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  • Jamal Gerald

IDOL

HEY GOOD LOOKING! HOW U DOIN'?


I thought I would give you an update since it’s been a while. I’m fully back into reality since coming back from Trinidad, and Lord God, the struggle has been so real! I don’t want to be in the UK at all. It was so refreshing being in spaces where I wasn’t the only black person. And now I’m back here and I’m one of the only melanated people in the room, or just the only one. I was used to it, but since coming back, it has been truly overwhelming for me. This does give me the drive to take up more space as a black person though, and to encourage other melanated ones to do the same. I’ve had such a culture shock. But you know, it is what it is. And I’m still making a new show and that’s a positive. Yay!


If you make work, you'll know the feeling of when your idea goes from one thing to the next.

So yeah, my idea has completely shifted. It was called ‘Complexion’ now it’s called ‘Idol’. I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with religion and spirituality since coming back from Trinidad. The idea for my show is now focusing on idolatry. Unpacking why and how we worship those of a higher social status, exploring Catholicism, celebrity culture and Black representation. I will be sharing my experiences of growing up Catholic, whilst also idolising black and queer celebrities, which is known to be a sin within the religion. I’ll also showcase how African people during slavery and colonialism were forced to worship a white Jesus. The show will highlight things such as internalised racism, anti-blackness and colourism. Idol will take place in non-traditional spaces to help create an underground, ceremonial ritual feel and scenery for audiences.


Please note, there’s still time for all of this to change, lol. But, I do feel this is a much stronger focus than my previous idea. Previously, I wanted to recreate a plantation house and start off the show with picking cotton outside, representing a field slave, but how many times have we seen that image? I don’t want to create a piece where my work could be traumatising for black people. It would’ve also started off the piece with such a downer, and I want this piece to be quite joyous, even though it will explore difficult themes. I also don’t want to be a black artist exploring things that have been explored before, even though no idea is original. I want my black audience to take away that it is important for us to create our own representation and not to expect anyone else to make it for us. And yes, I said my black audience.


I feel like I’m currently in a ‘I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!’ phase within my practice, which I’m so happy about! I’m no longer considering the white gaze, it’s something I find incredibly exhausting. Whatever white people take away from this work, they take away from this work. Not everything is and should be for them. I’m bored of constantly feeling like I have to explain everything in my work in order for a white person to get it. If you’re a white person and you get upset by reading this, you’re most likely entitled, and that’s something you need to work through.


I think people should be more honest about who their work is for, because I feel people think that work should be for everyone and I disagree with that. Will I still be working with white people? Yes. But, I’m only focusing on what I want black people to take away from this work and that’s it. Like I said, I’m currently in a ‘I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!’ phase. The amount of times I have not seen myself in someone’s work is ridiculous but not surprising. I do live in a country that is majority white after all. And I know as an artist I have the skill set to create my own representation, that’s why I no longer get upset when I don’t see myself.


There’s been so many times where I’ve seen a piece and I wasn’t sure what was going on. And I’ve been thinking to myself, why don’t I make something like that? This is my chance to take my work to places that I’ve never taken it before. I’m also interested in finding different ways of sharing my autobiographical stories. What would my piece be like if I decolonised traditional storytelling? We’re so used to stories being told in a certain way, so why not challenge that? I want to try and make a work that is unexpected, do things that challenge me as an artist and a performer. I’m currently in a really exciting place within my process and practice, and I can’t wait to share more of it with you! Speak soon.


Ashé xxx

© 2019 Jamal Gerald

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