Wednesday, 5 June 2019

How many kimonos do I have in the closet?!


One of the people who contacted me recently was an American woman resident in Japan for 21 years. She wanted to let me know she had done a straw poll of her Japanese friends and they were astounded to find out anyone was saying using kimono as part of a pattern description is any sort of a problem. This lady also told me, along with sending a picture, that the fast fashion outlets in Tokyo are full of cheaply made garments mass produced in Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh et al that are described as kimonos but have no relationship to the traditional costume.




Nobody, whether Japanese or not is confused by the appropriation. No indigenous Japanese are up in arms about this or consider it an offence….except perhaps people of Japanese heritage living in the diaspora…

So maybe some of these people need to be heading back to Japan to educate the natives that they are being oppressed and need to rise up and reject the cultural appropriation of westerners. Quite honestly I don’t see any evidence that Japanese culture is under threat or faltering in any way, unless you want to sign up with Makiko Hastings despair that the younger generation have adopted western clothes and music way too enthusiastically. Perhaps we need to rethink apartheid and keep all the cultures and colours strictly segregated least there be any unseemly fraternising.




The best success of the activists has been in polarising the sewist community by setting up this specious proposition. Because of my choice to use the word for a pattern I'll be publishing there will be consequences. I’ll lose sales. Internet FB pages and groups that would have previously promoted my design will declare their disagreement with my view and refuse to let me or any other business using kimono in their pattern name to be advertised. My reputation will be lowered as peeps mutter about my white supremacist, imperialist racism and violence towards the BIPOC community.

I care about the BIPOC community. I want them to flourish in every way. 

About 6 years ago when I worked in aged care I was servicing a client when she complained that the little town we live in was being wrecked by an influx of people from non white nationalities buying and running the local businesses. ….actually to be precise she termed it more like “the whole town is going to the pack when the only people attracted to live here are darkies”. She didn’t want to buy her medications from the one local pharmacy because it would give support the Indian couple who were the new business owners. 

I did a calculation with what I said next, deciding it would be worth it, because I knew if she complained I would lose my job. I said to her “Do you feel grateful that the Indian lady who owns the pharmacy has joined our local fire brigade? How would you feel about her skin colour if she arrived to save you or your house from burning down? I find your racist opinions really shameful and you should keep them to yourself because it offends me when you say stuff like that” She did accuse me of being “one of those lefties” but didn’t complain about me to my employers so I was in the job for a bit longer. 

On another occasion she said lesbians were disgusting but not nearly as evil as what those men did to each other (duhhh, would that be love, hug, kiss?). This comment was made when I was helping her make a phone vote in the Federal election of 2013 and this was her justification for voting for a far right gay hating political party. She was horrified that gay marriage might become a reality. My integrity drew the line at giving her the wrong information to vote for a different political party but the thought did cross my mind though!

I care about the BIPOC community and want them to flourish in every way. I admire them for their strength, resilience, courage and tenacity. Their cultures, languages, art and traditions are every bit as relevant and worthy to be celebrated as anything coming from “white” people. 

My own art has always had more alignment with ethnic and tribal iconography traditions than anything English. Here are 2 of my works from 2011. The top one is "Aussie Icon" and the lower one is "Aussie Infanta" These are ironical takes on me blending the bright rusty sand colour of Australia with images from European art.   


Aussie Icon, Pearl Red Moon, mixed media canvas, 2011




Aussie Infanta, Pearl Red Moon, mixed media canvas, 2011

I’m not inclined to do an act of performative ally-ship by publicly hopping on a BIPOC bandwagon as a virtue signalling neon flashing way of publicising my personal acts of support and advocacy. Some white women feel this is their significant act of atonement, to publicly align themselves with BIPOC and make it their mission to go about educating wayward white women still languishing in or ignorant of their privilege. They are like Dalek robots, swinging about clumsily, metallicly enunciating their guttural battle cry “exterminate, exterminate”, programmed to flush out enclaves of blonde, blue eyed Aryans and blow them up. This alignment is the equivalent of the Catholic confessional ritual -  washing away all their sins of racism and inherited white privilege to anoint them the purified saintly ones who must round up the Celtic witches. There seems to be some sort of weird transference of victimhood, a fetishisation of the oppression of BIPOC that is the faddish scourge to be displayed when you publicly promote yourself as a white martyr for the cause.

BIPOC people are strong, and don’t always speak with one message and with one voice. They have learned the ropes to deal with the systemic institutions of racism and are working successfully to make change. They’re not asking me and they don’t need my help. If they did I wouldn’t hesitate. 

But asking me not to use the word kimono in a pattern name is a ludicrous requirement signifying nothing but meaningless tokenism.

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If you are interested in buying an artwork or booking a commission, please email me at pearl@upstairs-art.com.au