Friday 11 June 2021

A recipe for poi

Thank you to all the students who contributed to the blog posts for MA module 'Race and Resistance', the range of topics and focus is fantastic!  

Our final blog post is by Kristina titled 'A recipe for poi': 

 When the wolf is at the door one should invite him in and have him for dinner. [1]

How do we begin to write on Native Hawaiians and food; these words intertwined in our western literature since Captain Cook branded the islands after the Earl of Sandwich. 

Ah, Captain Cook is perhaps a good place to begin. 

Alice Te Punga Somerville offers us 250 ways in which we may start if we want to write an essay on Captain Cook. 

Way 43: With the Beginning go 'On Cooking Captain Cook'

'If you ask the blonde-haired concierge/ at the Grand Kihei, he will tell you that we ate him whole.'

The line taken from a Brandy Nālani McDougall poem. She offers us a part of the fable of how captain cook was eaten by the Native Hawaiians. And so, grappling for context I find myself next drawn to

Ways 194 and 195: With a Google Search

"Cook", "Hawaii", "cannibalism", "food" I type into the search engine. An article by Shirely Lindenbaum pops up. In it reads that cannibalism was used by colonists to justify predatory behaviour. 

Whilst the beginning of "on Cooking Captain Cook" tells us the myth of his demise, the middle tells us of his legacy, how this settler colonialism has led to a tourism industry that centres white folk and brings light to the issue of public health and inaccessibility. 

But as Somerville does, I grow tired of entering Captain Cook in this narrative. 

Way 40: So Don't Tell Another Story about Captain Cook. 

'Okay.' Okay. 

Brandy Nālani McDougall shows us the ways in which we may begin to resist these narratives and forge a new way of approaching what resistance may look like. 

Way 34: By Pushing Back. 

To push back against colonial narratives is to see how Native Hawaiians are reclaiming their culture through food, farming and poetry. 

Way 204: In savage island

'We reclaim things and turn them inside out. We make them our own. All of us savages: we make these names our own.'

And thus, by the end of "On Cooking Captain Cook" we understand that McDougall is reclaiming these narratives and that sometimes, reclaiming is as simple as cooking a traditional recipe inviting you in 

to eat, to eat. 



Taro root* 


- In a large pot, cover taro with cold water and bring to a boil. Then simmer and cook until taro can be pierced easily. Drain and rinse with cold water. 
- Peel and cut into pieces. Put the cooked taro into a food processor bowl. 
- Add a tablespoon of water and process until smooth. The texture should be sticky and thick enough to stick to one finger. 
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Slowly pour a thin layer of cool water on top of the poi and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. 
- Allow the mixture to sit at a cool room temperature for 2-4 days. 

*if you would like to grow your own, you'll face substantial obstacles due to colonisations; limited access to water, low market values for your product, and Hawaii's growingly expensive and sparse agricultural land. 

[1]Molly O'Neill, 1992. M.F.K. Fisher, Writer on the Art of Food and the Taste of Living, Is Dead at 83 (Published 1992). [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 6 May 2021].

Some Resources: 

For an in-depth recipe:


Lindenbaum, S., 2004. Thinking about cannibalism. Annu. Rev. Anthropol.33, pp.475-498.


Somerville, A.T.P., 2020. Two hundred and fifty ways to start an essay about Captain Cook (Vol. 87). Bridget Williams Books.

Wednesday 9 June 2021

This is Paradise: Why literary research should begin with a short story.

Our next blog post is by Edward on their essay on This is Paradise

Upon discovering a new genre or mode of fiction there is arguably no better place to start than a captivating and vibrant collection of short stories. As a masters student beginning new areas of research, I find it challenging when I am confronted with the daunting prospect of beginning research on a body of work I am unversed in.

I remember as I commenced my undergraduate studies the excitement I felt when I first read Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises; I had unveiled before my eyes the sombre, yet enthralling genre of modernism and I could not wait to read more. 

At the time I believed I had unveiled the ‘promised land’ of modernist fiction and that through that one book alone I knew all that I needed to know about the ‘lost generation’ and the pretentious American’s living in post-WW1 Paris. 
How wrong I was. 

