Even as I continue to gripe about the lack of representation of black bodies within the film industry, there are other things in the world that I must recognise and celebrate!!!!!! Before I do that however, let me first and foremost, give it up to Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee, who are both making a public and powerful statement by boycotting the Oscars!
I know some of ya’ll might think they’re being extra and just trying to get attention, or that race is not a relevant category to even consider when looking at what is good and what is not, but I’m not going to even mind y’all!
When you live in a country that systemically and periodically reduces the achievements of people who look a certain way, in the name of equality and all men and women being created as equal, you have to take a radical stand to drive that point forward! In the 87 years (2016 will be the 88th) of the Academy Awards, which first recognised cinematic achievements in 1929, out of the hundreds of nominations that have gone in over the 87 year period, only 44 African Americans have been nominated in the best actor/actress Academy Award category, with a mere 12, yes T W E L V E, African Americans having won. What do you even begin to call that?
Before I digress too much into the methods of resistance that are necessary when times call for it, I just want to say KUDOS Jada and Spike!! You are leading examples of what it means to be black and proud in a world that continues to want to shame us for our skin colour, a category which should not even matter, but continues to matter so much more than what we have proven (we shouldn’t even have to) to be capable of doing!
Now that I have gotten that out of my system, let me move on and concentrate on something that is going SO VERY RIGHT! Let me bring back some positive energy and life up in here! I wanna shout it out loud from the rooftop and say, thank you God! Let me give it up to the Grammy Awards Committee for nominating the Zomba Prison Project’s album “I Have No Everything Here” for a grammy award! YES O!!!!
I am sure all of you are wondering, what in the world is the Zomba Prison Project. According to the article published on Six Degrees Records “Zomba prison is a dilapidated brick structure that resembles a factory from a Dickens novel and was built in the 19th century. Designed to hold 340 people, today it houses over two thousand. In the summer of 2013, Grammy-winning producer, Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, TV on the Radio) and his wife, Italian photographer and filmmaker, Marilena Delli, traveled to the south of Malawi specifically to document and record the music of prisoners at the maximum security prison in Zomba.” The Zomba Prison Project was born out of the prison walls in Zomba and is a result of efforts made not only my the producers themselves, but particularly by the 16 voices sharing their stories in the album!
This is such a great achievement for my birth country Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa. For a small South-East African country that is only known for it’s poverty and it’s bad fortune with political leadership, it’s always astonishing and refreshing to read of stories that highlight the warmness and beauty of the people of Malawi.
These sort of reports just go to remind all of us of the complex and nuanced nature of the human experience; of the complexity and diverse nature of the African experience. States can be just as resilient as the people who inhabit them. Just take a moment to listen to the sounds of these talented artists, and you will agree with me! Even though my Chichewa is embarrassingly rusty, I am looking forward to listening to the sounds of these men and women while learning and growing through them!
To close off this unraveling session, let me just say, even in the midst of battles [of representation or otherwise], there are glimpses of hope and light to be celebrated! Get your life together Academy Awards, and good luck to the Zomba Prison Project. You have done all of us children of Africa very PROUD!
-Unravel Away Artist-