The “Starving African Child” and the Pornography of Poverty

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The iconic image of the starving African child is a familiar symbol which appears prominently in the above images from a campaign by the development organization Save the Children. The photos both share a compelling yet controversial characteristic- the use of images of poverty that are pornographic in their portrayal. The pornography of poverty relates to forms of humanitarian communication which use images that focus on extreme exposure of both misery and the body to illustrate suffering. As evidenced in both photos, it involves the construction of images which create a representation that is the epitome of misfortune. While these images are often effective in creating the shock effect that is necessary to elicit donations, they are often denounced for their demeaning portrayals and the meanings they create.

Development media which depend on the pornography of poverty is frequently criticized for putting “people’s bodies, their misery… on display with…all the indiscretion that telescopic lens will allow” (Lissner, 1981). In both of the featured images, one thing is striking- the utter despondency of the children. This is what is capitalized upon and projected. The composition of the images, particularly the focus on the eyes of the children is meant to convey only their misery. The subjects have been stripped of any form of identity and are simply portrayed as symbolic representations of squalor. They are not given a voice. We cannot begin to know their stories or who they are. Yet, we are privy to their vulnerability, seeing them naked in every sense. The emphasis on the body is clear in both images as the children have been photographed practically naked so that viewers can be disconcerted by images of their malnourished bodies. Additionally, the photos encourage an intrusion into their delicate feelings of pain and hopelessness through the image of their tears. These types of representations simply instigate hollow pity, not empathy, understanding or definitive action.

Another fundamental constraint of this form of Humanitarian Communication is that its “simplistic messages foster racist stereotypes… and encourage prejudice.” (Sankore, 2005). Images such as these which feature sick, hungry children have become the quintessential representation of suffering and have historically been related to the proverbial “starving children of Africa” who we were constantly reminded of when we failed to finish our dinner. With the continuous manipulation of the image of the African child in fund raising campaigns, it is no surprise that most people have come to associate the continent with famine, disease and desolation. This is exactly what both images seek to capture. These demeaning representations echo racist and colonialist notions about Africa, developing an inherent image of Africans as a people who are in need of the generosity and competence of the west. Thus, alleviating poverty in Africa has become the modern day ‘Whiteman’s burden’ and in many instances people contribute simply out of obligation or an attempt to assuage their own conscience, rather than a genuine desire to make worthwhile contributions.

Furthermore, academics argue that these representations essentially “promote an extremely shallow understanding of the forces that produce and sustain poverty… and focus attention on the victims of poverty rather than the political forces behind it” (Cameron and Haanstra, 2008). The selected images from the Save The Children campaign are a prime example of this. Both images simply seek to illicit donations, and create an impression that these contributions are all that is necessary. Neither of them offer any hint as to the possible causes or root of the children’s impoverished position. Unfortunately, the stark reality is that aid often cannot begin to address critical aspects of poverty such as political and economic instability. A donation of £2 may feed one child today, but in the bigger picture, it is a mere droplet in an ocean of suffering so vast that it cannot be fathomed by the distant, well- meaning spectator. As a result, generous viewers may give small donations, but there is little effort to fully explore or address the underlying causes of poverty and to find sustainable methods of fostering change. Essentially, this breeds a dependence on aid and can be considered to be more detrimental in the long run.

In conclusion, we must consider where we draw the line between representing images of poverty and constructing them. Images create meaning, and development practitioners must be conscious of the underlying meanings they construct. It remains important to consider a photograph’s long term implications for the people it strives to represent. Are these images justified when the trickle of donations they garner will never be sufficient to address a problem which can only be resolved with sustainable solutions?

References

Cameron, J. & Haanstra, A. (2008). ‘Development Made Sexy: how it happened and what it means’. Third World Quarterly, 29(98), pp. 1475-1489.

Lissner, J. (1981), ‘Merchants of Misery’. [online] New Internationalist Magazine. Available at: http://newint.org/features/1981/06/01/merchants-of-misery/ [Accessed 12 Feb. 2016].

Sankore, R. (2005). ‘The Pitfalls and Consequences of Development ‘Pornography‘. [online] Global Envision. Available at: http://www.globalenvision.org/library/8/766 [Accessed 12 Feb. 2016].

