Ritual of representation

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As I mentioned yesterday, a friend of mine accuses me of being “narcissistic”, because of my daily ritual of taking a selfie, to post on Instagram. Obviously, his taunting hasn’t made me self conscious about this practice, because I still take the photos. It was interesting to search for the right words to explain the motivation behind the exercise. My friend wasn’t convinced by the explanation, but that is an issue of more importance to him than it is to me.

Instead of writing a diary with words, I use my Instagram selfies to monitor my state of well being. It is useful to look back at the way I was feeling several months ago, just before doing a major performance, for example. I believe I can learn things about choices and decisions I’ve made in the past and can act accordingly.

I was an avid collector of comics in my early childhood. There came a time when I felt the urge to move on to something different. In those days, the celebrity magazines featured photos of some of the most iconic figures of the mid 20th Century. I was particularly drawn to images of performers such as Sophia Loren, Mae West and Marlene Dietrich. Perhaps they were role models who gave me a sense of what was possible in adult life.

There were hardly any Black people in those magazines. The likes of Muhammad Ali and Diana Ross were peripheral figures, emerging in them from time to time. As a young adult, I realised that there were dynamics at play behind the lack of racial and cultural diversity in the range of images available to be seen in those publications.

In the era of Instagram, everyone has an opportunity to curate a vision of what matters most in their lives. I don’t regard myself as a role model, but I believe I have as much of a right to be seen as anyone else. I can present images of myself on my own terms on the platform and they serve as a form of documentation that could turn out to be useful in the future.