An interview with 'Women of Colour in Japan' director, Amarachi Nwosu

Women of Color in Japan Documentary | Women Navigating Life and Culture in Tokyo through Creativity

For Tokyo Weekender, Cezary Jan Strusiewicz interviewed Amarachi Nwosu, the director of ‘Women of Colour in Japan’ and two of the documentary’s co-stars, Uzochi Okoronkwo and Ameya:

Women of Color in Japan focuses on three people. There’s Ameya, a Japan-born filmmaker, photographer, writer and co-founder of the visual media collective Ikix Studio. Uzochi Okoronkwo is a Nigerian-American stylist and owner of the vintage online boutique KO Vintage. And then, there’s Tiffany Cadillac, a Tokyo-born DJ, singer and producer of Japanese and Jamaican descent. We talked with Ameya, Nwosu and Okoronkwo about their lives in Japan as women of color and about how their work, vision and their very existence can help to spread awareness of the ever changing fabric of Japanese society.

It’s a good interview with interesting insights from all three covering everything from the treatment of women of colour in Japan to the collective struggles of WoC and Japanese women within the country:

9. Do you think non-Japanese WOC should be involved in the struggles of Japanese women?

Ameya: I think WOC in general should be allies to other minorities in this country. Whether that is Japanese women, LGBT, or less-able-bodied people, etc. None of us are free until we are all free. If we work to support each other, then we can create changes on a national and perhaps international level.

Related to Japanese women and PoCs in Japan: A blog post about Japanese geishas and kimonos, Seitō – a 1911 Japanese magazine exclusively for women, and Living While Black, in Japan

bell hooks (1952–2021)

bell hooks has passed away at the age of 69. It’s a tragic loss to the world and she will be sorely missed but her work in writing, feminism, and activism lives on. I remember reading her essay ‘Plantation Mistress or Soul Sister‘ for my dissertation and how it changed a lot of my perspectives on Black music, Madonna, and Blackness as well as giving me new ones.

Below are some links to obituaries, dedications, and essential reading for those unfamiliar with her work. In the words of Raquel Willis:

If you’re just learning about bell hooks, there’s no shame. You can always read her words and meet her on the page.

Articles and papers

Videos

Books (note: links are from Bookshop but aren’t affiliate links)

Women in Type showcases the influential women of typography

Type is more than fancy serifs, sans-serifs, ligatures, and Helvetica everywhere. Women in Type is a brilliant interactive site that highlights the contributions of women in the type industry since the last century. There are a host of photos of women in printing studios and type drawing offices alongside links exploring feminism, technology, and their own stories. There’s also a reading list should you want to go further down the type rabbit hole.

I did notice a lack of Black women or women of colour at all amongst the photos (I maybe saw one woman of Far Eastern descent?) and while I’m sure there was sexism and racism within the industry—as with any—there must have been more than one or two that had a significant influence on type. Maybe there were more WoC in type outside of Europe but that might have taken this research project outside of its scope (head to the Credits section for the source of the photos).

To read more about the research project, head over to the University of Reading’s official page.

A blog post about Japanese geishas and kimonos

I found these articles in October and thought I’d share them.

The first one, from Vogue, is an interview with a Japanese kimono culture expert and she shares her beauty and wellness secrets some of which had been followed by “Geishas and Japanese women over 100 years ago”:

On her detailed skincare routine

“In the morning, firstly, I wipe my face with cotton soaked in plenty of rose water. Secondly I apply a serum, toner, and the Kyoto Secrets’ Beni Balm on the lip, around the eyes and smile lines to reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles. Lastly, I apply an oil and sunscreen. At night, when I wash my face with fluffy soap foam, I use a silk puff to gently caress the foam away. Fine Japanese silk helps to smooth the skin. From the aristocrats of 1100 years ago to the Geishas of 100 years ago, it is understandable that they used to wash their faces with silk cloth to keep their smooth fair skin. Other than sunscreen, it’s almost the same routine as in the morning but I put on a face mask regularly. The neck and the backs of the hands show our age easily, so I take the same care of my face. I use a silk puff to cleanse my body and slather body lotion all over.”