 

 

 

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‘Nishiddh’ (Forbidden)

Holi, The Festival of Colors, India

Image Credit: “Burst of Red” Poras Chaudhary.  Indian Holi Festival

March 12th
We talked. About Nothing. Everything.
Our fingers entwined beneath the silk cover,
she tells me about her childhood in Uttar Pradesh.
For the first time in my Life I am not afraid to speak.
So I tell her about the three babies
I was not strong enough to give birth to.
She pulls me closer and kisses my shoulder.
She tells me that I was never weak.

3 am. I kiss her sleeping form goodnight,
carefully etching her graceful beauty into my memory.
The gentle outline of her naked breasts beneath the sheet.
The delicateness of her features, laced into a sleepy smile.
Her luxurious dark hair cascading over silk pillows.
I slip away quietly, swallowed by the darkness of the Street.

March 19th
I slip into the shower and reluctantly wash her away.
Suddenly  I  am child again. Dhuleti  in Gujarat.
I cry in the shower because I want the colours
– the joy, the laughter, the memories- To stay.
Only now, she- her hands, her mouth, her breasts-
They are the red, yellow & orange hues
that I want to stain my skin.

I crawl into bed and savour the faint smell of Jasmine in my hair.
Twenty minutes later I feel him next to me.
The smell of English Whisky invading the fragrant air.
I recoil from his demanding hands that only seek
to conquer the exotic terrain of my body.
He pins me down, ignoring my protest.
His  guttural moans of victory echo his imperialist ancestors of 1860.
He smiles boastfully, proud of his conquest.
And like my sisters before me,
I ache in silence. I weep in shame.

May 21st
There was an accident last night.
All I remember is his blue eyes steeled with rage
and crimson blood staining the hardwood floor.
This morning he took me to Mumbai.
To a doctor with blue eyes and pink skin
Just like his.
He warns me not to mention “our little fight.”
& reminds me that disobedience is a sin.

In his crisp English the Doctor
tells me my Baby is gone. “God’s will.”
I wonder about this cruel God of theirs
who can continue to steal my babies from me.
When I have offered countless  prayers to
Lord Shiva and Parvati.
I cry silently because their God is stronger than mine.
I cry because I feel alone. Afraid and….empty.

June 10th
I have not seen her in 3 months.
Yet I can still feel the softness of her finger
skilfully tracing the outline of my lower lip.
So clearly that I shiver with a shadow of excitement.
Her touch. Her smell. They linger.
Like the Agarbathi that Dadaji would burn when I was a girl.
I am a child again.
Sitting in bed and wishing I could wrap myself in its aroma.
Except it is her distinct scent- Jasmine,
that intoxicates my soul, filling me with bitter-sweet pain.

August 17th
The noise of the market is punctured by a piercing scream.
I run to the scene,  nearly collapsing in the stifling heat.
A woman is being attacked in the street.
Her face is covered in blood so sickeningly red.
But I would recognize those eyes anywhere.
Those eyes whose tears have trickled down my breast.
Now they are glazed from intense pain,
yet she does not take them off me.
They silently plead with me to walk away.
I want to run to her,
cradle her head in my lap and wipe away the blood
that stains her porcelain features.
But her eyes…. they will me to flee.
To not look back.

September 8th
“Thugs charged in viscous murder.”
I can hear the news report over the sounds
of my morning sickness.
I fight back the bitter taste of bile in my throat,
collapsing into tears at the feet of a coward in a suit.
My husband tells me that I am an embarrassment
& orders me to clean up my mess.

November 13th
“You don’t understand how much I love you” he whispers.
He kisses me roughly,  his fingernails digging into my skin.
My face is stained with the familiar cocktail of blood, sweat & tears.
Frantic cries stifled under his overpowering weight.
Is this how we felt? Colonial 1928….

“Where would you be without me?” He taunts
“Starving? Praying to your God dolls?”
& I wonder… where would he be without a wealth,
built on graves… On 200 years
of my people’s blood…sweat…& tears.
“Always remember that I love you enough to kill for you.”
I close my eyes, longing only for the ones
who loved me enough….to die for me….

In June.

