If I were not in my twenties and attempting to budget like a proper adult, I would have spent the majority of my money on artwork by now. Instead I have developed a slight addiction to scrolling through Instagram for hours on end, flicking from artist to artist and admiring their work. Additionally, if I see a piece of artwork that I like in a gallery or museum, I’ll purchase it in the form of a postcard or print, as this is the most efficient way of cluttering my walls with artwork without spending lots of money. However, I have not taken much time to notice how whitewashed my Instagram art feed and my wall of postcards have both become. Without even noticing, I have severely disregarded the lack of diversity in the artists that I admire and purchase from.
Back in October 2019, a video posted by an old school friend popped up on my Instagram feed. In this video, he was sat on the shoulders of another friend, leading chants in Lebanese asking, ‘Where’s the money?’, surrounded by a crowded street of protestors in London who were holding up Lebanese flags and banners. This school friend was Joseph El Kadi, a 23-year-old Lebanese student who is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Cambridge. My interest peaked when I saw the video, but with the pressures of work taking a toll and the lack of media attention surrounding the issues in Lebanon, I liked the video, pushed my interest in the video to the back of my mind, and kept scrolling.
I was going to start this blog post by defining the term ‘colourism’ from the dictionary, however I was quite surprised to find that this term does not exist in the English dictionary. Award-winning author Alice Walker is credited as one of the first people to use the term colourism, defining it in one of her essays in the 1983 book, In Search of our Mothers’ Garden, as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.” Racism, in comparison, is discriminatory behaviour or actions towards someone of a different race. Ultimately, both colourism and racism boil down to superiority and feeling that person A is more superior than person B purely based on their skin colour.