Jenny Davis

September 13, 04

Extract from proposal for Calling project:
"I have two abiding images as simple starting points which have been tossing around in my mind for ages. The habitual MTV black music it Rap...Hip Hop...R an B but the constant motif is the fully clothed male singer...dripping in bling cars and always semi naked black women. Semi naked writhing on the laps of men and into full camera. They are oblivious and blind to the the lyrics they wriggle and wind to. Lyrics which call them
Bitches and Ho[s]. Or being begged to have what’s in their jeans. The starkest example for me of Black women’s objectification was in the recent OutKast video where the male singer scans his prey through binoculars...and we see semi clad women as ‘grazing’ on the landscape. The analogy is obvious.
And then there is the image or rather memory of two girl- women I sat next to on the bus. They were younger than my 15 year old daughter. Diminutive and scraped back pony had a new born baby in a front sling...the other a curved pregnant stomach.
These are bleak images and they don’t tell the whole story..."

‘ a dirty word’ keeps launching itself at me and then that other word ...Strong.

Strong’ is our double edge sword. What does it mean anymore? Is it a rod or a badge? I can’t help thinking it’s a misnomer for black wimmin today. We had to be strong to survive in the past...the underground railroad...the middle passage...the plantation...the Windrush...the ‘no blacks no dogs’. There are so many connotations to our survival. And then the images...on the telly...those MTV bikinis then a channel switch and its harrowed Sudanese mothers with starving babies. There is something about cultural representation....I’m grappling with...not sure yet...and what.

And then V. and I were riding on the cycle path towards the Feminist Archive. And V. pointed out the figure up in front of us. Framed by the trees...alone on the path....a young black woman walking, carrying her child on her back. And she could have been anywhere. Africa...Jamaica. A visual motif.

We found the Feminist Archive....another hidden secret. Wednesday pms...wo-manned by volunteers...kept alive with love. The archive focuses on the second wave...i.e. 60s to 2000. And I could sympathize with Jane who runs it. What happened after that? What exactly are we in now?

It felt like coming home...finding old friends again. And then as we pored hungrily over old Spare Ribs and Sable and other periodicals...we opened pages and found words of conversations we’d had before...still having again and again. Why are we asking the same questions twenty years on?

Another line keeps coming...’how many ways to dismember strong?’ It needs unravelling and a new definition.

I was sitting in the archive...hugely excited...energised...amazed again...that here we do have a huge Black literary and feminist tradition...We have had some of the best thinking there is. With mothers and sisters like this before come we’ve gone wrong?? Is this too irrational? I feel like a cultural dinosaur. All our best thinking and ideas relegated to the Archives...this is the third wave of the bikini and the Bling Bling.

Signed up for the digital imaging course...should be useful. Sound installations at Queen Square inspiring. Suddenly opens up all sorts of possibilities. The thing is as a writer I wonder if I’ve been thinking too much in a linear way...the confines of a text. This is propelling me to stretch my imagination...has felt rather taut. Considering it’s just been about producing a one dimensional body of work. Folake has sent me some web addresses to look at other work. Should be inter-esting.

back to top