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“So miss poet what will you write about me?”
He whispers this with a light in his eyes that rivals
the morning sun filtering through the blinds.
His fingers gently brushing my cheek.
& I deliberately avoid those adoring eyes-
unable to provide the answers they seek.

“I love to watch you write. You write with such urgency.”
I have no choice.
If a drowning man is offered a raft,
would he not cling desperately to it?
Poetry is… gasping for air that is not heavy
with the consuming agony that drowns my spirit.

“I want you to write about me that way.”
I close my eyes.
How do I make him understand…
I can only write poems about the people who break me.
About those who take…and take…
& leave my soul ravished &… empty.

“What will you tell the world about our love?”
How could I ever write about a “gentle caress”.
These adjectives are unknown to me.
How do I tell of a soft kiss,
When all I want to speak of is the whiskey
stained breath of the one I miss.

“You should start off with how me met. It’s truly romantic.”
How did we meet? I fail to recall.
Yet I can remember- sometimes too clearly-
the musky scent of sweat & …rage.
The broken look in his eyes in that fleeting moment
before we crumbled into irreparable damage.

“What will you name it? How about ‘A Love to Remember!”
I cannot bear to tell him that
His gentleness is more abrasive
than the fists of a drunken lover.
His perfectness is more suffocating than having
…my breath stolen at the unforgiving hands of another.

“How do you write like that?”
He could never truly understand
why Love & Hate; Passion & Pain
are interchangeably strewn across my verses.
& the reason that I look at lovers…
the way mourners look at hearses.

“How do you even think of these stories.”
I could never make him realize how
My mind inexplicably associates
unmade beds with grave yards.
That to me poems are..silent screams
of those who have been unspeakably scarred.

“You must love with such passion.”
He kisses my fingers delicately
& I’m terrified by the unfamiliarity of tenderness.
I say “I love hungrily.”
I don’t add that I’m only satisfied
by the fruit of a poisoned tree.

Amanie
(August 2015.)

A New York Art Exhibition

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“Stunning! Brilliant rendition of light.”
How could they not be aware,
that it is nothing but a tribute
to the the sun shining through our bedroom window,
kissing the golden flecks in my hair.

“Masterful technique.”
Each composition evokes a memory.
Sunday afternoons lying naked on your studio floor.
Loving with unquenchable thirst.
Your fingers embellishing the forbidden canvas of my body.

“Exquisite! Such an eye for detail!”
Every brush stroke is a familiar caress-
the delicate sweep of your fingers along my throat.
The wet softness of your tongue at the nape of my neck.
The brush of your lips at the swell of my breast.

“A vibrant contrast of colours!”
Your thumb tracing my spine- violet:
for the passion only I could awake.
Crimson along the curve of my growing stomach.
Pink just for her- beloved Juliette.

“Excellent symmetry.”
You loved her perfectly. Like she was your own.
Revered her growing life like a treasure
you had spent your whole life searching for.
…Not the fruit of the betrayal I had sewn.

“Such fine texturing!”
The gentleness of your palms over the bulge
of my taut stomach. Icy Fear.
The warmth of your voice. Strength of your arms.
Panic. Pain I could not bear to divulge.

“Such incredible ability to create depth.”
My own body executing punishment-
The price of a sin of the skin
is destruction of the yield of said flesh
& a period of interminable bereavement.

“Dramatic rendition of shadows.”
They remind me of the sudden emptiness
of my poisoned womb.
Of the unbearable absence of the flutter of tiny feet.
Of Silence. Eternal Darkness.

“A meticulously stylized, thought provoking piece.”
Blotted, tear stained ink. Nervous scribbling:
“How strong is your love?
Strong enough to forgive-
Everything?”

Among the critics and fans, I am here.
The one person you never needed to impress.
I take in each piece and relive the stories
of Love. Pain. Life. Death….Death…
& how it all started with you, in that same Red dress.

Whispers of my soul have been intricately weaved,
within the threads of each tapestry.
Will they ever know, my darling,
That each piece is the language of our love,
a declaration that your heart continues to yearn for me.

