To the beautiful Aboriginal women of Australia; I know you are so mad at Trevor right now and as I have watched the conversation online, listening, learning, relating to my own experience of being a black African woman who has also in no way fit into the bill of what society deems beautiful, I want to say first of all that I feel you.
And then I also want to point out that this is the first time that I am connecting with you, that your voices have actually come out and we have seen new images of Aboriginal women. And this is coming from me having lived my whole life in Africa. I am so fascinated and excited to see all these women stand out as this conversation has grown and now I see you.
Just reading this open letter to Trevor Noah, https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2018/07/24/dear-trevor-noah-open-letter-aboriginal-woman has taught me so much that I did not know before today.
I did not see you like this before. You have not been included in the conversation much like me and the reason Trevor’s joke hurt so much is because of that. Because we live in a world where your image has been distorted and told from someone else’s perspective, thereby painting you as ugly. A basic surface view of you. The perspective of people who were too shallow to bother looking beyond their own ideas of beauty and seeing a different kind of beauty. And you guys are so beautiful – this picture literally gave me chills.
I felt the strength of these women. The very essence of what it really means to be beautiful because yes beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but true beauty and I hope a lot of people have had to a chance to see it, comes from within. It sounds so cliché but it’s true.
I have not seen you like this before, heard you like this before. Being an African, born and raised in Zambia in the 80’s/90’S and now living in South Africa which you must also remember was even more shielded than the rest of Africa, from the world just until over two decades ago; when I think about Aborigines I think about Crocodile Dundee. That’s just the truth of the world I grew up in. We are ignorant to who you are simply because we have been fed a one dimensional view of you, already contextualized with no options to come up with our own view of you.
It reminds me of the National Geographic race issue which highlighted an article written in 1916 where Aborigines where called savages who rank lowest in intelligence of all Human beings. We are a product of the society that told that story about you. Trevor is a product of that society and that’s why that joke could exist and come out of his mouth and people will laugh. Roseanne just called a black woman a monkey. In 2018. National Geographic published that article in 1916. I saw a tweet thanking Trevor for her timeline being flooded with people calling her ugly. Trevor did not put that idea into their heads; they already had it because they too are a product of this society. It’s not thanks to Trevor; it’s thanks to the society we have all been forced to live in.
Which is why I feel Trevor said that Joke in 2013 so that today; in 2018 now that he has a global platform, that joke could now shed a light on you, on this conversation and on the truth about the world we live in. Here I am, as are a lot of people learning more about you. I can’t be mad at that and how we got here is again just testament to the world we live in. It didn’t surprise me to discover that it was only two years ago that the first Traditional Aboriginal woman represented the Northern Territory at Miss World Australia. And it seems this narrative about you is what has caused so much violence against you in your own country. If not for this joke, I would not have known about the abuse you continue to suffer just because you do not fit into one single idea. I do hope we can move the focus away from Trevor and actually address the serious issue of your unrepresented image in the world, your ignored voice and blatant disregard for your human rights.
Being black women, we have had to endure people calling us ugly for what seems like forever for all of us living today. It’s almost impossible to believe that we had our own standards of beauty once; that there was once a world that loved us just the way we are. At the same time I also recognize that there was a time when Viola Davies was not considered beautiful, there was a time when Kerry Washington was not beautiful for a Vogue cover, I was so floored when I saw Uzo Aduba as a beautiful strong senator in Candy Jar on Netflix. So as I acknowledge the past, I also see that the world is starting to wake up to another kind of beauty and that’s where we need to be putting our efforts, into encouraging more of that. Black African women stopped being angry and started celebrating ourselves and putting ourselves out there loud and proud and slowly but surely, we are creating a space for our own kind of beauty to exist in the world.
Am not at all saying you have no right to be angry, we all should be angry. But it was necessary because look around you, the world will not wake up with a sweet song; it will more often than not, need a rude awakening. It’s called a rude awakening for a reason. I believe Trump is a rude awakening; The French World cup win followed by Mesut Ozil’s retirement from international football is a rude awakening even though the French just refuse to wake up and this, Trevor’s joke about you is a rude awakening and here we are, awake and talking about it.
The conversation should now turn into what are we going to do about it? Trevor has said he will educate himself on Aboriginal culture much like I am doing and am hoping others are also doing now that we have been awakened to the reality of how we have been seeing you. Now we have an opportunity to see you for who you really are; experience you in your entirety. It’s the most honest thing we can really do.
And what can you do? Celebrate yourselves more. Let the world see you in your own eyes. Tell your own story. Bring your own uniqueness to the table. Be angry but don’t stay angry for too long. Channel that anger into something positive; #aboriginalisbeautiful
About The Author
Mudzithe Phiri is a brand and business development professional focused on building African brands for the African market. She is an entrepreneur in the media and entertainment industry holding several directorships in M&E companies in Africa and has extensive experience working in talent management, consumer facing brand and business development and content creation for Television, Radio and Print. Her passion for Africa and its potential to influence a better world is infectious and she has dedicated her life to inventing a new future for Africa. She will be taking over as Editor In Chief of Afro Queen Business magazine from the October issue.