24.3.13

Cornrows at Kaisaniemi



I bought an easter egg.

In my mind the only eggs that should be chocolate are Kinder eggs, but this find at Kaisaniemi gave me a reason to explore another brand.

Of course, I've never heard of Disney fairies and I certainly didn't know that one of them not only is black, but has cornrows!

If you look closer in an image like this, the detail is complete and unmistakable - she even has fuzz. 

This is probably meaningless to any child to anyone who wasn't a black girl growing up in the eighties and nineties where all black celebrity women wore long straight tresses, or bouffant curls and coils. Many claim that black women aspire to long hair from an association with European on me.

I adored Princess Tiana but she had long hair. Adding a black girl with natural hair to a band of, well, fairies brings our hair further into the mainstream. Little girls have one more skinny, scantily clad icon - but, she looks like them.

I certainly couldn't have imagined as a little girl walking into a sweet shop in a Helsinki metro station and finding a chocolate egg wrapped in the image of a girl who looked like me (barring the wings).  

I suppose the world has finally caught up with us.

22.3.13

Oh myyy, George Takei talks rape?


You know, when a man is raped you never hear about what he was wearing.
George Takei (22nd March, 2013)

Yes I do subscribe to George Takei on Facebook as I’ve previously confessed, so after the usual onslaught of grumpy cats and Trekkie references this afternoon’s comment caught me off guard.

I’m not sure if his comment is deliberately intended to be ambiguous; is it supposed to be funny, profound, sexist, ignorant or perhaps it wasn’t meant to be anything at all – simply a quip. Nonetheless, based on my Facebook relationship with Mr Takei, I have no reason to believe he was being anything less than intelligent and thus ...

How often do we watch or hear any discussion about male victims of rape? I’m sure he’s saying – and no, that is not a joke, as a good number of his commentators seem to think.

Another significant number discuss the possibility or impossibility of men being raped by women as if to say, if a man claims he’s been raped he must be lying.  A third camp believes male rape is justified because it only happens in prisons and as a Mr McCready says, “Usually cause orange prison jumpsuits are so boring,” (I can imagine him giggling as he wrote it).  A fourth lot put forward the earnest argument that since more women are raped (I’ve seen some discussions that this isn’t necessarily true) then male victims of rape are a triviality that takes away from the real work.

When reading the nearly 4,000 comments posted in just over an hour, it becomes apparent why male (and female) victims of rape face an uphill battle when seeking justice, support and comfort from society.

Duchessofdoom puts it quite succinctly when she says, “The idiotic comments on this thread are the reason we have the term "rape culture."


21.3.13

A piece of Zambian History - courtesy of Amazon



My excitement couldn’t be contained when I arrived home to find my 1973 edition of The Kapelwa Musonda File had arrived via Amazon.

The last time I saw this book was when my sister and I came into ownership of a battered, rat-eaten and partly mouldy copy at some point in the 1990s. It provided many hours of fun, reading and rereading its witty, colourful and insightful anecdotes and articles.

The Kapelwa Musonda File is an anthology of articles published in 1973 by Neczam, which I believe later became the Kenneth Kaunda Foundation and later still Zambia Educational Publishing Publishing. Kapelwa Musonda was the pseudonym of a Zambian journalist who wrote for the times of Zambia beginning shortly after independence and continuing for at least thirty years.

His observations of life, society and politics in Zambia – an infant state – are priceless. This was the period in which Zambians were full of hope and aspirations - we hadn't a clue what the future held. The shenanigans of the World Bank, twenty-seven years of Kaunda, the machinations and deceit of our politicians and before HIV and AIDS – all that was in the future.

We were innocents.

18.3.13

St Patrick and the Tiger


The news yesterday and this morning have been filled with reports of St Patrick’s Day celebrations across the world – from illuminating the pyramids of Egypt green, to Irish dancing in Moscow. Even I found myself in a bar heaving with green hats and Guinness in Molly Malone’s of Helsinki.

Having spent some time in Ireland and having many Irish friends, I see myself as having an excuse to raise a toast to their national day. However, I’m mystified as to the worldwide appeal of this day.

After centuries of exporting their people once again the Irish are emigrating in huge numbers due to economic woes. Are the celebrations underlined with more fervour because of this? Does dyeing everything green foster a sense of pride in the aftermath of the death of the Celtic Tiger? Perhaps?

Is it maybe that the brand names of Guinness and Jameson’s, and the countless chains of Irish pubs have infiltrated even the furthest reaches of the planet? Perhaps the Irish diaspora is so massive and influential that even the rivers of Estonia have been roped in to celebrate Irish heritage?