Novels can bog you down in lengthy prose and elaborate narratives which tease yet never fully disclose meaning. Do not get me wrong, for me novels are still the pinnacle of prose and they are incredibly valuable to scholars. However, they are not the most valuable resource available when beginning to explore a new literary landscape; the most valuable ‘pulling back of the curtain’ comes in the mode of the short story. 

Upon discovering Hawaiian fiction, I was met with the urge to discover one author, one figure, one comprehensive source through which I could begin to conceive a new, unique genre of writing.

I wish I could say I fought back this urge myself and through my own keen intellect I chose to put on hold my search for a Hawaiian The Sun Also Rises but I would do a great injustice to my essay advisor who suggested I read Kristianna Kahakauwila’s This is Paradise.  

This is Paradise is a collection of short stories which take place in the Hawaiian archipelago, with plots ranging from sexual violence and cock-fighting, to scenic holiday drives and drinking games to be played at funerals. It is a broad and captivating work which can be read in its entirety in one or two sittings.

For what they lack in complex narrative structure and lengthy dynamic plots, Kahakauwila’s stories are rich in fundamental themes and ideas which act as symbols and indicators for motifs to be found elsewhere in the genre; themes such as settler colonialism, indigenous cultural assimilation, and white tourism. 

It is not an attempt to illustrate the entirety of Hawaiian history and it goes without saying that it is not an attempt to define the genre. It is a cultural and historical collage of small moments and actions which, in turn, brings forth exciting avenues of research upon which I will begin to traverse going forwards with my research.

The short story does not explain everything, in fact it explains very little indeed. And yet, whilst that seems counter-intuitive when it comes to conducting research for assignments and projects, it is incredibly valuable in stoking the fires of interest which all researchers have and provides motivation when attempting to understand a new genre or mode of fiction. 

Through Kristianna Kahakauwila’s This is Paradise, I may now begin to conceptualise Hawaiian fiction and travel more attentively into an exciting new area of research. 

Image 1 - Littlegate Publishing

Image 2 - The Crown Publishing Group 

image 3 - Cath Simard  

Saturday 5 June 2021

The REDress Project Comes To University Campuses

Our next blog post is from student Jasmine on their essay about The REDress project and violence against indigenous women in Canada:  

Figure 1A picture of the REDress Project at Western University in 2018.

From August 2018 to April 2019 I went on a year abroad at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. It is here where I was first introduced to the topic of the missing and murdered Indigenous women through the REDress Project. The REDress Project was created by Metis artist Jaime Black in 2010 to draw attention to “the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women and to evoke a presence through the marking of absence.” However, although I was there is witness it in Ontario, the Project has appeared at numerous university campuses across North America.

According to a 2014 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) report, between 1980 and 2012 over 1000 cases have been reported of missing and murdered Indigenous women. However, despite them being far more likely to be victims of violence, little has been done to address the systemic issues which continue to lead to it and which are often used to justify it, such as the effects of colonialism, poverty and subsequent drug use. The dresses, then, aim to mark visible what Canadian institutions have deemed invisible. It is the hope that through these dresses, awareness is brought to the missing and murdered in a way that separates them from prevailing stereotypes. 

What is really interesting though is why they have seen such popularity on university campuses as opposed to more traditional locations of art installations. Natalie Marie Lesco discussed her experiences when the REDress project came to St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, suggesting that because Indigenous voices have tended to be excluded from Canadian history, holding the project at an academic institution “both indirectly and directly challenges the one-sided story of history” that is frequently taught. Although the institutions mentioned above tend to relate to the Government of Canada, the police force and the media, what is interesting about the REDress project is that it recognises universities as exclusive and traditionally colonial institutions and has the effect of addressing awareness and education at the root.

As a purely visual installation, it could and has been suggested that the project alone lacks the ability to facilitate further education. While some may feel encouraged to take initiative and conduct their own research, the project may leave others asking, ‘What next?’ This is why I think that the placement on university campuses is so significant; they reflect a place of education, a place where open discussion tends to be encouraged and appreciated. And when you look at the responses from students, this is apparent. One Indigenous student at the University of Calgary, Sandra Manyfeathers, detailed how she had been personally effected by violence towards Indigenous women, stating that “When I see a red dress, I think of the woman that could have been wearing it. I think of my sisters.” She sees the REDress project as “a step towards making Canada a better place” and as I sit here doing my own research, I can’t help but agree. 