Amanie
August 10th, 2015

The Little Things

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He fell in love with the little things,
Like the way I lived Life out of timing.
He’d smile approvingly,
Every time I wore Madras earrings in June,
Or spent mornings chasing the Moon.
His eyes sparkled watching me
hang Christmas lights in May.
Or read bedtime stories in the middle of the day.

He adored the way I had no sense of place.
We’d spend hours lying among seashells on the kitchen floor,
Palm fronds delicately tickling our backs.
He’d hold me close & inhale the scent of coconuts in my hair,
whispering a love as vast & deep as the Ocean in my ear.
He said he loved coming home to me.
Because Wednesday could become dinner in Venice,
& Thursday we might make love in Greece.

There were nights when I cried for no reason,
& he’d quietly hold my hand in the dark for hours.
Because he knew I feared mornings,
he stayed up & laid dark plastic over every window pane.
He complied when I wanted to sleep on the roof in the rain.
His lips would trace the raindrops on my stomach
& whisper, “compose a song from the pain in your soul,
Because your voice makes me forget the cold.”

He loved me even when he had to drag me out of bed.
Even when I made him late for work everyday,
Because I’d cry hysterically & beg him not to leave me.
He’d hold me close when we walked down the street,
& I wore my little black dress & bedroom slippers on my feet.
He said he enjoyed the adventure I brought.
When I’d run away at 3 am. with nowhere to go,
& he’d drive for hours… in search of my shadow.

He used to smile & kiss my cheek when
I couldn’t remember the little things. He’d say,
“We’ll spend the rest of our lives rewriting
the blank spaces in your memory.”
I’d choke back tears & ask timidly,
But what happens when I can’t remember to love you?
“Then we’ll love as hard as we can until….
& even then I’ll love you still.”

& He loved me until..
Until the day he came home & ripped out the Christmas lights
& hung clocks on every wall.
Calendars quickly replaced palm trees,
while my nights became locked doors & hidden keys.
For the first time I cried alone.
For the first time he left for work on time,
Then came home & tore down every fantasy of mine.

The little things make him angry.
So he spends his days mad at me for
reasons I’m too afraid to remember.
I spend mine frantically screaming & clawing at the latch,
Because he refuses to take me for walks if my clothes don’t match.
Out of sheer cruelty he rips open the drapes
& watches me cringe at the sun, begging for darkened nights.
When the sun finally sets, he smiles & turns on the lights.

The lips that once painted my skin are stained with hate.
The hands that used to inspire rhythm in my body
squeeze the poetry out of my throat.
& when I sing along to the melodies in my head,
His fists pound their own solo until the choir of angels are dead.
There was a time when we were my refuge.
Now we are the prison where a nightmare resides.
Our love is a fountain where my poison hides.

Amanie.
July 5th, 2015.

If We Were Having Coffee

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If we were having coffee,
I’d ask only that you smile earnestly.
So that I may commit it to memory.
I’d memorize its shadow,
So that I could conjure it when
a pale moon kisses the sea.

If we were having coffee,
I’d try to not let you see,
that your smile breaks me.
I’d stare at the curve of your lips,
remembering how they painted
every contour of the design that is me.

If we were having coffee,
My cup would remain empty.
Six years and you still don’t know that I drink tea.
& that I hate flowers.
Especially those that smell like
the lies born of infidelity.

If we were having coffee,
I’d caress the line of your jaw hungrily.
Kiss your fingertips slowly.
Because soon the only comfort I will find,
will be in their ghostly imprints lingering
along my body.

If we were having coffee,
I would sip the sound of your voice ardently,
Inhale your musky scent greedily.
Somewhere in the future I will use these
to recreate a past filled with long summer nights
where you whispered your devotion breathlessly.

If we were having coffee,
I’d feel afraid- misplaced- Lonely.
Because I’ve lost you already.
I lost you a long time ago.
When you stopped holding my hand in the rain
& began to love me distantly.

If we were having coffee,
I’d search your eyes desperately,
For the man who fell in love with me,
& pray for the strength to ask him
to love me again…just enough
to set me free.

