Sunday, December 5, 2010

And then there is Colm Tóibín

Steven Cohen - South African Artist. Original Commission for Mayor of Johannesburg 1992
Collection Eugene Hon.
For the past five years, since being redeployed; lecturing and pursuing my creative endeavours as a ceramist, I had doubts about the subject matter of my ceramic statements. Followers of this blog and especially the development of the concepts of my ceramic statements, will undoubtedly have asked the question, why is he so obsessed with gay related issues at a time, when to quote the author Colm Tóibín, '.......the phrase post-gay is slowly becoming current' (Toibin, 2001;7). That maybe true in the West, where being gay presents no real threat and obstacles - to live the 'American dream'. However gays and or homosexuals on the continent of Africa, the Middle East and Asia still face very serious threats. 
Battles are being won on various fronts, but the war on discrimination is entering a new phase - fueled on by the fundamentalist determination to be heard, seen and their expressed views felt. 
On Friday I woke-up to a BBC interview with Colm Tóibín and I was hooked. Yesterday I purchased a few of his books - reading matter for the summer recess - mmmmmm. Inspired by his remarkable insight into the plight of gays, I embarked on reading his book, titled Love in a dark time; Gay lives from Wilde to Almodovar, and needless to say it restored my confidence in my subject matter.

He asks the question whether it matters that we expose the true sexual identity of influential artists of the nineteenth and twentieth century (especially those that kept their homosexuality secret). His research reveals the impact of a changing world on their lives and their work. 

'It matters because as gay readers and writers become more visible and confident, and gay politics more settled and serious, gay history becomes a vital element in gay identity, just as Irish history does in Ireland, or Jewish history amongst Jewish people'(Tóibín, 2001:7)

However it is the following quotes that really had the most significant impact. He states that whilst other communities who were oppressed (Jews, Catholics and post Apartheid Africans) 'have every opportunity to work out the implications of their oppression in their early lives. They hear the stories; they have the books around them. Gay people, on the other hand, grow up alone; there is no history. There are no ballads about the wrongs of the past, the martyrs are all forgotten' (Tóibín, 2001:9). He quotes Adrienne Rich's phrase 'you looked into the mirror and saw nothing'.
He states, 'the discovery of a history and a heritage has to be made by each individual as part of the road to freedom, or at least knowledge, but it also has serious implications for readers and critics who are not particularly concerned about gay identity, and it also has serious dangers' (Tóibín, 2001:9).
His words of wisdom serves as a personal affirmation; addressing an ambiguous past, and to ensure the future as libertine.
The Master: A NovelBrooklyn: A NovelThe Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe

1 comment:

jim said...

hi eugene, interesting perspective and although i understand that comparing the west's relative acceptance of gays to africa may present a stark contrast, my experience is that anti-gay sentiment is entrenched in certain subgroups particularly fundamentalist evangelicals (there's supposed to be 40 million of them in US). of course, i'm always taken aback when i discover that the run-of-the-mill catholic has barely hidden vitriole and it comes to the surface. also, i'm in ky. which can and is sometimes considered the south and, sorry to say, there is no shortage of this prejudice around here either.