Thursday 3 June 2021

Native American Land and The Problem of Judicial Borders: An End in Sight?

Our next blog piece is by John on his essay for the module 'Race and Resistance': 

For any of those that have studied Native American history will be familiar with the court case of Oliphant vs Suquamish. For those that haven't, this landmark case made it impossible for the Native American tribal courts to properly try or prosecute Americans that committed crimes on tribal land. Ever since this trial and precedent was introduced in 1978 it has received backlash from indigenous tribes across America, and it’s easy to see why. The hypocrisy of this case is clear. It produces a lack of judicial authority on your own land whilst indigineous people are still tried by Federal courts if committing crimes outside of tribal territory. The land that Native Americans were forced into is being reduced into a mere living space rather than an autonomous territory.


It is still clear that the conflicts surrounding judicial authority and territory are at the forefront of the Native American struggle when we observe the landmark case of Canada vs. Richard Lee Desautel that occurred earlier in 2021. Desautel, a descendant of the Sinixt tribe, was prosecuted by the federal courts of Canada for hunting an elk without the proper permit. He argued against the prosecution, stating the land was the historic hunting grounds of the Sinixt. What complicates this matter is that the Sinixt tribe were originally in Canada, but were forced south into what is now Washington. Once the borders between these two were properly founded, Canada declared the Sinixt extinct. Canada has in place a constitutional right for the protection of aboriginal people which allows them free claim over their traditional land, however because the Sixtin have been deemed extinct this originally did not apply to the protection of Desautel’s right to hunt. Desautel set out to prove that despite being displaced from Sixtin land, he and thousands of other Americans were descendants of this tribe and should be able to freely operate in their traditional land. The Supreme Court overturned Desautel’s charge and noted that “Excluding Aboriginal peoples who moved or were forced to move, or whose territory was divided by a border, would add to the injustice of colonialism” (Guardian, Cecco). 

This case is interesting when comparing it to that of Oliphant vs Suquamish. Over 30 years later we are still seeing the impact of a displacement of Native American boundaries and the control they have over the land they once claimed. Not only are we still seeing the impact of this case, but we are finally seeing a reversal of this forced subordination to federal boundaries. The Desautel case is an important component in observing the relationship that Native American rights have with the land they once inhabited and the steps that the Federal state must take to ensure their rights are completely protected and that claim to their traditional land must not be restricted by boundaries put in place by colonisers. Will the dissolution of borders, albeit too late, morph into a resurgence of judicial power for Native Americans, and will they eventually be able to act as an autonomous state?

Friday 28 May 2021

Black Maternal Health Week

Our next blog post from the students of the module 'Race and Resistance' is by Leanne who is looking at Black Maternal Health Week: 

For four years, Black Maternal Health Week has taken place during a week in April. Founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (, it is a week dedicated to raising awareness about African American’s maternal health and the maternal mortality rate for African American women in the United States.

As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention DC website, 700 women die each year in the United States of something related to pregnancy. However, African American women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women and therefore, this impacts them more significantly. The CDC also states that through research, up to half of these death are preventable. What is down to being a racial bias that continue to withstand today.

How did this issue begin?

During slavery, white people believed that Black people, including African American women, felt less pain, and this was used as a way to justify the treatment of black people during slavery. This idea was further established with the use of African American’s for scientific experiments. 

As stated in the book titled Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology by Deirdre Cooper Owens, “Enslaved women played a central role in the advances made in gynaecology by early pioneering gynaecological surgeons, like Dr. Charles Atkins, who believed in the physical superiority of black women to bear pain easily.”[1] During slavery, “these men held fast to their belief in black women’s physical strength and ease in childbirth.”[2]

This resulted in the idea that black women were able to withstand pain more, particularly when it came to pregnancy and birth during slavery. Due to this misconception and belief constructed during slavery, this idea has now been carried into the 21st century and impacts African American women today in the form of racial bias which is through a bias during medical treatments. 

