NNO Presents: Who Taught You? is a title which takes inspiration from the late Malcolm X’s infamous speech Who Taught You To Hate Yourself? and is a platform for reclaiming Black beauty. The exhibition showcases Black women in a light each subject feels she should be represented in. She owns her image. She owns her confidence. She loves and embraces herself on her own terms - not one set for her by a Eurocentric standard of beauty.
The short answer to why we have put this exhibition together is because right now, it is necessary.
The Black woman is the most unprotected, neglected, disrespected person on the planet. Malcolm told us this in the 60's, and this is still the case today. The white dominated mainstream media perpetuates the age old stereotypes of sex and fetishism, comparing us to animals and deeming us unattractive and unfeminine. These destructive messages and the dehuminisation of Black bodies does so much to the psych of young Black girls who then carry these feelings of self-hatred into adulthood.
Despite how cruelly we are treated, Black women are an art form. An expression of pain, struggle, strength and beauty. We are the most culturally innovative beings on the planet in terms of style, creativity, dignity, intellect and language. Our unique physical features and characteristics have been imitated and duplicated by non-Black females all over the world. So if we are so unattractive why are other groups trying to emulate us? And we use the word ‘trying’ because they will never be us, Black women.
NNO created this platform because we are tired. Tired of not seeing ourselves being positively reflected in the media. But how long are we going to sit around and simply just moan that we are always being misrepresented? We took action to create our own content, control our own images to redefine who we are by our own definition. We want to see all Black women being unapologetically in love with themselves.
We also wanted to reclaim stolen Black beauty. Every bit of it, the lips, the thighs, the bums...We’re sure we aren’t the only ones sick of seeing the headlines praising non-Black women like J Lo, Iggy & Kim for teaching girls to embrace having a big bum. Or giving Kylie credit for having big lips and making them fashionable, all while demonising us for these features that exist naturally on us. We're sick of sitting back while our features and culture, like everything else we have owned, is stripped away from us whilst being told that we are not beautiful. The beauty of being Black is how diverse we are, from the palest-pink to the bluest-Black.
However, we do have some work to do within ourselves. We need to start changing our behaviour. Firstly, by rejecting the Eurocentric beauty standards that have been forced upon us. We do this by embracing our own. The more we chase European beauty standards the further we move away from our African identity.
We need to stop seeking approval and validation. We must validate ourselves! We shouldn’t be allowing the media to dictate to us, the original woman, what is deemed as beautiful. But more importantly, we need to change how we treat each other. We are all still sick from 500 years old psychological torture, and we understanding that undoing years of conditioning is a mammoth task but we need to start making small steps. We can start by just noticing each other, complimenting and empowering each other. We are all a reflection of each other.
Black women are the first teachers of the next generation of Black children. If we do not love and see the beauty in ourselves and appreciate the gift of melanin that we have been given, how are we supposed to teach our children to do the same?
We hope these words and our exhibition has given you some food for thought. We want this platform we have created to be used to uplift and support our Sisters no matter where they are at in their journeys. We also want to encourage and inspire you all to take action in some way that is going to help bring about real change. NNO literally popped up from nowhere and came and shut it down (we're patting ourselves on the back). But the point is, if we can do it anyone can.
Black women are so powerful, so incredible and when we all accept ourselves as we are, and start being comfortable in our own skin, that’s when we will really start to create some Black girl magic!