A View of the World from the Lense of a Camera!

Last month I had the pleasure of attending a group exhibition entitled ‘Art in Mind’ organised by The Brick Lane Gallery London. This is an ongoing group exhibition offering emerging artists a platform to showcase their work to a fresh and growing London audience. One of the artists is photographer Elizabeth James. She kindly agreed to share her thoughts on her preferred medium and the prospect of exhibiting for the first time. 

How did you get into Photography?

It was something natural that just happened. I remember as a little girl looking down in to the viewfinder of my mum’s old Baby Rollie Flex 4×4. I was fascinated with the camera itself, its mechanisms, how it worked and the end results; which in those days were not instant, film was sent away to be developed. I was 9 when I got my 1st automatic camera, through trial and error I learnt and for my 18th birthday, mum gave me my first SLR camera, a Pentax which I still have.

Which photographer has influenced you the most?

Irving Penn, an American photographer known for his still life, portraiture and fashion photography (world war2 feminine chic and glamour photographs. Penn created images of great clarity and detail. This is something I aspire to achieve in my own work utilising my own artistic instincts and photographic vision. His subjects were vastly varied and his prints have a clean/clear appearance. Whatever the subject, his composition stands out; his work is confident and bold. I find his approach to his subject very similar to mine. I enjoy capturing parts or sections of my subjects and leave a little to the imagination. Like Penn, I strive to capture the essence of my subjects.

Photography, controversially, has at times been perceived differently to other visual art forms. Do you see yourself as an artist and your skill as an art form or something bespoke?

It took a long time for photography to be accepted as an art form.  Photography is to document, express, create, visualise and record. It is a combination of subjective thought, creative imagination, visual design, technical skill and practical ability. The camera is a visual notebook affording the user power and purpose and it is also a powerful medium of persuasion and propaganda.

You had your first public exhibition last month. How did it make you feel and what’s next?

Yes, I exhibited 6 Boxed Canvas Photographs as part of Monochrome- an Art in Mind Exhibition at The Brick Lane Gallery London E1. Opening night was very exciting; there was a very good turnout and an indescribable atmosphere. It was more than I ever imagined. It was so nice to finally see my work hanging in a popular and established gallery in London. I am currently putting together a few exhibition proposals for 2011-2012, whilst establishing contacts within the art industry, with a view to collaborating on projects, creating a web presence and building a body of work focusing on structure & architecture. I hope to have my work published, gain further commissions and opportunities to exhibit

What would be your advice to other budding photographers wishing to establish their careers?

My advice would be: don’t be put off by mixed opinions, try to come to terms with rejection, not everyone will like or appreciate your work. Listen to constructive criticism, take it on board, address it, learn from it and move on. Stay focused, persistent and just do what come naturally to you. Enter competitions, submit and apply, if you don’t inquire you will never know if it was your style of work they are looking for. When submitting, do your research, only supply what is required.

Please visit Elizabeth’s website


Why Do India’s Dalits Hate Mahatma Gandhi?

Mahatma Gandhi

Populating my blogsite with some interesting reading, I came across this article on Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi is seen as a great civil rights leader but according to the following article  many people’s views on this leader’s fight for democracy should be challenged!

My view of Gandhi wasn’t great, particularly after learning of his stance on black/white equally whilst living in South Africa.  My perception of him changed dramatically after finding he considered Indians in apartheid South Africa “fellow colonists” along with the white colonists, over the indigenous Blacks.

Thomas C Mountain, the author of ‘ Why Do India’s Dalits Hate Gandhi? paints an alarming picture of a man history has presented as a freedom fighter and humanitarian.

Thomas C Mountain
In India, supposedly the worlds largest democracy, the leadership of the rapidly growing Dalit movement have nothing good to say about Mohandas K. Gandhi. To be honest, Gandhi is actually one of the most hated Indian leaders in the hierarchy of those considered enemies of India’s Dalits or “untouchables” by the leadership of India’s Dalits.

Many have questioned how could I dare say such a thing?

