Black History Month
February is Black History Month and, like last year, I'll be reading from some of my work in a Dialogue Books event. (see below for details)
On my blog I have previously acknowledged Black History Month by citing black figures, mostly American, that have inspired me. In light of my most recent post, I thought it might be interesting and educational (for me included) to look at a history of black people in Germany. I'll be fishing out some of the people I've admired but I also wanted to see how black people have been portrayed here throughout history.
This morning, my 6 year-old son said, "Good that we weren't here a long time ago, they would have laughed at us." When I asked him why he thought that he showed me one of his favorite cartoon books from E.O. Plauen, "Vater und Sohn" Father and Son. (Honestly, I can't make these kinds of coincidences up! My son might have been more aware of the illustration's implications since we were reading a book about Rosa Parks yesterday. I recently read in a book written by Brene Brown, an American sociologist who researches and writes that about self-esteem and vulnerability, that once we see something it's impossible to un-see it!)
The illustration shows Africans being displayed in a Voelkerschau, or human zoos, which were popular in European and North American cities between the late 1800s up until the Second World War.
The exaggeration of color and lip size in this illustration (which is actually making fun of the human zoo) shows the caricaturization of African people during Germany's relatively brief colonial history in Africa.
*I'll be reading from new work on February 7, 2012 at 19:30 at Dialogue Books Schoenlein Str. 31, Berlin Kreuzberg, RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.