ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Ive always looked out for the underdog and I paint what I feel passionate
about. You will see a lot of aboriginal and black people in my paintings;
because I feel so often that our voices are not heard.
Giving Voice Through Art
By Oscar Wailoo
July 18, 2006
Long before Canada proclaimed itself a multicultural society, Guyana had already settled its identity as a land of six peoples. The recently enunciated Canadian ideal has not yet produced the classic multicultural Canadian; whereas Guyana, which has been at it much longer, has produced people of remarkable mixtures and textures. Such a person is Guyana-born Torontonian, Claire Carew.
Claire covers a fair part of Guyanas peoples. She is African, Arawak, European and bits and pieces of others, and at once is fair to them all in her appearance. Her features are like the brilliant essays she does in paint and poetry. And her eyes are of a quality that both penetrate and invite. Those exceptional eyes are also the eyes of one of Torontos finest artists.
Carew has a remarkable canvas on her living room wall. It is an essay of powerful images of spirituality, conquest, struggle, resistance, self-assertion. Here is the struggle of the aboriginal against conquest, theres the brown-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe, here are John Carlos and Tommy Smith with fists raised in Mexico, there is the back of the Mexican maiden slowly receding away, and at the center the native face with clear eyes gazing back, neither in defiance nor humility, but just returning the gaze as Claire puts it.
Scattered around her neat semi-detached home in Torontos west end are paintings ranging from rich to subdued tones, all commanding your attention. There is a lot of power in these pictures, belying the gentle Guyanese tone of Carews strongly Guyanese accented words. But there is nothing soft about Carew when she asserts, As a woman you dont have too much freedom. So the least you can do is paint what you want to paint. Thats when you can get your freedom. Because in society a woman is always told what she ought to be. So art is one way a human being can express herself.
Then you know what she means as you sense a pair of eyes looking at you. Just to her left knee on the floor is a picture of an aboriginal woman called The Eye Sees What The Mind Fears. Painted during the Oka crisis, when native Canadians refused to have their ancestral burial ground converted to a golf course, the Oka Womans face does not threaten but project a powerful dignity, commanding immediate respect. And the eyes, penetrating, projecting a strength that defies all the years of oppression. Carew said that once at an exhibit, a native woman, impressed by the power of this Oka Woman, sought her out, took her aside, pressed sacred tobacco into her palm and encouraged her to keep doing what she was doing.
Ive always looked out for the underdog and I paint what I feel passionate about. You will see a lot of aboriginal and black people in my paintings; because I feel so often that our voices are not heard. And when they are, they are often stereotyped. So I always paint people of colour in a positive light.
Sometimes the light is so positive that it fairly dazzles and blazes and disturbs like the piece entitled Amazon Warrior-Blood Runs Deep. If you are running around with a bad conscience about the historical abuse of aboriginal peoples around the world, this richly coloured Amazon warrior fastens onto you with eyes askance. He is not threatening, he is not bitter, but his eyes seem to say, I saw what you did and Ive not forgotten. So striking is this piece that Carew said that it was once on exhibit at a swanky eatery in downtown Toronto and the patrons requested it be removed because his eyes followed them and disturbed their appetites.
If when gazing at her art the viewer is disturbed by its power, moved by its sensitivity, soothed by its calming influence, then Carew can ask for no more, even though she doesnt always set out to evoke such responses.
But Carew does not doubt the critics and reviewers who have seen her exhibits in galleries across Canada, in Mexico, USA, at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, the UK, etc, and who agree on terms like evocative, powerful, healing, revolutionary in describing what they see in a typical Carew piece. It is not surprising then that her pieces have found their way onto socio-political magazine covers and posters, a couple of sociology text books for college courses, greeting cards and the walls of many an art cognoscenti.
For the past seven years Carew has brought that passion for art, living and political action to the west end middle school where she is teacher in visual arts, but we may soon begin to see more of her as she considers taking a few years off teaching to concentrate on her painting and poetry.
Until such time some of her pieces can be seen on exhibit at Angels Gate Winery in Beamsville, Ontario. Or you can go to Claires quite clever website, www.clairecarew.com, to fill in the yawning gaps in this all too brief cameo.
posted 19 September 2006
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
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This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”Lisa Adkins, University of London
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 19 February 2012