In reply I urge people outside of India to try and keep in mind my role as the messenger in this matter. I am the publisher of the Ambedkar Journal, founded in 1996, which was the first publication on the internet to address the Dalit question from the Dalits viewpoint. My co-editor is M. Gopinath, who includes in his c.v. being Managing Editor of the Dalit Voice newspaper and then going on to found Times of Bahujan, national newspaper of the Bahujan Samaj Party, India’s Dalit party and India’s youngest and third largest national party. The founding President of the Ambedkar Journal was Dr. Velu Annamalai, the first Dalit in history to achieve a Ph.d in Engineering. My work with the Dalit movement in India started in 1991 and I have been serving as one of the messengers to those outside of India from the Dalit leaders who are in the very rapid process of organizing India’s Dalits into a national movement. The Dalit leadership I work with received many tens of millions of votes in the last national election in India. With that out of the way, let’s get back to the 850 million person question, why do Dalits hate M.K. Gandhi?

To start, Gandhi was a so called “high caste.” High castes represent a small minority in India, some 10-15f the population, yet dominate Indian society in much the same way whites ruled South Africa during the official period of Apartheid. Dalits often use the phrase Apartheid in India when speaking about their problems.

The Indian Constitution was authored by Gandhi’s main critic and political opponent, Dr.Ambedkar, for whom our journal is named and the first Dalit in history to receive an education (if you have never heard of Dr. Ambedkar I would urge you to try and keep an open mind about what I am saying for it is a bit like me talking to you about the founding of the USA when you have never heard of Thomas Jefferson).

Most readers are familiar with Gandhi’s great hunger strike against the so called Poona Pact in 1933. The matter which Gandhi was protesting, nearly unto death at that, was the inclusion in the draft Indian Constitution, proposed by the British, that reserved the right of Dalits to elect their own leaders. Dr. Ambedkar, with his degree in Law from Cambridge, had been chosen by the British to write the new constitution for India. Having spent his life overcoming caste based discrimination, Dr. Ambedkar had come to the conclusion that the only way Dalits could improve their lives is if they had the exclusive right to vote for their leaders, that a portion or reserved section of all elected positions were only for Dalits and only Dalits could vote for these reserved positions.

Gandhi was determined to prevent this and went on hunger strike to change this article in the draft constitution. After many communal riots, where tens of thousands of Dalits were slaughtered, and with a leap in such violence predicted if Gandhi died, Dr. Ambedkar agreed, with Gandhi on his death bed, to give up the Dalits right to exclusively elect their own leaders and Gandhi ended his hunger strike. Later, on his own death bed, Dr. Ambedkar would say this was the biggest mistake in his life, that if he had to do it all over again, he would have refused to give up Dalit only representation, even if it meant Gandhi’s death.

As history has shown, life for the overwhelming majority of Dalits in India has changed little since the arrival of Indian independence over 50 years ago. The laws written into the Indian Constitution by Dr. Ambedkar, many patterned after the laws introduced into the former Confederate or slave states in the USA during reconstruction after the Civil War to protect the
freed black Americans, have never been enforced by the high caste dominated Indian court system and legislatures. A tiny fraction of the “quotas” or reservations for Dalits in education and government jobs have been filled. Dalits are still discriminated against in all aspect of life in India’s 650,000 villages despite laws specifically outlawing such acts. Dalits are the victims of economic embargos, denial of basic human rights such as access to drinking water, use of public facilities and education and even entry to Hindu temples.

This is one of the golden rules of Dalit liberation, that varna means color, and that Hinduism is a form of racially based oppression and as such is the equivalent of Apartheid in India. Dalits feel that if they had the right to elect their own leaders they would have been able to start challenging the domination of the high castes in Indian society and would have begun the long walk to freedom so to speak. They blame Gandhi and his hunger strike for preventing this. So there it is, in as few words as possible, why in today’s India the leaders of India’s Dalits hate M.K. Gandhi.

This is, of course, an oversimplification. India’s social problems remain the most pressing in the world and a few paragraphs are not going to really explain matters to anyone’s satisfaction. The word Dalit and the movement of a crushed and broken people, the “untouchables” of India, is just beginning to become known to most of the people concerned about human rights in the world. As Dalits organize themselves and begin to challenge caste based rule in India, it behooves all people of good conscience to start to find out what the Dalits and their leadership are fighting for. A good place to start is with M.K. Gandhi and why he is so hated by Dalits in India.

