey lines in which people’s prejudices lie. Dave will happily defend the Italian residents in the area whilst airing unfounded suspicion over the unsuspecting ‘African’ lady passing by on the street. Sue has no qualms about her white Albanian neighbours whilst bringing out tired stereotypical clichés about African culture and her Nigerian neighbours.

What is clear is that these characters are not fundamentally racist, but their attitudes are based on fear of the ‘other’ and an anxiety that a different way of life will somehow dilute their own. Continue reading