Monday, December 3, 2012

How to Wear a Problem.

Stephanie at work

A friend came over yesterday and almost immediately picked up the big bowl of earrings I keep on my dresser and started arranging them in pairs. In going through the stories and places of where they came from, we had somehow started talking about the spirit world, and travelling, and how spirits travel.

Even though the latter bit was unrelated to the jewelry itself, I remembered growing up that whenever I received wearable gifts from Africa or India, my mother would give me the bottle of holy water and explain that I should bless them and pray on them before I even try them out. Not really thinking about it until yesterday, I've realized how conditioned we have been towards our darker skinned origins, how colonialism has solidified for us what is pure and what is unclean.

embodiment through ritual mask

Of all the objects in my Trinidadian home, at least a quarter of them are made in China, we do not bless the new plastic mug before we make juice in it. We do not bless our Brazillian shoes from Ate logo. We have over and over been part and victim of the demonization of the same traditions that allow us to be here. I understand that spirits occupy things, if so, bless all the British printed books on the shelf that are quietly occupying your home, particularly the ones that have the effect of embodying lies surrounding your ancestors, for that of all, must be one of the most evil spirits that can exist in a thing. Bless everything in sight then.

This must also extend to my philosophy on thrift stores and wearing the second-hand clothes of strangers. I do not believe in embodying someone I have not known. Clothing is a most personal affair, something that touches the skin, is exposed to the sweat, the sweat being something inside of you that comes to the surface, something about that is way too spiritual for me to walk into a store and buy a top for $5 that can house some ghost that I am not trying to entertain. Friends and family, maybe. Vintage stores, not so much.

As much as the things we wear are external fixes, the fault of Adam and Eve, and the effects of a material world , their personality seems to be something that connects to deeper ideas about ourselves and other people.