On home remedies

“I apply Sakekasu (white liquor solids produced during the process of making Sake) that is used to make a face mask. The hands of Sake craftsmen, even men in their sixties, are white and beautiful, and many of them look like women in their twenties! Kyoto is the best place in Japan to make Sake, so we can get a lot of good quality Sakekasu. Women in Kyoto have been using face masks with Sakekasu for a long time, which makes their skin look moist.

For my hair mask, I use a mixture of eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, honey, etc., depending on the conditions at the time. Especially for the special hairstyles I do for Kimono, I use more oil or spray than usual. Applying this hair pack before shampooing my hair will loosen up the hardened hair smoothly.”

The second one looks at the “Niigata Geigi”, a group of geishas from Furumachi in Niigata City, far from the more commonly known region of geishas (Kyoto):

Niigata’s geisha tradition dates back more than 200 years to the Edo era (1603-1867) when the city was a major port on the Kitamaebune (literally, “north-bound ships”) shipping route that connected Osaka with Hokkaido. Thousands of cargo vessels made this journey each year. As the capital of Japan’s largest rice producing area, Niigata became the busiest port on the Sea of Japan coast. By the early Meiji Era (1868-1912), Niigata was among the wealthiest, most populous parts of the nation.

A thriving entertainment district grew up in the Furumachi neighbourhoood of the city to cater for the countless wealthy merchants and other visitors. Geishas (or geigis, in the local dialect) began performing at Furumachi’s many teahouses, ozashiki (banqueting halls) and ryotei (luxury restaurants). Politicians and even members of the Imperial family figured among the clientele. By 1884, nearly 400 geigis were performing in Furumachi.

Related to kimonos and Japanese female culture: Chiso is a 466-year old Japanese kimono house and Seitō, a 1911 Japanese magazine exclusively for women.

'We Are History' examines the links between art, colonialism and climate change

We are History | Trailer

For gal-dem, Lauren Dei spoke to the artists behind a new exhibition called ‘We Are History. The show, curated by Ekow Eshun, displays art that tells the stories of colonialism and its pivotal role in global warming and the harsh realities of climate change.

Featured artists include Alberta Whittle, Otobong Nkanga, and Malala Andrialavidrazana.

“We have a saying in Barbados charting the timeline of hurricane season,” Alberta tells gal-dem via phone call.“‘June – too soon, July – stand by, August – come it must, September – remember, October – all over.’ In 2021, the hurricane season began in April. Climate colonialism means the hurricane seasons are growing longer and longer, leaving the country on tenterhooks for over half the calendar year.”

An early scene in the film shows the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in 2019. The camera pans above the wreckage of the decimated Bahama Islands. An estimated 13,000 homes were severely damaged or lost during the Category five storm that left the national airport underwater and saw over 6,000 evacuees rescued by air. 

Head over to Somerset House to see We Are History, which runs until 6th February 2022.

Rachel Syme on Michelle Pfeiffer's considered career

For The New Yorker, Rachel Syme interviewed Michelle Pfeiffer about her life and career which hasn’t followed the same kinds of paths most Hollywood actresses have taken (on purpose):

You’ve given different reasons over the years why you don’t love being interviewed, but the one that stuck with me is that you were always afraid people would “find you out.” That if you told too much, you’d be exposed as a fraud.

Well, that’s typically my fear about my performances, that this will be the performance I will be discovered as the fraud that I have known all along that I am. That really comes from not being classically trained. I didn’t go to Juilliard. I didn’t study a lot. I studied in workshops and things like that, but I didn’t come from the theatre. There was a real snobbery when I started acting. In fact, one of my first jobs was a television show, and I played the blonde bombshell where I had fake breasts and was in hot pants, I didn’t even have a name, she was just called “the bombshell.” I was working with a lot of actors who were all from New York. I just felt really unworthy, and I think that never leaves you.

In terms of my discomfort with doing interviews, I think it’s early on not understanding the difference between things that you say, and the way things look in print, and things coming off in a way that was not your intention. I think you just get really guarded. I just had a hard time even formulating a sentence because I was so guarded.

