Today I went to the Brooklyn Museum to see a film called This Is My Africa, by Zina Saro-Wiwa. I walked through the botanic garden, slowing my pace so I wouldn’t reach the museum drenched in sweat; we’ve had unseasonably cool weather this summer, but things are definitely starting to heat up. The lilies are in full bloom in the garden, but I was running late so made a mental note to go back and photograph the hot pink stargazer lilies (one of my faves). As I neared the sculpture garden at the back of the museum, I heard live funky music–I turned the corner and saw only a drummer onstage…then I noticed the DJ behind his turntables off to the side, and finally I saw the bassist sitting on the edge of the stage looking very relaxed. I haven’t heard any live music this summer, which is shameful since there are all kinds of free music events throughout the city. By the time I headed home today, I was starting to wonder if I’ve lost my interest in Brooklyn (!!!). But back to the film: it was interesting b/c the filmmaker had gathered about 10 different artists, fashion designers, and actors–most black, some white–and then she asked them a series of questions about Africa:
What color comes to mind when you think of Africa?
What African food do you like best?
What saying or expression best represents Africa?
What artist comes to your mind when you think of Africa?
What do you hate about Africa?
What will Africa look like in 2060?
Almost as interesting as the answers given by the respondents were the reactions from people in the audience…the kind of laughter only a cultural “insider” can enjoy. When the film ended, a dramatic reading followed but I only stayed for the first two pieces…stopped by the Yinka Shonibare MBE exhibit on the first floor, but mostly just wanted to walk and think for a while. So I left the museum and walked down Washington Avenue…left Prospect Heights and walked until I reached Clinton Hill; turned right and made a beeline for my favorite Senegalese restaurant, Joloff (those images of joloff rice and plantain got me hungry!). Once my food was ready, I headed for the train station, which took me into Bed-Stuy…I used to walk those streets when I first came to Brooklyn in 1994; so much has changed since then. I’ve been fixating on London lately, and seeing this film only made me yearn for travel even more. I know a lot of immigrants here in NYC, but somehow the American context changes things. I’d like to know who I’d be in London–still American? more Caribbean? more Canadian? I didn’t want to, but forced myself to complete the above questions for my country of origin, Canada:
color ~ white (for snow, the flag, blandness, breadth)
scent ~ the initial stench of Lake Ontario, which goes away after a while (or you just get used to it)
food ~ Canadian food is really British food–bland, boiled–but I do *love* butter tarts!
saying or expression ~ “eh” and I seem to recall my Irish-Canadian grandfather saying, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it!” but maybe I’m making that up…
artist ~ my mother loves The Group of Seven, but I guess I think of Dionne Brand or Nalo Hopkinson…there’s also an amazing Nova Scotian artist, Justin Augustine; I’d LOVE to have him illustrate one of my children’s books one day
hate ~ small-mindedness, smugness
future ~ I have no idea. More of the same, I guess…lots of people of color who exist yet are invisible somehow
Do you come from another country? What would your survey look like?