Amanie
April 7th, 2015

9 Ways Stress Impacts Our Lives

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        For most of my life I have suffered from serious debilitating headaches. In the most extreme cases, I remain confined to my bed for hours because I am tormented by the slightest trace of light or the faintest hint of sound. I battle uncontrollable dizzy spells and my vision blurs. Although they often come without any identifiable triggers, over the years it was easy to rationalize that stress made my headaches at least twenty five times worse. While I was never exactly sure about the specific correlation between stress and my headaches, I recently identified one aspect. When I am stressed I tend to clench my jaw very tightly and grit my teeth- HARD! I often do this for long periods without even being aware of it. It results in extreme amounts of pressure which in turn causes terrible pain near my temples.
During the last few years I have tried to reduce my stress levels, not only because of the physical effects, but because I am sure that I will discover a more healthy and content version of myself beneath my layers of tension. I believe that a relaxed state of mind enables us to be more productive, receptive and appreciative. This has all been part of an ongoing Journey to embrace the healthiest version of me- emotionally, mentally, intellectually, spiritually and physically. Over various time periods I have tried a number of options including meditation, colouring, yoga and soothing natural sounds. They have all helped in varying degrees and I am thankful that my headaches have become less frequent and less severe.
Thinking about how stress contributes to my headaches led me to wonder how stress impacts us across various aspects of our lives. I am fully aware that we are all different- our circumstances, our reactions and our results. Many people may argue that stress has no negative effect on them, because they don’t allow it to. Hooray, I want to be just like you when I grow up. (No seriously, I really do!) .Yet for the majority of us, stress is a very real challenge that suffocates many areas of our lives.
Here are the nine ways I’ve realised stress affects my life:

Sleeping 
Some nights you spend hours lying awake, playing hide and seek with your deepest fears and worries. (We all know who usually wins!). Or you spend long stretches refusing to get out of bed. I generally convince myself that if I stay in bed I can ignore reality just a bit longer. That logic leads me to bury myself into my blanket and pillow fortress and pretend that I’m simply the seventeenth page of some barely read cookbook.

Eating
Stress wreaks utter havoc on my diet in two ways! I tend to go for days without eating because I have absolutely no appetite. Usually, I don’t even have the energy to think about eating. Or even worse, I punish myself by eating every unhealthy thing in sight! I’m likely to barricade myself in my room with a lifetime supply of chocolate covered Pringles dipped in ice cream. (Go ahead- judge me!)

Appearance
Let’s be honest. When you’re stressed out, you can barely drag yourself out of bed, much less put in the effort it takes to look like a (half-way) decent human being. I’m willing to bet good money that my friends, co workers etc can tell when I’m going through a “stress streak”. My hair and outfit usually declare- very loudly- “I’d rather be in bed letting my emotions tear me to shreds.” Not a very good look.

Missing Out on Important Moments
How many parties have you spent sulking in a corner while your friends have the time of their life? How many great afternoons have you missed out on because you chose to stay home and count your woes? TOO MANY! When we’re stressed we sometimes isolate ourselves and end up missing out on the small beautiful moments. Or we may end up taking part, but only halfheartedly. We cannot enjoy the moment because we are not fully present. Our mind does not allow us to fully appreciate it.

Forgetting the Best Version of Your Life
Being caught up in stress makes you contemplate all the negatives of your life. It’s like you’re building a house where each brick is a problem or fear. You keep piling each worry on top of the other until you have a great big mansion of disillusionment. Then you lock yourself into it…close all the windows and turn off all the lights. The problem with this is that while you’re hiding in the darkness, you forget all the beautiful things just outside the windows. Your beautiful moments, your loved ones, your accomplishments and talents all seem very distant and vague. It’s hard to keep those in sight.

Relationships
We’ve all been there. Having that hot ball of anger that bubbles beneath the surface, ready to be unleashed on an unfortunate and unsuspecting victim. Being stressed out forces us to lash out against others. Anger brings out the worst version of ourselves and we usually say and do hurtful things that cannot be undone. Unfortunately it’s usually the ones who love us and are trying to help who end up having to deal with it. Overtime this causes great strain on our most valuable relationships.

It’s Exhausting
Is there anything more exhaustingggg than being stressed or depressed? It’s like every single cell in your body is working over time,pumping those negative emotions into each vein. You feel like your mind and body are working together to accomplish one painful goal- wearing you thin. “You, brain, think angry thoughts!’. “Heart, bring on the sorrow and disappointment!” It leaves you feeling weak and drained- emotionally, mentally and physically.

