Saturday, 21 August 2010

Why don't black people do vintage?

A provocative title, no? But it's inspired by this article in the Guardian, titled: "Why don't black people camp?" Having just read it, and looked at a whole bunch of images from the Vintage at Goodwood festival (in which there were very few black and Asian people), the two together got me wondering about the current mainstream tide of nostalgia for all things '40s, '50s and early '60s and how black and Asian individuals might relate to it.

In no way am I trying to suggest that "vintage" is racist. I really enjoy looking at retro-blogs, particularly the ones that are very faithful to the periods they choose. But the reason I enjoy them is that they allow me to indulge in a form of visual escapism, into another, simpler, more beautiful world. I'm particularly struck by some US vintage lifestyle blogs, where women not only embrace the aesthetics of the 1950s in terms of fashion and interior decor, but also the "domestic goddess" code of conduct too, in terms of baking, cleanliness, housewifery and motherhood. Some people really think they want to live in the 1950s.

Which is fine if that makes them happy. But all the while it makes me just think back to one of my favourite films of all time, Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven. This sublimely beautiful piece of cinema recreates in breathtaking precision the atmosphere and visual qualities of Douglas Sirk's sentimental films of the 1950s. However, it does this with a contemporary critical eye focused upon race, gender and sexuality. Whilst the film, set, costumes and music are all lush and beautiful, we see 1950s American society as stiflingly conservative, homophobic, sexist and racist. It's not a place you'd want to escape to, but out of. (Pleasantville, Hairspray and Mad Men of course, also explore this tension).

It's hard for me, therefore, as a woman, from an ethnic minority, to fully embrace the nostalgia for the 1950s in an all-encompassing way. I love elements of it: the dresses, the jazz, the flicked eyeliner. But something about filling my house with Coronation memorabilia and flocking to conventions just jars. It's not a heritage I can fully embrace without the awareness of how different life would've been for someone like me in Britain back then (actually, I would hardly even know what it would have been like then, if not for Rozina Vizram's pioneering book Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History).

I wonder just how many black and Asian young people are faithfully recreating Victory Rolls and subscribing to The Chap. Perhaps it is in part due to the vintage movement's close links to the indie scene. But it might also be that racism and chauvinism sometimes get in the way of nostalgia. They're party-poopers like that.

So, to end, let me present some images of the same period - but of an alternative visual nostalgia:

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

FOTD: Lower lashline colour (and a bad makeover story)

This look was inspired by three things.

Firstly, Alicia Keys' makeup on her MTV Sessions performance of Empire State of Mind here:

(It's a spine-tingling rendition I think although I cringe every time at the line "Some will sleep tonight with a hunger for more than an empty fri-ii-iidge...")

Secondly, this awesome look done by one of my favourite beauty bloggers Designer Spray.

Thirdly, the necklace I wore for my birthday. Ironically I didn't end up wearing it to the dinner I was going to because it looked too much for a casual meal with friends!

I was convinced that Alicia was wearing teal liner on her lower lashline in this performance, but I was clearly wrong! Either way, I was really taken with the bronzey smokey look (I think her makeup is often perfection). I loved Designer Spray's look but I'm not young enough nor by any means cool enough to pull off such a punchy look. And I wanted to pair bronze and green in a different way to my look here to match my necklace, with an earthier finish.

This is what I came up with:

I used an absolutely ancient blush for this look, which has since been discontinued. I don't use it often but it's a great plummy shade and well pigmented. I remember that my mum bought it for me when we had a day out at Bluewater and I had a voucher for a free mascara sample and makeover at the Estee Lauder counter. Hilarity ensued because the SA really struggled to work with my skintone (guess not that many Asian gals pop up at the EL counter at John Lewis) and caked it on as a result with dark grey smokey eyes (absolute no-no with my skintone, very ashen and made me look punched), bright cranberry shimmer lips and this plum blush. Ohhh I looked straight from the 80s! My mum laughed so much but we both agreed the blush was lovely and she bought it for me. I remember it being such a fun day, just the two of us, and wearing it again today brought back the memories.

