“This art project is about affirmation and assuring people of colour that they are valid. Hair is valid. Black comes in all shades. Culture is valid. Our issues are valid. Mental health and stability is valid. Naturalism and self love is valid.
Often when people like us are exposed to situations where we feel the need to justify the reasons why we look the way we do or feel the way we do or act the way we do, our voices are drowned out. Drowned out by misunderstandings, systematic racism, harassment, ignorance and irrational stereotypes.
When I think of being submerged, I think of being surrounded by a body of water, like being reborn. Water is pure, and so in my personal journey, and in a lot of other black and brown peoples journeys that I have learnt of, the need to find self love and to find reassurance that we are enough and we don’t need to fit typical beauty standards is urgent. To find this we are then reborn. Reborn and made to appreciate our bodies. Whatever process it took to become appreciative of ourselves and affirmed, we become submerged in self love. This is so important for people of colour when we’re so surrounded by a western society that doesn’t recognise colour as beautiful.
So for this project, submerged was the idea that came to mind, combining my personal stories with other people of colours stories. Being reborn, finding self love and appreciation and being submerged in a new love and a new perspective of ourselves.”
Not my trauma
If I trip, she trips.
My weakness spreads like a disease for her, her mother and her grandmother.
Because I shouldn’t be crying but I do
Because I’m not loud when they tell me to hush
Because my brown legs run fast, but I can’t get away.
“You’re so strong! Oh, but you’re emotional?”
Then I’m your token, angry black woman
I’m not my trauma but I am allowed to feel
And now I am allowing myself to heal.
There is a lingering attitude that women of colour
need to have long flowing or styled hair and makeup
that mirrors Eurocentric features
to be considered beautiful.
Our natural features are often classed as
“eccentric”, placed in a category outside of “normal” that
dehumanizes the beauty of black and brown women.
This piece represents a large number of the women around me, in my homes, my schools and my community:
a glance at beauty that is all around me.
This is a piece of a bigger image that
I am trying to fall in love with.
As a tall, brown, thicker woman,
I often find myself comparing myself with skinny women and
wondering why I feel like I’m the only one with
fat around my back like this. I know I am not the only one,
but this image captures a piece of a puzzle that
I am constantly trying to put together.
Amina(Translates to ‘Amen’ in Luganda)
This piece represents a message for me.
Why do I not believe I am not good enough to receive what is promised to me?
Amen, let it be
I am a product of love.
Why do I fail to love most things about myself?
The things I need are here
The things I want, are near
Belief is the first step forward.
All of me
I find that there is minimal representation of people of colour who live with vitiligo in our media and entertainment industries. A number of BIPOC in my community live with this condition and I have been sharing conversations with friends about their experiences. From these conversations, they describe certain struggles such as having to constantly prove their “blackness” due to having patches of white skin. There was also discussion about individual progress over time, to becoming confident enough to talk about this and show it off proudly. To me, viewing this from an outside’s perspective, I wanted to highlight the strength and beauty of people who live with vitiligo. This image represents connection, love, understanding, strength, hope and support.
Perky breasts, slim bodies, perfect toned skin,
no irregular color patches,
no wrinkles, and especially no stretch marks.
These are all standards that Western society uphold
and expect women of colour to meet.
Our beauty is art. Nothing to hide.
I call her Amanyi.
This translates directly to “power”, from Luganda.
I am she
I am still powerful
I am still the brown girl with the voice and the long legs
I am still the brown girl with the marks and the scars on my body
that I refuse to hide
I am still the brown girl with the puffy hair, the durags, the queen attitude and the tattoos
I am still the brown girl with the loud voice and the natural curves
I am still powerful
I am still beautiful
I am she
Submerged is supported by Greater Shepparton City Council, Australia Council for the Arts and Creative Victoria.
All above artworks are by Ree.