When people talk about Michelle Pfeiffer and wonder why she wasn’t “bigger” (whatever that’s supposed to mean in any context), I think of Daniel Day-Lewis. Now retired, he was an actor who chose his roles carefully, was notorious for his method acting and that time he went to Italy to become a shoemaker. He won awards and was applauded for his journey. But somehow Michelle Pfeiffer is questioned for being careful and considered and choosing her own paths alongside her career and parenthood. We know what the difference is between them (and it’s interesting that they both starred together in The Age of Innocence and how their careers diverged and converged since then) but the criticism is unfounded.

Oh, and that TV role where she played a blonde bombshell? That was in episode 12 of Delta House, a TV spin-off of National Lampoon’s Animal House. Stream that below.

Delta House - Episode 12 - Hoover and the Bomb (Animal House Spin-off/Sequel)

A review of Emily Rapp Black's book, 'Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg'

Sophia Stewart reviewed Emily Rapp Black’s new book, ‘Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg’ for Hyperallergic:

The question that propels Emily Rapp Black’s Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg is simple and self-implicating: “Why do we (I) love Frida?” Throughout the book’s fourteen loosely-linked essays, Black lays claim to Kahlo for unique reason: like the painter became later in life, Black is an amputee, and both women’s lives were shaped by physical disability. In her youth, the author formed what she calls “the perfect imaginary friendship” with Kahlo. “I chose to try and understand the story of her body as a way of knowing or accessing mine,” Black writes, “as if the story of her life set out a path or trail that, no matter how difficult, I might follow.” Latching onto public figures like this is common among young disabled people, who are desperate to find other people in the world like us, to trace a possible road map for our own lives. Still Black admits the limits of an attachment to a woman who “lives only in the terrain of my imagination where I set all the terms of the story.”

But what about the rest of Kahlo’s legion of fans? Few, if any, other artists have become objects of such intense parasocial affection. Kahlo’s disembodied likeness adorns lipsticks, coasters, aprons, magnets, leggings, notebooks, keychains, backpacks, even Christmas ornaments. (Full disclosure: I have previously owned a Kahlo-emblazoned pencil case, t-shirt, pair of socks, and sticky-note pad; I still display her “Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair” in my bedroom.) Surely the outspoken communist would have abhorred the commercialization of her image and art. But what would she make of how her life has been interpreted, packaged, and flattened by her own admirers?

Hero worship is commonplace with the ever-evolving popularity of social media and the need to show the world and fellow fans that they love their fave and they’re better than yours. But with that adulation comes problematic behaviours, misguided quotes, and misunderstood ideologies. Frida Kahlo is no exception.

The watercolour art of Rachel Walker

Rachel Walker is an artist from New Zealand who specialises in watercolour, spray paint, pen and ink artwork.

Rachel’s creative work has seen her involved in a range of projects, from commissioned pieces to painting for film and stage sets. Her career to date has included a number of solo gallery exhibitions, creating cover art for magazines, school journals and albums, and a stint living and painting in rural France. Rachels original and printed works can be viewed in galleries around New Zealand, as well as the walls of many wonderful homes.

I love the vibrancy and energy of her work.

Follow Rachel on Instagram.

Vintage pulp comics as lesbian love stories

Jenifer has always been intrigued by portraying lesbian stories in this style, especially when she discovered the effects of storytelling in comic books. The form goes beyond simply having fun, and resonates with her in a more decisively profound way. “I always wished to see lesbian stories and art when I was growing up, and the lack of that was what ultimately motivated me to illustrate my own,” she explains. “So, I always recall that old desire as a source of inspiration.”

Black LGBTQ+ art related: Brasilândia: a platform for Black and LGBTQIA+ communities in São Paulo and Nana Duncan on Black British LGBTQ+ communities deserving better on-screen portrayals

(via It’s Nice That)

Katori Hall wins Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Congratulations to Katori Hall for winning the award for her comedy “The Hot Wing King”.

Darnella Frazier also received Special Citation for her filming of George Floyd’s murder which feels weird to comprehend and Mikki Kendall hit the nail on the head in this piece for CNN:

This year, the Pulitzer Board’s announcement that Darnella Frazier — the teenager who filmed the killing of George Floyd — had won a special citation feels like a big moment, but not necessarily a celebratory one.