Unproductive
While some of us are capable of using stress as motivation, most of us are not as fortunate. For many of us, stress means long periods of worrying, lying in bed feeling frustrated and not accomplishing anything. It also means not being able to focus on important tasks or responsibilities because your mind is preoccupied. Most times assignments are left undone, or work projects are not completed to the best of our ability because we are not able to commit our full attention or energy.

Encourages negative responses
Something about stress makes us seek out a crutch to help us fight our way through it. For some of us, we choose perfectly healthy activities to counteract stress such as exercise, writing or adventure. Unfortunately, in the worst of cases, people resort to alcohol, self mutilation or drugs. Some of us turn to nail biting, binge eating or other seemingly harmless activities. Be careful what you choose because these could open doors to another list of problems.

These are the nine most noticeable effects from my personal experience. I am sure that the list can go on. For me, the main objective of compiling this list was as a reminder of how much of myself I lose to stress… to recognize the damage that cannot be undone and to make an attempt to stop it in its tracks! If you’re like me, and you have let stress steal your precious moments, distance you from your best self… I hope that this list will do for you what it has done for me. Happy healing!

9 Tips from My Natural Hair Journey.

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March 2015… 1 year & 5 months after my Big Chop

It’s been almost a year and a half since I started this wonderful Natural Journey! I have come a long way, from looking in the mirror through tears and comparing myself to a 12 year old boy… to feeling like I can conquer the world after a good twist out. Some naturals make it look fabulous and effortless. But for me, it has not been smooth sailing. It came with all the road blocks, flat tires and rainy days that any worthwhile Journey throws at you!
I won’t lie though, I get excited when someone asks “What do you do with your hair!”  because I think, “Okay, I must be getting better at this.” I’m even more thrilled when someone messages me to say that they are considering the natural Journey but they are hesitant.. they don’t know what they’re signing up for. I immediately feel like I want to tear out every page from my Manie’s Hair Experience and share it with them!

I’m not an expert by any standards, but I’m sure most naturals understand the urge to share their experience- from tips to shortcomings. Soooo for all of you who are on this Journey, or those who may be considering it, here are my top 9 pieces of advice to keep you going or get you started!