Many African American women have experienced being ignored, treated incorrectly, and particularly, have experienced being undertreated for pain. That is shown through so many more African American women dying in relation to pregnancy and childbirth, compared to white women, when research shows that up to half of these deaths are preventable. 


What can I do to help?

The Black Mamas Matter Alliance website provides information to educate people on this issue happening in the United States today. They provide literature suggestions, including books as well as articles and there are also ways to get involved through events. By the Black Mamas Matter Alliance website providing resources for people to access, to educate themselves and get involved, it raises awareness and by creating events for people to join, it provides a community for support too. 

These are ways to resist, to help all African American women impacted, to save lives and to put an end to this issue happening in the United States.

1. Cooper Owens, Deirdre. Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology. (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2017). Pp. 9-10

2. Cooper Owens, Deirdre. Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology. (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2017). Pp. 10

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Bisa Butler: Reclaiming lost identities through the traditional craft of quilt making

Here is our next blog piece from our 'Race and Resistance' module by student Emma on her essay on Bisa Butler: 

“I realise how much of a responsibility you have as an artist. You are a reflection of our times, so whether you are a writer, a dancer, a filmmaker, painter, sculptor, you’re reflecting the times you live in and after you’re gone all that is left is that reflection” – Bisa Butler (2020)

The act of quilt making, particularly within African American communities, has been deintellectualised over the centuries due to its connections to feminine domesticity and their practical everyday use. As a result they have not been widely utilised in the research of African American cultural history. However Bisa Butler is striving to remove the stigma from this once devalued artform by harnessing skills which has been passed down to her throughout the generations and reclaim African American histories. 

Bisa Butler’s maternal family originate from New Orleans and Ghana on her paternal side, she lives in New Jersey and began her artistic journey as a Fine Art student at Howard University. Under the tuition of her professors she learned the principles of the AfriCOBRA movement (African Commune of Bad and Relevant Artists). Founded in 1968, AfriCOBRA’s work intersected with the Black Power movement, but with a view to bring about change by celebrating Black identity, creating their own aesthetic to encourage empowerment within communities opposed to political revolt. Defying European standards they adopted the AfriCOBRA ‘Kool-Aid’ pallet, which utilised bright and vibrant colours paying homage to African traditional art and fabric, removing the requirement for white paint. Inspired by her teachings at Howard, Bisa Butler makes use of ‘Kool-Aid’ pallet of bright oranges, yellows, crimson reds and intense blues, to create distinctive pieces which inspire, intrigue, and encourage further observation. Her works have recently been displayed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum and has successfully recently held her first solo museum exhibition Bisa Butler: Portraits at the Katonah Museum of Art, New York.

“When Black people see my work, I’m hoping that they see reflections of themselves, like a mirror, but the self that you want to be and the self that you really are. And I hope that when White people see my work, they understand that Black people are just like them as well. I’m hoping that people find that connection and feel this connection to humanity in general” – Bisa Butler

One of Butler’s story-telling pieces which hopes to return lost identities is Four Little Girls, September 15, 1963 (2018). The life-size appliqué quilted artwork depicts four smartly dressed girls in ‘church attire’, playfully positioned each with their own unique character defined by the individual colour schemes used for their faces and clothing; separately expressing happiness, innocence and a whole life of hope and possibility. 

Four Little Girls, September 15, 1963, 2018

Cotton, silk, lace, appliqued and quilted; 154.9 x 198.1cm (61 x 78in.)

This quilt depicts Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, who were victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama terrorist bombing attack by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963. The four girls were killed and twenty-two others injured. However, instead of depicting this violent act of terror, Butler has represented the girls as an act of memorialization giving them the opportunity to “joyously thrive where black resilience reigns” (Ko in Warren, 2020:55). 

Butler’s colourful interpretation of characters in all her works breathe life and positivity, whilst creating stories for those who have previously been ignored or forgotten. Carefully selecting fabrics for their individual meaning and widely utilising traditional African fabrics and patterns in all her pieces, she creates links to cultural heritage; during this process she also combines American stories and people upholding the AfriCOBRA principles. As a result Bisa Butler produces thought provoking artworks which are faithfully African American, which will leave a legacy for future generations to tell the African American side of American life.