Floyd’s death is not something to celebrate, obviously, and despite the narrative of martyrdom and so-called sacrifice assigned to him posthumously, the horrifying truth is that he was murdered in front of a community. He did not choose to give up his life to change anything, and sadly in many ways, his death at the hands of police was just one part of the story.

(via Variety)

Zakiya Dalila Harris on her debut novel, 'The Other Black Girl'

Novelist Zakiya Dalila Harris spoke to Orange County Register about her new book ‘The Other Black Girl‘, racial diversity within fiction, and influences on her work such as James Baldwin and Jordan Peele:

Code-switching maybe matters less now than it would have two years ago because of George Floyd. On positive days, I think these conversations are allowing Black people to speak up more. On negative days, I think that’s only because it’s in vogue for now and you can only speak up so much. 

We know why diversity is important in a lot of ways, but I wanted my book to look at how it influences each person on an individual level.

Q. Were you worried about pulling the rug out from under readers or was that the goal?

It’s my first book, so I’m not saying it’s perfect. But I love twist endings and “The Twilight Zone,” and “Get Out” was definitely an inspiration. I definitely knew where it was going when I started writing. I love the end of “Night of the Living Dead,” which is so realistic about Black experience. It’s still America, so stuff is going to happen to you if you’re Black. 

People asked, “Are you sure about this ending?” Yeah, I think it’s pretty necessary. Any other ending wouldn’t be as impactful. I really want people to talk about what happens to Nella and what could her [White] co-workers have done if they’d really been listening. 

When I was a kid, I used to love the Goosebumps series, and they had a choose your own adventure and I loved that there were multiple possible endings; I left some things open with this book so readers can think about it. I didn’t want to tie the ending in a neat bow. 

An Alternate Feminist Cinema list on Letterboxd

Hat tip to my friend Sy for tweeting this alternate feminist film list on Letterboxd:

This is a list capped at 100 films threading a counter history to cinema. This is not a “ra-ra girl power” collection, or even a list of women’s influences on a cinematic canon, but a collection of cinema that is unique in its willingness to show and to radicalize the female experience. Early films on here that may be less overt in their feminist messaging are included either because they show women’s place in revolutionary causes, are a first to depict an experience, or have been key in the discussion surrounding this alternate text.

All films are briefly annotated explaining why they’re here. Discussion is welcome, but please understand that this is made with an awareness of an intrinsically misogynist studio system, a desire for avant-garde and worldwide productions. Therefore, this will not be including the newest wide-release intended to pander to “women’s issues”.

I highly recommend you read the full notes on the list page.

What is 'Star Wars: The Lost Cut'?

"Star Wars: The Lost Cut" Explained

Film Spaced explored the infamous “Lost Cut” of Star Wars: A New Hope. I say infamous because, as Jason Weisberger said, it was a “steaming piece of trash that bored people”. Then Marcia Lou Lucas (née Griffin), acclaimed film editor and George’s wife, worked her magic and won herself the Academy Award for Best Film Editing in 1977 for her efforts.

The breakdown examines clips and interesting facts about the early cuts including rare footage, audio and behind-the-scenes info.

Stephanie Williams on Granny Goodness's Blaxploitation villain traits

Granny Goodness, created by Jack Kirby, made her first appearance in Mister Miracle Vol. 1 #2. Most know her as the ruthless older woman who runs the orphanage on Apokolips like a daycare lady from Hell. Granny uses torture techniques and brainwashing to create some of Apokolips’ most fearsome warriors — most notably among them, her Female Furies. Her appearance could be considered to be devoid of sex appeal — almost always scowling, a bulky athletic build, forever covered from neck to toe. Ultimately, this depiction serves to make her less sympathetic, because “pretty privilege” even exists in comics. Also, her name is Granny, and, as we all know, women of a certain generation are not supposed to be desirable and function best as bitter older women. 

Related to Black writers and comics: Charles Pulliam-Moore on DC Comics’ Black Supermen and Parenthood Activate! – comical short stories about life as a parent

(via syfy)