I'm also wearing my new Sleek Pout Polish in Plum Perfection. The colour in real life is brownier than it looks here - I think it's a lovely autumn shade and you can wear it really sheer or build up the colour (I have the ltd edition Flamingo one too and Sleek say they've got some new colours coming out which I look forward to!) I really like the vanilla scent to these too and the moisturising texture. Out of all my lip products I think I like the tinted balm versions best - really versatile and easy to wear.

What I wore:

MAC Moisturecover Select concealer
Urban Decay Primer Potion

Urban Decay shadow in YDK on lid
Bobbi Brown Gel Liner in Black on upper lash line
No7 Metallic Eyes Pencil in Green on lower lashline
YSL Faux Cils Noir Radical mascara

MAC MSF in Dark
Estee Lauder Blushing in Port Passion with MAC Springsheen layered on top
MAC Brow in Spiked


Sleek Pout Polish in Plum Perfection


Monday, 16 August 2010

Summer Salads

It's been a while since I did a food post and this is one I've been thinking of for some time. Lunch is a tricky meal, I find - you want something substantial, that will stop you snacking later, but not heavy and sleep-inducing (unless you're actually planning on a nap)... I tend therefore to favour soup in the winter and salads in the summer. And I have a lot of fun inventing salad combinations but tend to forget successful ones. So here's a list of combinations I've tried out lately. Salads don't really require recipes (I find the idea a bit absurd actually - 8 lettuce leaves or 9? 7 or 8 cherry tomatoes?) so I'm going to just list the main ingredients in three parts (main ingredients; dressing; salad stuff) and star them in deliciousness. They were all tasty, but some are just more delicious than others!

  • Garlic marinaded grilled halloumi and chickpeas; pomegranate molasses, honey and chilli dressing; lettuce, cherry tomatoes, spring onions. *****
  • Feta and watermelon; lime juice, mint, black pepper and parsley; rocket, cucumber, iceberg. **** (***** if it's really hot weather)
  • Smoked mackerel, baby new potatoes, pickled baby beetroot; honey, lemon and wholegrain mustard dressing; cucumber, lettuce, spring onions. ***
  • Brie, grapes, walnuts and pumpkin seeds; honey and red wine vinegar dressing; lettuce.
  • Falafel and feta; parsley, lemon juice and olive oil; spring onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber. ****
  • Smoked salmon, brie and beetroot; lemon and honey dressing; spring onions, cucumber and lettuce. ***
  • Tinned tuna, boiled egg halves, green beans and olives; wholegrain mustard, lemon and honey dressing; red onion, cucumber and lettuce. **
  • Garlic marinaded chicken pieces, couscous, raisins, pine nuts; olive oil and lemon; spring onion, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber. ***
  • Cheddar cubes, apple, walnuts; honey and red wine vinegar dressing; lettuce and cucumber. **
  • Couscous, feta, raisins and pine nuts; lemon and olive oil; spring onions, lettuce and tomatoes.
  • Prawn cocktail, avocado; lemon and olive oil; rocket, lettuce, cucumber, spring onion.
  • Feta, green lentils, shredded chicken; pomegranate molasses and honey dressing; spring onions, cucumber, lettuce.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Putting the "Postcolonial" into "Postcolonial Rabbit"

When I first started this blog (almost a year ago now) I intended it to be a space in which I could muse as much about my frivolous interests as my serious ones. But of late the book  and exhibition reviews have been neglected in favour of a lot of makeup and nail polish posts. Not a bad thing in its self, but I haven't been deserving on my "postcolonial rabbit" moniker, just the "rabbit" bit.

So I thought I'd write today about the postcolonial side of things and start to redress the imbalance. To introduce the term, and to explain why I decided to pursue postcolonial studies as my area of PhD research and as my career, I thought I'd write a bit about my first experiences of it.

