8 March, 2017
Images and Concept: Kalemela
Introduction: Palesa Kgasane
Today is international woman’s day and there is a feeling of being overwhelmed at both the good and the bad aspects of my existence as a so called “cisgender woman”, a term which in within itself comes laden with privilege but also prejudice. It is no lie that historically black women have been at the centre of the most oppressive regimes and societal standards; whether it be related to our external physical appearance or our overall ability to succeed. Audre Lorde once said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own” – a statement which I think that most people, within the group of woman, often times overlook because of their positionality. The reality is, we don’t choose the skin we are born in or the households that mold our opinions and values however, to live in this world as a woman means to be open and aware of the multi-faceted realms of our existence; some of (us) are more free than others, some of us have tasted the pleasures of having choice. Because of this, it is of the utmost importance for us as women, all women, to constantly seek ways of telling our stories and expressing ourselves through our art. It is our responsibility to do so for women who do not have the luxury of scrolling the internet to read a blog post, or choose who they want to spend the rest of their lives with or what they put on their bodies. One can endlessly go on about the layers in which we find ourselves trying to pierce through, as women, as black women, but one thing that has been my saving grace is the ability to create art and be art. As women of colour, we find ourselves in the unique position of being black and woman, sometimes queer, sometimes fat; all things that society has termed “ugly” or “immoral”. It’s time we celebrate ourselves for those very things, we live in a time where this is possible and my goodness, does it feel liberating. Self-love is freedom.
The series of photos below are by 22 year-old Kenyan artist Kalemela, whom I found on Instagram, as usual, I was interested to know more about her and her art. Drawn by how fearlessly she explores her identity through her self-portraits, I knew that this is someone whose boldness the world needs. I gave her the colour “red” as a starting point for her to create the series of images.
She shared the images and the inspiration behind them.
I named the photo based on the concepts. The basic idea behind most of my self-portraits are centred on an unapologetic celebration of Fat Confidence.
The facts are: I AM Fat and I AM confident; confident not in spite of it (being overweight) but confident because of it. However by no means am I glorifying being overweight but self-love is necessary.
I admit self-love in this body can be a conflicting act to practice.
It sometimes feels like running on a treadmill this self-love thing.
You work on your self-esteem, exercising and strengthening this “FAT” confidence through the will of the mind but essentially
you a moving and going nowhere if you can’t apply the same practice on the body. Personally, it’s an ongoing internal conflict finding the right balance between a self-love that nourishes my self-esteem while disrupting the limiting societal labels that police fat bodies, and a self-love that values and treats my body like the temple it created to be.
Nonetheless I choose not to let these internal conflicts consume me.
I do this by not allowing societies stigmatization of fat bodies to turn me into a victim of self-loathing and pity. I, BLACK
WOMAN, AM A BEAST. Come at me with a fat joke – I dare you- test me.
Follow Kalemela to see more of her incredible work, here.