I guess like other educated white males I haven’t understood the the accusation that came out so often last year in the Black Lives Matter campaigns, that people like me are “privileged”. Especially in the sense that there are things we may never be able to understand, such as the sense of global outrage and solidarity that briefly swept the world last year,triggered by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It took me a while to try and understand why black women in particular have felt so strongly in “enlightened places where no such behaviour has occurred or is likely to”. In this town there is a significant population from the West Indies and Africa and a high proportion of mixed marriages. I’ve never noticed Karleen being disrespected in any way, apart from one occasion when she’d first arrived in England and a job agency doubted her ability to type and told her to get proof she was entitled to work here. It turned out it was the agency’s responsibility to establish that and not the candidates. When I showed my face there, they changed their tune. We could have reported them, but it was enough to walk out and never “darken” their doors again.
What Harmonia—who’s not particularly dark-skinned herself—shows me is that religious iconography over the centuries has claimed God for the white man, not to mention other dirty deeds done in the name of Christ. Her paintings depict a fictional world where black skin and womenfolk rule in their own domains, defining their strength, beauty and connection to the divine.
From the art of Harmonia Rosales
New World Consciousness 2018
This exhibition explores the duality between The Virgin Mary and Eve as a point of departure in the deconstruction of a dominant ideological narrative rooted in Eurocentric conceptions of beauty and superiority.
During the period of “Christian Colonization” women were put into two distinct categories; The Virgin Mary and Eve. The Virgin Mary is a woman who has been set on a pedestal so high that she is impossible to emulate. She is obedient. She is pure. She is long-suffering (and silent). In a patriarchy, she is in a word, ideal, the woman no modern woman in our society ever could become. And even should be made to want to become. And then there is Eve. Disobedient. Sexualized. The woman who dare to question, to challenge; the woman whom we are taught had Adam (and, thus, all of mankind), kicked out of the Garden of Eden as a result of her nonconformity. Both women have been judged by male standards of acceptability and respectability. Revered, or reviled. Commended, or condemned.