Further reading:

Bisa Butler (2021) [Instagram] Available at:

Katonah Museum of Art (December 2020) Art Institution of Chicago - Bisa Butler: Portraits (Exhibition Stories). Available at:  

Katonah Museum of Art (2020) Bisa Butler: Portraits – Virtual Exhibition. Available at: 

Smithsonian American Art Museum (2020) Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture: Bisa Butler. Available at:

SOK Vision (2020) Quilting for the Culture: Bisa Butler, 06 June. Available at:

Warren, E (2020) Bisa Butler – Portraits. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

Friday 21 May 2021

The Art of Emory Douglas and Asali Gayle Dickson in the Black Panther Party

On our MA module, 'Race and Resistance' (AMAS7019B), which is about theories of race and strategies of resistance within the Americas, our students have written blog pieces on their essay ideas! 

Here is our first one, written by Charlotte, on the Art of Emory Douglas and Asali Gayle Dickson in the Black Panther Party: 

The Black Panther Party remains to this day a cornerstone in black American history. There were many facets to its resistance of socioeconomic and cultural power structures: armed citizens’ patrols, community social programmes, and public rallies designed to inspire and educate black citizens to name a few. One other such facet is art.


My essay will explore the artwork of the Black Panther Party during the period 1965-1975, assessing how art was used as a form of resistance (particularly in its portrayal of African American women and their resistance to dominant power structures). The focus is on the work of Emory Douglas and Asali Gayle Dickson: the party’s Minister of Culture and a lesser-known female Black Panther artist, respectively. 


Artwork from both of these artists featured in the party’s newspaper The Black Panther, which at its peak reached some 400,000 readers. Functions of the paper included spreading the party’s ideologies, sharing Black Power theories and promoting the party’s 10-point-program. Illustrations provided by Douglas and Asali (more so later on; Asali’s prominence increased as the gender dynamic within the party improved) aided the communication of these, the more expressive format being easier to digest for a readership which struggled with low literacy rates. Indeed, Douglas argued that revolutionary art “gives the people the correct picture of our struggle whereas the revolutionary ideology gives the people the correct political understanding of our struggle.”(1) The art, therefore, was an essential form of resistance for the black power movement, and one that was relied upon heavily to communicate with everyday Americans. 


Let’s highlight one particular image (a personal favourite of mine), depicting a mother holding her child while armed with a shotgun; a work from Emory Douglas published on the back cover of an issue in 1971. It is extremely striking in its use of the bright, bold yellow set against the deep black outlines - grabbing the attention of readers and drawing them into the message of the image. Douglas noted in an interview that we couldn’t hardly afford but one color ink. So, it was black plus one other color to get that bold broad look,” meaning that his most iconic images are simplistic in the sense of their colour palette, yet it is the message they convey that has the most impact. (2)


While the party had a complicated relationship with misogyny and sexism within its ranks, the paper went to great lengths to resist dominant myths and stereotypes surrounding African American women. Many of the images featured within its publications were of women, particularly mothers, but did not sexualise, trivialise or minimize their role in the resistance movement. Linda Lumsden argues this point: ‘the newspaper’s imagery was a striking contrast to popular culture stereotypes of black women as self-sacrificing mammies, sexual objects, or emasculating matriarch.’(3) Indeed the image contrasts the traditionally passive role of motherhood with the violence associated with a weapon like a shotgun, playing with existing stereotypes of women. Here the reader is able to equate the power of a gun to the powerful nature of a Black Panther woman and it portrays mothers as strong defenders of their children. Additionally, Lumsden argues that ‘Imagery of women with guns… upended the notion that

Panthers equated gunmanship with masculinity.’(4)


1. Emory Douglas, To the People and All Revolutionary Artists: On Revolutionary Art,’ (The Black Panther newspaperVolume 4, Number 8, January 24, 1970) [Accessed:] [Accessed: 20/4/21]

2. Victoria L. Valentine, Emory Douglas: ‘I Was the Revolutionary Artist of the Black Panther Party,’ (, 2019) [Accessed:] [Accessed: 20/04/2021] 

3. Linda Lumsden ‘Good Mother With Guns: Framing Black Womanhood in the Black Panther, 1968-1980,’ (Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol.86, No.4, 2009) p.905

4. Lumsden, 908