1) Do it for Y-O-U!
If you’re going to make this decision, ensure that you are doing it for a solid reason. Be sure that it is what YOU want- not simply compliance to the demands of someone or something else, or a trend. Whatever your reason is, make it personal. That way when you find yourself looking at your crazy reflection and wondering “Why the Hell am I doing this?” you’ll have a great argument to keep you from purchasing the first Relaxer you get your hands on!
2) Not all hair is created equal!
It is important to keep in mind that we are all different, that rule applies across the board, particularly when it comes to hair. What works for one natural won’t necessarily work for another. There are no certified formulas or rules! So don’t force it… Don’t be so hard on yourself because your twist outs look nothing like the Youtube Sensations you obsess over. Find the routine that works best for you and work with it!
3) Relax! Be patient! Enjoy the ride!
I cannot stress this enough! Each stages brings fresh joy and new distress. Don’t obsess over your final goal so much that you miss the individual beauty of the phases. That was one of my many mistakes. I was so crazy about achieving length that I hated my early stages. When I look back at pictures of myself after my Big Chop, I feel a slight sense of regret that I didn’t let myself throw on a some strong accessories and go for that sexy, confident, daring look. Be patient enough to allow yourself to fully enjoy each chapter along the way!
4) Listen to your hair.
You could read every single article from the pros. You could become an expert on what ingredient does what..but all that is useless if you aren’t listening to YOUR hair. Whenever I try something new (products, treatment, hairstyle etc.), I pay attention to how my hair responds. That determines if I continue, change it up a bit or just toss it! Trust me when your hair is loving something, you willlll know! Getting the facts about hair helps, but it is equally important to listen to what your hair asks for – a lot of the times, its moisture!
5) Never feel the need to over do the products.
My greatest struggle during the early stages of my Natural Journey, was finding the right products. I would spend hours scouring the internet for product suggestions. I went through frustrating trial and error periods and let me tell you, my purse did not appreciate this experimentation! I still have barely used bottles on my dresser as reminders! In the end, I found myself sticking to the three main items I found worked best- Cantu Repair Conditioner, Eco Styler Gel and Blue Magic Hair Dress.
6) Do not limit yourself.
I remember the days of complaining “My hair can’t do this, its tooo shoooort…too curlyyy….too stubbornnn!” Personally, my biggest challenge was finding hairstyles appropriate for work and formal events. In my mind, professional and formal meant sleek and tamed. Now, I’m aware that I can choose to go either way- sleek and elegant or fun and playful! Thankfully, I’m finally at a stage where I don’t limit myself. I try everything that peaks my interest!
7) Make your Journey a Lifetsyle!
For me, going natural became so much more than changing my hair. It started to mean changing my life. Initially, I became very conscious of what products I chose to use in my hair. Overtime, that led to me becoming more aware of what I used on my skin and what I put into my body. In an effort to help my hair grow, I chose to use natural conditioners and tried to incorporate specific foods into my diet. I was pleasantly surprised to find that eventually, I found myself eating healthier, drinking more water and analyzing my food labels the way I analyzed those on my hair products. Your body will thank you.
8) Be ready for the commitment!
For some of us, natural hair is a bit of a commitment. I can testify that I’ve found myself battling my hair on a morning and thinking “Damn, I coulda just been brushing my relaxed hair back and not be running late for work.” I can also talk about nights when all I wanted was to abandon the twisting and detangling and just sleep! Yet I knew I’d regret it in the morning! Those hours of washing and deep conditioning? Let’s not even go there! Not everyone can afford to make that commitment immediately! If you can’t, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t force yourself on a Journey that you can’t complete and end up feeling defeated. When the time and circumstances are right, you’ll find yourself where you need to be.
9) Last, but by no means least, it’s your hair, your life!
I think that being natural allows you and the world to get a really good look at yourself. I still find myself having to say to people “I appreciate your opinion. But let me stop you right there- I love my hair like this!” Not everyone is going to appreciate it, and you will have to accept that. But what is completely essential, is that you are happy with yourself and your decisions! I am convinced that it is an opportunity to say “Hey, this is me! Take it or leave it!” Whether you make that declaration while wearing a chic afro or your hair is sticking out in fifty directions, embrace it…mean it…live it!

2014 National Awards of Excellence Feature Address- Amanie Mathurin

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Earlier this year I had the (accidental) honour of delivering the Feature Address at the 2014 National Awards of Excellence where I was also awarded for Outstanding Performance at Cambridge. I call it an “accidental” honour because half an hour before the ceremony I was called upon to fill in for the designated speaker who was unable to fulfill his duty due to very unfortunate circumstances. The  plan was to use a speech I had previously delivered. However I was not too excited about presenting something that had already been heard…and something that did not appear perfectly aligned with the event….Hence I found myself frantically scribbling during the ceremony trying to see what inspiring words I could come up with in 20 minutes. Although it is clearly not my best work… I decided to post it because I believe that the overall message of the speech is worth sharing.

