Illustrations that take on the societal issues of the Western world, from racism to consumerism.
A SELECTION OF THOUGHTFUL POEMS ON RACE AND MASCULINITY MANDEM recently published a trio of poems exploring the complexities of race and masculinity. The child represents one of two things: this desperation to cling onto childhood, as well as the issues of being the 'head of the household' which put a huge amount of unseen pressure on men. You can read the poems here- https://mandemhood.com/a-selection-of-thoughtful-poems-on-race-and-masculinity/
Although I don't personally know Jack Letts, his radicalisation shook everyone in Oxford. It was weird seeing a guy the same age, who grew up down the road, suddenly be plastered across the media as 'Jihadi Jack'. MANDEM have done an excellent interview with one of Jack's friends explaining why he should be allowed back to the UK for a fair trial. He points out that by turning our back on him, we are only pushing more people into radicalisation. Trying to gain an insight and understanding of why radicalisation is so prominent at the moment is one of our main tools for fighting it. Yet Sajid Javid and other MPs are insisting we strip former radicals of their citizenship and turn them away from the country that, in many ways, failed them. Watch the video at www.mandemhood.com
Venezuela seems to simply be another ideological war between Russia and the United States. Could it possibly be that after Syria they were plotting their next target or is that just cynicism talking? Of course, if I were a really cynical bastard, I would say that the US was attempting to regain face after failing to topple Assad, instead focussing on an easier, closer target; Maduro. The political parallels between Syria and Venezuela are too eerie to ignore, albeit without the Middle Eastern geo-political issue, but let's just hope the results are not as equally disastrous. Putin is taking delight in portraying the Americans as meddling imperialists, whilst keeping quiet the fact that Russian forces are apparently in Venezuela too. Both countries are dangerous imperialists, ready to play with whatever nation best suits their agenda.
Brexit is distracting the UK from its real problems. The recent UN report on poverty and human rights, back in November, found that the government's austerity measures were in breach of 4 UN human rights abuses. The report found 1/5th of the UK's population lived in poverty, with 1.5 million people living in destitute conditions. London's homicide rate also hit a ten year high, after 134 people were murdered in the capital last year. Meanwhile youth centres are being shut down, whilst luxury housing is being continuously built. Yet, Brexit is taking the necessary attention away from these issues. It appears to be giving politicians an excuse to talk about anything but the blatant repercussions from austerity, staring at us in the face. No doubt they will find something else to focus on post-Brexit...
MANDEM is a fantastic and increasingly important platform for discussions about race. Initially set up as a space for men of colour to talk about race related issues freely, MANDEM utilises journalism, documentaries, podcasts, music videos and panel discussions to bring these issues to a wide audience. I was fortunate enough to be asked to illustrate the poster for their latest panel discussion, which will take place at Goldsmith's University on 26th October. Check out their great work here- www.mandemhood.com
The news over the past year or so, has been dominated by stories of Russian trolls stirring up controversy on social media, in attempts to further divide public opinion and cause online conflict. I'm sure you've seen examples of it too. There was an odd moment on my Facebook newsfeed that lasted for about 6 weeks back in October/ November 2017. Articles from almost every major media organisations had 'This is Fake News' (or something to that degree) written in the comments. That may not seems strange, but it was as if hundreds of random people had copied and pasted the same comments across numerous stories regardless of it's content or if it made sense. The commenters Facebook pages were also rather suspect, with very few friends and photos. What was even stranger was that I would only see these comments when I used Facebook on my phone and not on my laptop. Then all of a sudden these comments stopped appearing, although I have screenshots just to prove how weird the whole event was. In many ways, we in the West have allowed this force-fed shit to happen. We gulp down any conspiracy theory with extreme superiority so we feel more 'in-the-know' about 'what's really going on'. The latest information seems to reveal that Trolls from the Kremlin backed Internet Research Agency have been involved in promoting one of America's favourite conspiracies: The Anti-Vaccination movement. The belief that vaccines cause autism has been brewing around in the States for a long time, however has always managed to stay somewhat underground. The argument here is that the Trolls are bringing a potentially dangerous theory to the mainstream, whilst simultaneously antagonising the general public and keeping them distracted with stupid arguments. It's another brilliant tactic from Putin and one that is nothing new in Russia too. Unfortunately Russian society is also victim to this kind of manipulation from their own government, although how we can come together to fight this effectively has not yet been realised. In the meantime, remain vigilant online by ignoring posts that almost seem comically idiotic and for God's sake don't respond to them.
Mathieu Kassovitz put it best in his 1995 film La Haine when he said 'It's a story about a society in free-fall...' Nothing much has changed since his groundbreaking masterpiece about race and police tension in the gritty Paris suburbs. Except, now the tension lies between extremists and the rest of society that dominate our landscape. Propaganda, rallies and protests are splattered with extremist ideology, both from the European far-right groups as well as Islamic extremists groups. Ironically, whilst the two sides oppose each other's ideology completely, their tactics are more or less parallel. They utilise the current tool of victim-hood as a rationale for their beliefs, whilst infiltrating vulnerable people in society, both economically and socially, to garner support. Anti-Islamic activist Tommy Robinson and ex-Islamic extremist, Maajid Nawaz both have extremely similar stories about how they ended up harvesting these extreme beliefs. Tommy was beaten up by muslim Asian boys at school when he was young and faced discrimination for being white, whilst Maajid was a victim of Paki-bashing by violent, young thugs when he was a youth, as well as suffering other racism and discrimination. They were both isolated, young men who reacted with narrow-minded hatred towards the narrow-minded hatred they received. As we all know, hatred breeds hatred. The leaders of these movements are powerful, strong men (mostly). No doubt they believe themselves to be the heroes of their people, salivating over the opportunity to convince others of the same thing. The more support they appear to have (which is usually less than they think, as those who want change the most amplify their voices the loudest), the more they realise there's two ways it can go. You either land on your face, or on your feet. However, since both create a mess, they may as well enjoy the ride.
Google is fantastic. A wormhole of infinite information that's easy to get lost in. A truly remarkable creation. Unfortunately, we were all blinded by it's seductiveness. Meanwhile, our personal information and data is being subtly collected by organisations to subliminally advertise products targeted directly at us. They know everything about our digital selves. It echoes the ever watching gaze of the government and secret services in the old Soviet aligned countries; something we often point to as being one of the very worst aspects of the USSR. This time however, its been wrapped up in a sexy, little package that people willingly welcome into their lives. We are left with the question; what do we value more: privacy or convenience?
In an alleged post-racist world, you may sometimes hear someone sling out this age old phrase. Unfortunately it's often used by people seemingly to legitimise their somewhat racist views without feeling too guilty, or as some kind of black culture fetish. It's no doubt we as white people (and actually most other races) find black culture 'cool' and 'alluring'. From jazz, to jerk chicken, the civil rights movement, patois, twerking and of course the global domination of hip-hop that has influenced culture far beyond it's origins on the streets of the New York. It's no surprise then that people who want to appear cool would try and befriend black people. Unfortunately, if you befriend someone solely on the basis of their race in order to score 'cool points' or even 'woke points', then that itself constitutes as racism in a more abstract sense of the word. It's still treating someone like an accessory to yourself rather than as a individual. The Little Britain sketch, 'Black Friends', actually captures this in a perfectly awkward, profound way; by shinning a great big spotlight on the absurdity and uncomfortableness of racism in a 'post-racist' world. Regardless, if someone's even gotten to the stage of having to defend themselves against accusations of racism, saying they have a black friend comes across as more of an excuse rather than anything else.