Or has it become one these ubiquitous global celebrations that for which everyone creates their own meaning – rather like Valentine’s - that has nothing to do with St Patrick or Ireland? 


14.3.13

Reading myself in Finnish




I felt rather smug yesterday upon passing through Rickhardinkatu Library. Ydin, a Finnish magazine, has in its latest included a translation of my Racism - run but you can't hide. Naturally I dashed off to Stockmann and immediately purchased a copy.

I took it home and added tucked it beside a copy of Turun Ylioppilaslehti that carries an interview with me done after my Amnesty Finland discussion evening on sexual and reproductive rights in January.

I'll seize the opportunity to thank my readers and the participants at these Amnesty evenings, especially those who take the trouble to comment on the blog, Facebook and in person.

Cheers and thanks again

10.3.13

Afros, locs and the company of cheerful ladies

 Unfortunately, I didn’t note the address of the gallery at which I saw this sculpture and as it was shut and I didn’t find out what the theme of the exhibition could have been. 

Her Afro puffs started me musing on the process of finding hair and skin products, which is limited by my brand preferences and the lack of retailers to a few shops in Hakaniemi for my skin and hair products and to Stockmann for my make-up. 

I’m sure there are other means of importing hair products and make-up, but as came up in a conversation with my better half, I haven’t made the connection with the women who would be involved in trading such commodities. 

The reason is quite simple. My locs. 

Since I embarked on my dreadlock journey in May 2010, I haven’t once been to a hairdresser. I haven’t once participated in the hair rituals that as black women unwittingly bind us together and create networks. For nearly three years I’ve done my hair on my own. In essence, for as long as I’ve been in Helsinki I haven’t needed to meet another black woman – I have of course – but it hasn’t been essential. 

As I don’t require chemical relaxers, hair extensions, specialist shampoos and conditioners or the services of braiders and hair stylists, consequently I don’t spend an hour a week surrounded by other African women, neither do I have to endure day long braiding marathons locked between another woman’s knees. I also haven’t been introduced to the woman with the knock-off foundation, the thickest Brazilian or cheapest Peruvian. 

On the other hand, I’ve excluded myself from the conversations that naturally arise, the familiarity and camaraderie that I’d develop with the other women also participating in the cycle of caring for our hair.

8.3.13

Happy international women’s day?



In Lusaka and other Zambian provincial capitals, international women’s day will be marked by an activity so ubiquitous that it has come to known as the “marchpast.”  It means simply we, mostly women in today’s case, will be provided matching t-shirts and chitenge, or a polyester suit, that identifies our organisational pedigrees and we’ll raise a banner and we will march past our political leaders.

First let me clarify that Zambia there are some activist women and men who question and challenge such traditions, some avoid these marchpasts, and others join in the genuine hope that things will change.

Unfortunately, to many it’s a free t-shirt and lunch paid for from the company’s HIV and AIDS or gender equality budget. Furthermore, at least two indicators regarding gender mainstreaming will have been achieved – “participate in IWD march – tick” and “number of t-shirts distributed –tick.”

Today in Lusaka 10,000 women will parade past our nearly entirely male political leadership, who after a long speech, a few citations and lunch will return to things as they are, and that are not changing fast enough.

When lunch is over we’ll return to our male-led and dominated workplaces to earn less money than those lucky few and at the end of the day we’ll return to male-dominated homes and societies where not enough is being done to end violence against women and men and ingrained societal inequality.

If someone were to convince me that 10,000 women marching today meant that these 10,000 homes have rebelled against millennia of violence and inequality, that these 10,000 women have said “up yours” to sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace, I myself would partake of another marchpast, polyester suit and all.

A luta continua!

7.3.13

My wonderfully selective memory



One of our most useful traits as humans, I suppose, is our conveniently selective memory. In the midst of blue skies, above zero temperatures, the ever-lengthening days and the persistent cry of “early spring”  - I’m not sure how everyone else feels, but to me the cold and dark of December and January are forgotten.

My third Helsinki winter is drawing to a end and though I should know by now, I’ve still allow myself to be duped by the heralding of an early spring that will once again be shattered by a sudden severe fall in temperatures – as it was last winter.

I think it’s called hope.

Last week, I saw a comedian at café Mascot who claimed when asked how he copes in Finland he replied, “(I like) bought a jacket.” I believe he was saying that Finnish winter is not every foreigner’s nightmare as many would like us to believe.

Everyone feels the cold and is affected by the dark, Finnish or foreign. I hear enough Finns moan about the weather to know it isn’t just me who for a while gets the blues. A good jacket is useful, and so is forgetting.

Further information
Comedy Idiot Helsinki is a monthly, English-language comedy show hosted at Café Mascot (Neljäs Linja 2) every second Thursday of the month.