“Excellence is not born… it is nurtured.  Indeed many persons who have excelled in their respective fields, often identify common elements in their recipe for success- dedication, self-motivation, the will to persevere against the odds.
Today is indeed a remarkable day. On a regular basis, we are greeted by the unfortunate highlights, examining the negative circumstances and concerns of our youth. We are saddened by the continuous laments regarding unemployment figures and staggering statistics of youth violence. However, today we seek to place the spotlight on more positive aspects of our nation’s youth. We honour their achievements… we praise their success.  Events such as the National Awards of Excellence are indeed one of the most anticipated occasions on our nation’s calendar of activities. It allows us to appreciate the abundance of talent which flourishes across our nation.
As I look around this venue filled with youthful exuberance, I see the shadows of future leaders… I hear the whispers of those who will soon develop our great country. Consequently, I believe that I would not have adequately fulfilled my role as feature speaker today if I did not directly address these budding leaders. Students, young individuals of the audience, the youth of our beloved Saint Lucia, I say to you, learn by the example of the greatest ones but do not be afraid to set your own example. It does not hurt to study the methods of those who have excelled before you. However, we are not all the same. We respond differently, we learn through various measures. As such, never force yourself to fit into a mold that has been cast by another. Tailor your suit of excellence so that it is your own.
My further advice is that while you tread the path to success, never be discouraged by the obstacles in your way. Do not let the stumbling blocks hinder you from your dreams. Instead use these blocks to build a strong and solid foundation of success.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I cast a further glance around this room I am filled with a deep sense of pride and honour. Yes, it is indeed an honour to be in the company of individuals who have attained such levels of success.  From our young students, to our distinguished Nobel laureate, this room is filled with the brilliant jewels of Fair Helen’s crown. As a result, I am convinced that there could be no occasion more fitting, no audience more appropriate , to declare my next statement. While we gather occasionally to applaud the achievements of our young people this is not always adequate. Among the many things that our youth are in need of, is a strong support system. Our young persons must know that while we urge them to succeed, if they happen to fail on their journey, we will not abandon them at their time of greatest need. We need to ensure that we provide the relevant organization that can provide support and encouragement to our young people. These institutions must be visible and active within schools and communities. However, individual efforts often make all the difference. I therefore urge each of you to make the pledge to play your part. Lay your brick in the wall of reinforcement that we strive to build around our nation’s youth.  Provide the social inclusion that is necessary for our young persons to feel secure and appreciated. Ensure that you have made your contribution towards providing the right conditions that will encourage our youth to continue to excel.
As I come to the end of this address, I wish to congratulate all the awardees. I encourage you all to continue in this vein of excellence. I also wish to thank you all for setting this wonderful example. We thank you for carving an admirable path that other young persons can aspire to tread. To close, I encourage you all to promise yourself to nurture the excellence that lives within you. Be strong and resolute enough to assert your identity in a world that will seek to bend you into its mold.  Do not be misled by the allure of materialism. Do not be blinded by the thirst for wealth. Rather, aspire to accumulate knowledge, for this is the true measure of a man’s wealth. Sing your individual song of success as you continue in your pursuit of excellence.”

Written By : Amanie Mathurin
Directed/Edited By: Pierre Chester

This was my first attempt at something in this field. It was quite a challenge but accepting it allowed me to test the boundaries of my creativity. Although I had doubts at first…. when I finally decided to actually start drafting… I could not stop… It all just seemed to flow so easily…naturally… There were even moments where I had to struggle to keep up with the thoughts spinning in my head… It was almost as if the scenes were playing themselves out in my mind….as if the story was fighting to be told…
I think the most fascinating part was seeing the end result. Having a vision…. reading it on paper… seeing it on film…these are all very different concepts. It was a wonderful feeling seeing my vision actually  represented. It was interesting to see the result of someone else’s vision… hard work.. talent all mixed with mine. It was also very encouraging to work with such a great team… Every aspect seemed so well executed… the directing…editing… and especially the music. The music was indeed  my favourite part. I felt that the songs chosen reflected the feelings I had toward the script…. they mirrored the themes and emotions of the idea. What was even more exciting was seeing the feedback we received. During the initial stages… I would have never even imagined that we could get such a response. It has generated so many positive responses online… and it has all been so encouraging. Seeing people’s comments about how intrigued they were… how emotional the film made them…and how deeply it made them think and feel… I honestly felt that I had fulfilled  my purpose….
      I am happy that I now have something to look back on to help me measure my strengths and weaknesses…. I am surely a long way from where I want to be as a writer… but this is a wonderful place to start. It also serves as proof of what I can accomplish and that greater things are in store. If I had let my insecurity and doubts serve as a hindrance… I would never have been able to explore this new avenue. I would have never found out that this is something I want to pursue…. that this is a talent I want to nurture… For years I had been focused on my dreams of publishing novels… it had never crossed my mind that there is so much more out there… so many other avenues I can venture into. Of course I am still holding onto my dreams of producing best sellers…. but it does not hurt to know that my talent could lead me into even more exciting territory… Perhaps careers await in Film or Television…or both

🙂 Here’s to big dreams *cheers*

Juliet’s Woe | Short Film | 2013