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Culture Clinic: Beyond Secrets, Silence and the Mask

Part 2: Deploying Our Superpower

‘Silence’ and ‘masking’ become tools of liberation and resistance to negotiate our space and to protect our privacy. ‘Silence’ can also invoke tones of activism and resistance. Beyond this veil of secrecy, some of us negotiate, acquiring requisite skills and success while charting societal taboos. Embodying ‘silence’ allows us to pursue our passion in relative mystery.  Some of us ‘mask’ feelings and emotions in order to be allowed to “pass” in the communities we serve.

Masking certain notions of our identity while exposing others attempts to soothe our conservative-minded community members.  It helps get around ‘pure’, ‘exclusive’ and other politicized concepts that exist to protect an imagined and sheltered status quo (Glissant). Even when described as normal, our activities may be deliberately controversial.

… the creative artist cannot escape from the schizophrenia of the dualities inherent in existence: part reality and part dream: inner landscape vying with outward reach: even the dialectical thrust of androgynous sensibilities challenging both men and women to more complex modes of expression….

Nettleford 16

Therefore, the very act of exhibiting a norm may be riddled with contradiction.

I notice and encourage our younger generations. They seem more empowered than their elders to make “noise”, to speak to their location. They seem better equipped to negotiate between these artificial binaries of stereotype and transgression. We can only hope that this is a sign that our communities are becoming more tolerant and accepting. Failure to dismantle these myths in order to remain relevant puts us in danger of cultural erasure.

As we move beyond secrecy and silence to embrace a society that is more compassionate, honest, inclusive and transparent, let us consider the following:

  1. A change in mindset that would inform more ways of knowing and experiencing aspects of national identity that were previously undervalued.
  2. Creating policy and practices in ways that privilege all aspects and levels of heritage, legacy and tradition that is developed and reflected in our national education system.
  3. Policy changes that acknowledges, appreciates, celebrates, faces and redresses culture and identity in ways that do not harm any of us.

As such cultural identity and politics must be placed into sharp focus to reveal and dismantle all narratives of national identity that privilege mythologized western ideals without challenge.

Dr. John Hunte PHD Cultural Studies UWI Cave Hill

Culture Clinic is a weekly column crafted by Dr. John Hunte.

Check here for part one of Beyond Secrets, Silence and The Mask.

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