I grew up in a diverse area of North London (Wood Green) but moved to a very white area of Surrey when I was eight. I ended up going to a private secondary school, and the environment was sterile, conservative and very old-fashioned. As was the syllabus. I excelled in terms of results but as I chafed at the unbelievable narrow-mindedness of the school and the dullness of the subjects I studied.

Until my English teacher (an incredible, terrifying, awe-inspiring woman, and the finest teacher I've ever come across) set me To Kill A Mockingbird for my coursework during my GCSES. I'd been a voracious reader all my life, but it was the first time that I saw the political potential of literary writing, that it could talk about race, community, division, and exclusion, things I'd experienced in the move but that I'd never really read about in books. (I note that To Kill A Mockingbird has become a bit of a cliche: the novel celebrities tend to cite as their desert island book, because it makes them look intelligent and "deep." I wish I could say it was Midnight's Children that I was first introduced to, and that I stumbled upon them in the library aged 12, but that was a later literary milestone for me, during my A-Levels).

To Kill A Mockingbird was followed swiftly by my English teacher with A Heart of Darkness accompanied by Chinua Achebe's essay on the novel, during my A-Level English course. These two texts started a passion that have got me here: a PhD in postcolonial literature and a job working on a postcolonial research project.

Achebe's essay, which angrily reacts to the dehumanised representation of Africans in Conrad's classic novel, struck a very deep chord in me. I loved its passion and fire and the fact that it dismantled a literary text that everyone had held to be great for so many years, but which had never been addressed in terms of its racial politics. It showed me what criticism could do, to completely transform the way a text is seen and read, and then via that re-written text, transform the way we look at the world. It's why I opted for English and American Literature over art at university. The rest is a lot of book-reading and letters after my name.

Writing thing post has made me realise that this blog isn't quite the space for me to talk at length on postcolonial issues. I like the frivolity of this space, and I want to keep it light and mostly about pretty things. So, as if I'm not busy enough, I've started another blog, called Postcolonial Adda (a Bengali word for a special kind of "idle chatter"). If you like this post, please follow the Rabbit's little sister!

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

FOTD: Golden Greens and Pink

I wore this look when I went to visit my best friend and her boyfriend for lunch at Sofra Covent Garden. This Turkish restaurant has been a favourite of my friends and I for years (the original location for an series of Ladies Wot Lunch events I organised in which my female friends and I had elaborate lunches, copious amounts of wine and nattered endlessly. Very fond memories, and requires resurrecting I think!) Anyway, this time Sofra was a little "off," not quite as good as either of us have experienced previously. In particular our favourite milk pudding with berries dessert "su muhallebisi" just didn't taste as delicious as usual. It's such a shame when that happens, because you're left wondering if it's an off-day or a new chef, and you don't usually want to chance it again just in case it's the latter, so it often means the loss of a regular haunt.

Anyway I wore the green earrings my best friend bought me for my birthday and did my makeup to match (I always match makeup to outfits, however dull and predictable that might seem!) I used my beloved Shu Uemura shadow which is the most exquisitely textured shadow I own, velvety smooth and so righly pigmented, like MAC's Veluxe Pearl finish but x10.

I also wore my Chanel Glossimer in 84, Imaginaire which isn't around anymore (I hate that Chanel discontinue so many shades!) It's a lovely sparkly sheer plummy pink, and I forgot how they err on just the right side of sticky for me, longlasting but not uncomfortable. I've been swatching and passing them up of late for their sticky factor!

What I wore:

MAC Moisturecover Select concealer

Urban Decay Primer Potion
Shu Uemura Pressed Eyeshadow in P Green 450 on lid and lower lashline
Bourjois Ombres a Paupieres shadow in Noir Emeraude in crease
Bobbi Brown Gel Liner in Ivy Shimmer
YSL Faux Cils Noir Radical mascara

MAC MSF in Dark
MAC Breezy blush
MAC Brow in Spiked

Chanel Glossimer 84 (Imaginaire)