I looked at a man called Charles who was talking to me on a London bus, that is his job, talking to passengers, and the more we talked the more relaxed he became and the simple thought crossed my mind that he was, ‘Happy in his own skin’, his happiness, or relaxedness was contagious which can only be good for London transport’s passengers. Now Charles’ skin happens to be black, my skin is termed white and we were getting on like a house on fire and I believe that is not only the way it should be but it’s only natural. We are two men inhabiting the same planet with very different histories but more likely than not we are descended from the same woman who roamed the plains of Africa over 40 thousand years ago. So why do we ‘look’ so (apparently) different? Well of course, skin colour. According to internet sources:
‘The skin is the largest organ of the body, with a total area of about 20 square feet or 2 square metres, it protects us from microbes and the elements, helps regulate body temperature, and permits the sensations of touch, heat, and cold.
Cells in the deepest layer of your epidermis , (the outer, nonvascular, non-sensitive layer of the skin), divide constantly to make new cells. The new cells are pushed towards the surface of your skin. They eventually die and become filled with keratin, an exceptionally tough protein. Keratin provides your body with a durable overcoat, which protects deeper cells from damage, infection and drying out.
Cells on the surface of your skin rub and flake off steadily and are continuously replaced with new ones. About every 30 days, your body produces a totally new epidermis.
Your skin contains specialised cells called melanocytes are located in the epidermis, covering the true skin or corium. They produce the pigment melanin, a brown substance, which absorbs some of the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Fair-skinned people only have melanin in the lower layers of their epidermis. People with dark skin have larger amounts of melanin in all layers. Freckles and moles are nothing else but small patches of skin with more melanin than in the surrounding area.’
I love all that. In those words from the Net are so many levels. The ‘outer layer’, that is what we see and seeing is not understanding, in fact really seeing is a form of mis-understanding, or pre-conception. You see, the skin which covers Charles and me is only temporary, it changes every 30 days. Now his and mine genetic and ‘social’ history do not change, they stay where they were, our ancestry and the trail our predecessors traipsed is written in the sands of time, or more legibly and often mistakenly, in the ‘his-story’ books. History is frequently written in a skewed, one-sided way, often to give a slant to show the superiority of one group over another. So, for example, the imperialists we refer to as the ‘Romans’ re-told or rather, re-wrote, the recent history they ‘re-membered’ and like previous ‘empires’ they put a slant on things. They omitted the Hannibal’s lot, probably because the Carthaginians (Hannibal (247-183 BC), Carthaginian general, son of Hamilcar Barca*, whose march on Rome from Spain across the Alps with his 90,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry and up to 40 elephants remains one of the ‘greatest feats in military history’) gave them such a fright they couldn’t bring themselves to remind themselves of how close they came to being totally defeated in 217 BC rather than 500 years later. *That’s interesting, Barca being the name of Hannibal’s dad. BECAUSE they always say they don’t know where the Catalonians came from and there it is the answer. Hamilcar Barca’s family came from Carthage and conquered Spain! From there they were able to take a pot at Rome. But it’s not such a big leap to see how their descendants took over the ‘Barca’lona area, is it? Now the Carthaginians were descendants of the Phoenicians who were once a great powerful group in the Mediterranean who spread culture trade and the alphabet we use. They too were written out of history, this time by the Greeks who only overcame the more cultured and powerful people of Crete and Thera after a cataclysmic upheaval in 1420 BC totally destroyed the latter and brought the Cretans to their knees so the Mycenaen Greeks were able finally to overpower them and take their craftsmen, including metal workers who designed great helmets and suits of protective wear for battles, into slavery.
So, the outer layer of his-story is merely that, a layer. And it rarely goes deeper than skindeep. Skindeep is really only another word for prejudice, preconception, misconception, misinformation, misunderstandings. And, I believe, the trick is to look inside, to delve deeper than the outer skin to perceive the human being there inside. Things are frequently not what they appear to be and this appears to be a blog about skin, colour and all but in fact it is really about my visit to London last Saturday. Charles also told me that he had seen the Christian and Muslim faiths from each inside and now claims no religion except a certain benevolence toward his fellow humans. It was refreshing to meet Charles as I wended my way back home after a day built around a little workshop in print at the Courtauld run so well by MA student Marian Casey and RA schools tutor Hen Coleman.
I had a couple of hours to spare before I joined the group so I wandered down Charing Cross Road peeking into the bookshops. To my delight I found a pop art book (T&H) edited by Lucy Lippard about whom I wrote an article in UWE’s recent Blue Notebook for a meagre £5 which I could afford. Saw a book of poems by Peake which was £20 but resisted it. Then popped into a rare books shop where I found a copy of Bukowski’s poem, ‘Crucifix in a Deathhand’, priced at £650. It’s a very beautifully made book from an edition of 3100, signed in dayglo ink by Buko himsen. Listen to this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiEHzCs2W3o, Tom Russell’s rendition of the poem.
Strange, Bukow is a good poet, he cuts thru all the crap and even throws crap at you. My most popular blArt is the one I posted on Bukowski. Seems to attract visitors from all over the world. Buk is truly not what it seems when you see pictures of him, read his writing etc, by all perceptions he’s an ugly brute, yet no, within his poems often there is a deep humanity and understanding of the human condition. Interesting he uses crucifix…Roman empire crucified tens of thousands, but only four or five are remembered, Spartacus, Jushua Ben Genasareth & Barabas who was a Zealot- a freedom fighter v Roman occupation to name but three. The Roman Empire had an horrific track record in uman rights, yet those same nerds who denigrate Buko worship their ‘Classical’ lit etc. Whereas, Carthage, and Crete both produced stuff far superior to Rome. Not a lot of people know that.
not alot o peeple know this song by the late great jackie leven https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThH0bMhZ7Jg
I love it particularly when the poet David Thomas comes in with his strangely sad tale of the fishes’ tail, ‘the bridge is too twisted I’ll fall off the side….’ Beware next time you look at koi.
The lovely ting about the Courtauld doing tings like dis print workshop and another poetry one soon is revealing how that institution is itself not what it appears to be at first sight (which reminds me, Bruce McKlean (who won the John Moores award for his painting of koi, which he told us took him about half an hour to paint, maybe my 14 years spent on my new work of Venus Stares is a little excessive, never mind, i just won a prize on wordpress which was the honour of being allowed to answer a question which was would i recommend wordpress to others? well I wouldn’t use something I won’t recommend, would i? and there is a fish or two in my picture too, luckily it’s swimming under her arm)
is at first site gallery in Colchester on Saturday July 12th). It’s not a staid place at all, it’s brim full of life and activity. Anyways I found myself joining in with all the others who were inspired by their new MA show (see my previous blArt about the pull & push of print)
this was a print made using the mould material to take a mould and then printing from it. The idea of taking a pull from a surface was inspired by the work in the MA show.
and suitably provoked into running round the Courtauld making rubbings to make prints from. I had snapped some beautiful images of Koi in a park nearby on the way in so I found various fish like shapes in stone, wood and metal and did a montage of the results. It makes me feel very happy in my own skin too.
ps I know this blArt is being posted a little later this week but I bin bizzy an oi? We also went up to Norwich to see the Art BA shoiws and I shall do a little blart abart thart too soon, like and interim blog (sumtin abart a bog in Jamie’s place there).