Thomas C. Mountain
is the publisher of the Ambedkar Journal on India’s Dalits, founded in 1996. His writing has been featured in Dalit publications across India, including the Dalit Voice and the Times of Bahujan as well as on the front pages of the mainstream, high caste owned, Indian press. He would recommend viewing of the award winning film “Bandit Queen” as the best example of life for women and Dalits in India’s villages, which is the story of the life of the late, brutally murdered, Phoolan Devi, of whose international defense committee Thomas C. Mountain was a founding member.

The Origins of Lady Liberty- Let’s Investigate!

The Statue in on the Seine in Paris

Reading through old papers and posts, I thought I should add the following article.  I’m looking forward to yet another trip to my ‘home from home’ New York.  After reading this article and gaining  further information, I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty differently. For me, it has never represented ‘freedom’ and now I often wonder how the original lady would have impacted on  New Yorkers back in the 1800s.

The sculptor of the statue was a French-born Italian named Auguste Bartholdi. At the age of twenty-nine he visited Egypt and the sublime sculptural legacy of the Black Egyptians left an indelible mark on him.
According to Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval, authors of Talisman: Sacred Cities, Secret Faith, it was during his visit to Egypt that Bartholdi met Ferdinand de Lesseps who was then planning to construct the Suez Canal to link the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. Impressed, Bartholdi thought of making “a gigantic statue of a goddess holding a torch.” This statue was to overlook the canal. However, his plans failed to materialize.
Liberty: First Hundred Years, Bernard Weisberger claims that the giant statue was to be that of the Egyptian goddess Isis. It is a fact that Isis was Black, as was her husband, Osiris. This raises the interesting question:”Was the Statue of Liberty originally conceived to portray a Black woman as some Black historians like Leonard Jeffries (5) have asserted? Indeed, the Cult of Isis was quite strong in France.
It has been said that,”The people of France gave the statue to the people of the United States over 100 years ago in recognition of the friendship established during the American Revolution.”
The Statue was the brainchild of the French historian and politician, Edouard de Laboulaye, who was also the Chairman of the French Anti-Slavery Society. The idea was to sculpt a monument in honor of Black soldiers who were instrumental in the defeat of the Confederacy during the Civil War and thereby ensuring the end of slavery. They mooted the idea to the French Government of presenting a statue to the
United States on behalf of the French people through the American Abolitionist Society.
Bartholdi used a Black woman as the model for the original statue, Isis, no doubt. The original model is said to be in
France and is black. The American Committee of the Statue of Liberty did not approve of the idea, however, as the issue of slavery was still in favor by the Southern States despite their defeat in the Civil War. When he was first presented with the statue, the U.S. Minister to France claimed that the South might object to the broken shackles.
Bartholdi completed the statue depicting a Black woman with a broken chain of slavery in her left hand and at her feet in 1870. The 151-foot statue was set up in
New York Harbor in 1886. A 21-inch model can be found at the Museum of the City of New York at Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street. It was displayed at the Museum on February 9, 2000. The N.Y. Post also displayed the original dark face of the Statue of Liberty on June 17, 1986. Ultimately, the face of the Statue of Liberty was modeled after Bartholdi’s mother, Charlotte Beysser. The 151-foot statue was set up in New York Harbor in 1886.

The French engineer Alexandre Gustav Eiffel undertook the construction, although Bartholdi was the designer. The authors cite the Readers Companion to American History, which claims that Bartholdi “‘ Combined elements of the Egyptian Pyramids he admired with his mother’s face to serve as a model for the statue, which he finished early in 1884.'”

According to Michael Bradley,”The French Cultural Center (5th Avenue and 82nd Street) has a special “Liberty” edition of the magazine France in which the real story is told and some of the models are illustrated. The original concept was not acceptable, even as a gift from France, and the idea was finally modified into a properly Caucasian personification of “Liberty” before the U.S. would accept delivery

Some interesting reading- Blacks in Europe: A German Experience

Black girl in Germany

An email  I received I’d like to share with you. I think needs sharing so we can remember lives lost and forgotten.

Did you know that in the 1920s there were 24,000 blacks living in Germany? Moreover many of them were eventually caught unawares by the events of the Holocaust.

Like most West European nations, Germany established colonies in Africa in the late 1800s in what later became Togo, Cameroon, Namibia, and Tanzania.

