Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could appreciate the fine things that folks from every culture have to offer, without waiting for validation from other sources? One of my grandmothers always had her hair plaited in the style described in these parts as the “corn row” hair do. It suited her perfectly well and I was always pleased to see her turned out that way. Then Bo Derek appeared in a movie, with the same hair do. Suddenly it took on a different layer of significance. I don’t blame Bo Derek and her handlers for the ensuing hoopla, but I wonder about the self esteem of folks who need to get endorsements from other cultural sources, to see the beauty in their surroundings.
As a young musician, I performed with an artist who led a group of African drummers that played complex polyrhythmic passages as a matter of course. In those days, it was highly unfashionable in Black British circles to identify with one’s African roots or heritage. I remember being present at open air concerts where some Black listeners would make disparaging remarks about the unfiltered African essence of that group’s presentation. Fast forward to a few years later, some Black American performers appeared at the Jazz Cafe, presenting something similar, but certainly not as authentic. This group attracted a crowd of aspiring Stagger Lee Black Britons, who all seemed to think the band’s style was exceptionally cool.
At the moment, everyone is excited about the Hollywood validation of dodgy African accents and grooming, presented in the world of Wakanda. Why do we need the endorsement of American show business, to feel good about source material that lies right under our noses?
Do we need to do some work on our self esteem in cultural terms? It is fair enough that the gate keepers of show business and the arts have indicated in the past that they feel most comfortable with watered down versions of what we have, but there is nothing stopping any of us from performing our own experiments with dilution.
In any case, we should be aiming to present our real selves in honest set pieces of expression, not so?