Sunday, 16 March 2014

Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders is a play by Sarah Naomi Lee, directed by 
Kerri Mclean which is about  hair and being mixed race in the UK today

TOURING London and South East 10th April -3rd May 2014
Snakes and Ladders is a fast and funny family tale about three mixed race sisters and their relationship to their hair, inspired from real life stories collected from Black hairdressers in the South East of England in the Positive Hair Day project.

Award winning actress Cathy Tyson (whose film and TV credits include Mona Lisa and Band of Gold) joins a forces with a creative team made up of BBC writer Sarah Naomi Lee and director Kerri Mclean who recently was awarded an "overall excellence award" in the New York International Festival 2013.

Amma can't bear to relax, Kim loves being the one "blessed" with "good hair" and Sista is allergic to all forms of family life, Beyoncé and any Timotei advert.

Each sister knows her place, that is until Simone comes along and suddenly no one knows who they are any more.

Think Mike Leigh meets jerk chicken, this play will make you both laugh and cry, a must see.

“Sarah Naomi Lee's writing is fresh, buoyant, and touching” - Financial Times

To see a list of venues and dates and to book your tickets click  here


By Nadia Riepenhausen at follow her on twitter @Nadia1977

What are you? A question that is fairly straightforward for many, but not so much for me. Before you roll your eyes, expecting to hear another lengthy diatribe about another ‘tragic mullato’ identity crisis, hear me out.

A couple of Sundays ago, I found myself in a ‘battle of the races’ on twitter, a ‘twar’ for the lack of a better term. It started out as a pleasant debate regarding racial categories in South Africa, and the difference between a cultural and racial identity. It ended with me being called a racist who hates black people by choosing to identify as ‘mixed race’. I have been called many things, but a racist is definitely a first for me. I’m not going to justify my non-racist claim, by stating something lame like “some of my best friends are black”, because as I am mixed race, I am also black, but some people just don’t seem to get or accept that it’s possible to be both of these things at the same time

In the aforementioned twitter debate, I was explaining to my fellow tweeters that I prefer to identify as mixed race, rather than ‘coloured’. For those not in the know, ‘coloured’ is how mixed race people are referred to in South Africa, and in Zimbabwe where I grew up. For me ‘coloured’ is more of a cultural identity, rather than a race. Although both of my parents were born coloured, I have never been comfortable with the label. This is mainly due to the way that I have been socialised and the environment that I grew up in. I grew up with my German stepfather and spent parts of my childhood in Germany. I went to predominantly white schools, and was one of a handful of so-called ‘coloureds’ in my school. I found myself with either white or black friends, and when it came to debating issues of race or politics, I adopted a black identity. During the time I was in school, I didn’t have the means to question my identity too much, but always found it difficult to answer questions pertaining to what I was. I didn’t live in the areas that coloured people lived in, I didn’t speak the way they spoke, nor did I go to the same places they did. I may give the impression that I was afflicted with a superiority complex, and that I thought I was better in some way, but this was definitely not the case. I would have loved to have blended in, but I simply did not. The few times that I attempted to, I was told that I ‘didn’t belong’ and was even beaten up by a girl once for being where I don’t belong. Many years on, I have no desire to blend in with any group and have embraced my ‘otherness’.

It was only when I moved to the US for college, where I was confronted by race all the time, that I found myself really questioning my identity. It was through a life-changing course called ‘De-colonization of the mind’ with Professor Mustafa Masrour, that I finally had the tools to challenge all the previous labels put on me. I read writers like Franz Fanon and heard the term ‘mixed race’ and for the first time. Things came together for me and the term ‘mixed race’ was one that just seemed to fit and make sense to me. Of course this did not mean that I was able to sail off happily on a caramel coloured rainbow or anything like that. The term mixed race is also a label, and comes with its own complexities and misconceptions, which are vast and which I don’t wish to get into here. It did however; lead to my interest in exploring mixed race and issues of identity more. I wanted to know about my ancestry and heritage, so I asked lots of questions and read lots of books dealing with mixed race identity to try to understand more.

I moved to Cape Town, after having spent time in New York and London, and there I was confronted with a new racial dynamic. The coloured community in Cape Town is big, and the coloured cultural identity is very strong and defined. I did not identify with coloured people in Cape Town in any way at all, thus the label did not fit for me there. I found myself constantly explaining my identity and why I speak the way I do, etc. To be very honest, I also did not want to be associated in any way with the negative stereotypes of coloured people there, which may sound elitist to some, but I do not apologise for it. It became tiresome to try to explain why I refer to myself as mixed race, as people typically assume that means that you have parents of different races. Both my parents are mixed race, as is my grandmother and most of the members of my immediate family. I have a mixed ancestry, which is black, white, Pakistani and those are just the ones I know of. It used to be of great interest to me to know exactly what my heritage is, but now I don’t particularly care.

So back to the ‘twar ‘that I referred to earlier. This guy decided to involve himself in a previous discussion I was having with two other people. He stated that by calling myself mixed race instead of coloured, I was cowardly and that I was running away from my identity. He basically stated that ‘mixed race’ doesn’t really mean anything, as there is no defined mixed race cultural identity. When I made reference to Obama as ‘mixed race’, this dude lost the plot and said how dare I refer to him as such, as Obama identifies as black. Yes he does, and in no way do I wish to take that away from him. Obama for me is as much mixed race, as he is black. But I don’t get to decide his identity, he does.