German genetic experiments began there most notably involving prisoners taken from the 1904 Heroro Massacre that left 60,000 Africans dead following a 4 year revolt against German colonization. After the shellacking Germany received in World War I, it was stripped of its African colonies in 1918. As a spoil of war, the French were allowed to occupy Germany in the Rhineland, a bitter piece of real estate that has gone back and forth between the two nations for centuries. The French willfully deployed their own colonized African soldiers as the occupying force. Germans viewed this as the final insult of World War I.

Soon thereafter 92% of them voted in the Nazi party. Hundreds of these African Rhineland-based soldiers inter-married with German women and raised their children as Black Germans. In “Mein Kampf.” Hitler wrote about his plans for these “Rhineland Bastards .” When he came to power, one of his first directives was aimed at these mixed children.

Underscoring his obsession with racial purity, by 1937, every identified mixed race child in the Rhineland had been forcibly sterilized to prevent further “race polluting” as he termed it. Hans Hauck, a Black Holocaust survivor and a victim of Hitler’s mandatory sterilization program, explained that when he was forced to undergo sterilization as a teenager, he was given no anesthetic. Once he received his sterilization certificate, he was “free to go” so long as he agreed to have no sexual relations whatsoever with Germans.

Although most Black Germans attempted to escape their fatherland, heading for France where people like Josephine Baker were steadily aiding and supporting the French underground, many ran into problems elsewhere. Nations shut their doors to Germans, including the Black ones. Some Black Germans were able to eke out a living during Hitler’s reign of terror by performing in vaudeville shows.

But many Blacks, steadfast in their belief that they were German first, Black second, opted to remain in Germany. Some fought with the Nazis (a few even became Lutwaffe pilots)!

Unfortunately, many Black Germans were arrested, charged with treason, and shipped in cattle cars to concentration camps. Often these trains were so overloaded with people (equipped with no bathroom facilities or food) that after the four day journey, box car doors opened to piles of the dead and dying.

Once in the concentration camps Blacks were given the worst jobs conceivable. Some Black American soldiers who were captured and held as prisoners of war recounted that while they were starved and forced into dangerous labor (violating the Geneva Convention), they were still better off than Black German concentration camp detainees who were forced to do the unthinkable: man the crematoriums and work in labs where genetic experiments were carried out. As a final sacrifice, these Blacks were killed every three months so that they would never be able to reveal the inner workings of the Final Solution.

In every story of Black oppression, no matter how enslaved, enshackled or beaten we are, we find a way to survive and rescue others. Case in point, was Johnny Voste, a Belgian Resistance fighter who was arrested in 1942 for sabotage and shipped to Dachau. One of his jobs was stacking vitamin crates. Risking his own life, he distributed hundreds of vitamins to camp detainees which saved the lives of many because they were starving, weak, and ill, conditions exacerbated by extreme vitamin-deficiencies. His motto was: ‘No, you can’t have my life: I will fight for it.’

According to Essex University’s Delroy Constantine-Simms, there were Black Germans who resisted Nazi Germany, such as Lari Gilges, who founded the Northwest Rann – an organization of entertainers that fought the Nazis in his home town of Dusseldorf – and who was murdered by the SS in 1933, the year Hitler came to power. Little information remains about the numbers of Black Germans held in the camps or killed under the Nazi regime. Some victims of the Nazi sterilization project and Black survivors of the Holocaust are still alive and telling their story in films such as Black Survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. But they must also speak out for justice, not just history.

Unlike Jews (in Israel and in Germany), Black Germans receive no war reparations because their German citizenship was revoked (though they were German-born). The only pension they get is from those of us who are willing to tell the world their stories and assist/continue their battle for recognition and compensation.

After the war, scores of Blacks who had somehow managed to survive the Nazi regime were rounded up and tried as war criminals. Talk about the final insult. There are thousands of Black Holocaust stories from the triangle trade, to slavery in America, to the gas ovens in Germany. We often shy away from hearing about our historical past because so much of it is painful.

However, we are in this struggle together for rights, dignity, and yes, reparations for wrongs done to us through the centuries. We need to always remember so that we can take steps to ensure that these things never happen again.

Read: Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany, by Hans J. Massaquoi

Hello world!

David Emmanuel Noel


I think I’m still getting familiar with the navigation and page set up on this website so please forgive me. No doubt, in a couple of weeks I’ll be up to speed, posting information regularly. I do have a number of interesting and topical articles plus reports on art, individual artists, society and politics to comment on. Watch this space!