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On Black Being a Colour
“I do wanna talk about that stuff…” — Oscar Kightley
I believe that art has the most extraordinary power to liberate. This is why, for a long time, I’ve been sceptical of the type of West Papua stories that paint the natives as lost causes, and their independence movement as futile without “proper” assistance. I feel like asking the proponents of these ideas: have you seen their art?
I was born across the border from West Papua, in its independent counterpart Papua New Guinea. We share one landmass and we are one race. Thanks to this tie, our brothers and sisters from “next door” have been able to come across (shout out to Indonesia for letting them!) and share their music with us. Black Brothers, a West Papuan band, came to PNG when my mum was ten-years old, following the success of their debut album. They wrote about how they longed to live in the PNG capital, Port Moresby, and enjoy its freedoms. They wrote about love, about life, and about dreams.
Western media loves the typical black-people-in-trouble story. In fact, “black” is the colour associated with trouble, poverty, death, disease, and corruption. My question is, can’t we start seeing that colour as we see all other colours: substances from which art, beauty, and freedom can be expressed? Western philosophy posits the notion of an unchained, undetained soul. Why must this only apply to Westerners?
If art is freeing, everyone who produces it plays an active role in their own liberation.