I believe that people have the right to self-identify in whatever way they choose to. You don’t, however have control as to how others perceive you though. I get mistaken for different nationalities on an almost weekly basis. Ethiopians think I’m Ethiopian, Indians think I’m Indian and Brazilians think I’m Brazilian and so it goes on. I don’t really understand this fascination with needing to know where somebody is from or what their race is. I never have a desire to ask strangers where they are from or what race they are. Of course my curiosity is slightly piqued when I see a person that also looks mixed to me, but I certainly don’t need to try and figure them out.

For me, race is a social construct and not a biological one, and this forms the basis of my opinions with regards to race and identity. It states on my twitter handle that: ‘I call myself what I like’. This was also the title of my my recent thesis that I wrote on mixed race and identity and social media. In my thesis, I sought to show that social media allows mixed race people to construct their identities in a way that is not always possible in ‘real-life’. I also sought to show that identities, specifically mixed race identities are fluid and constantly changing. Through the interviews I conducted, I was able to show that many mixed race people choose to identify with more than one racial identity. It just makes sense doesn’t it? I navigate my way on a daily basis between a mixed race and black identity. It might seem hypocritical to some, but it works for me.

So back again to this asshat (apologies for the crude term, but it just seems to fit so aptly) on twitter who said I am ‘anti-black’ and denying my blackness by choosing to identify as mixed race. He butted in on a conversation that was to do with mixed race identity, where someone was asking how she should explain to her children that they are mixed race. The discussion was not do with blackness, yet he somehow jumped to the conclusion that it was a rejection of blackness. He seemed like an intelligent man, yet he made such a ridiculous assumption. Had the topic been ‘blackness,’ I am pretty certain I would have been able to contribute as well. This person does not know me or my life, yet made a quick assumption that I was a racist, based on a few 140-character tweets. He in fact, compared me to the founder of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd??!! What kind of nonsense is that? I wanted to reach into the screen and issue smacks to this guy! I realised though that not everyone is going to agree with my ideas on race, and they are entitled to their opinions as much as I am to mine, despite seeming to lack neither rhyme nor reason.

This ‘gentleman’ seems to come from the ‘one drop rule’ school of thought, where if you had one drop of black blood it made you black. That is some old US slavery mentality that has nothing to do with me. I re-iterate that people have the right to identify as they wish, and I refuse to make others feel comfortable by fitting in with their socially constructed labels and categories. I am pretty certain that my identity will continue to evolve and change as I continue on my journey. Race is complex and whilst I attempt to understand it, I definitely don’t have all the answers. Race is important to me, but it certainly does not define me.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Global Designs by Issosy Children

Introducing your children to clothing which represents the different cultures of your family and friends is one way of showing them that you value the diversity.  From time to time fashion is influenced by African and Asian design and you can sometimes pick up globally influenced 'fusion fashion wear' to add to your child's wardrobe from the high street. But why not be one step ahead? ...Check out this article about Isossy Children which appeared in  Vogue Bambini.

Global Designs
Isossy Children was founded by Amanda Rabor in 2010. Isossy Children is a celebration of colour, vivacity, global influences and fashion. It offers children and their parents’ choice, style and design, which is why many of the pieces are limited edition prints. "It keeps our style unique and fresh. We want you to visit the website frequently with the knowledge that our styles and colours will change offering parents new ranges for all occasions", says Amanda.
Isossy Children

The collection is traditionally separated into Isossy Classic, Play and Occasion, covering a fantastic array of styles in wonderfully vibrant and ethnic colours.  Isossy prides itself on catering for the ever changing needs of its customers, and the collection for spring summer 2013 had just a little bit of everything to make it truly special.

The brand is honoured to stand by its ‘Made in England’ manufacturing ethos, combined with the international African, Asian and Western cultures.  The fabrics and styling of these countries are evident within this vivacious collection.

Childrenswear brand Isossy Children continues to be the forerunner in global clothing for kids.  With its smart, casual and lively range for girls and boys.  Check out their website. 

The range sees plenty of Tween pieces for girls and boys (8-14 yrs) that look as though they’ve just stepped off the catwalk.  Key styles such as the all print pant suits for girls and boys are going to be a real player within the range. The 80s makes a comeback for girls with playful cheerleader style dresses and drop-waist box pleat detailing.  The cheerleader dresses also have unique details such as the mock waistcoat feature. 

Isossy Children
Playsuits and the iconic jumpsuits that Isossy do so well have also been updated with halterneck styles with elasticated back bodice detailing.   Picture perfect cute dresses have frilly cap sleeves and racer back is perfect for summertime. Tailoring for boys and girls has become an integral part of this ever evolving range. Easy machine-washable fabrics in soft jerseys and cottons add to the elite quality of this beautiful collection.

I really love the designs and the mix and match nature of the outfits means that you can blend African, Asian and Western designs, so that your child can see that all their cultures are valued in your family.  Not only that, but your child will most definitely not be bumping into someone else wearing the same outfit at the party. To view more of this range and to purchase, check out the website:
Isossy Children
Isossy Children
Isossy Children