Voices from With/out Pretend: Rewriting the Narrative
Rewriting the Narrative by Jessica Kasiama
It is time for restoration. For many communities, the mission is clear: We must rewrite narratives that have forced us away from our own truths. Narratives that are conceived through the male gaze. It is time to replace forms of media that aim to profit off our insecurities by telling us who we should be instead of encouraging us to embrace who we are. We musn’t be consumed, we must consume art that challenges the expectations we so often find ourselves drowning in. 

For this month’s edition of Voices, I reached out to creators who dismantle the mold and give their audiences permission to be their wildest, truest and fullest selves. Creating and curating work that is accessible and effective while fighting to replace toxic, patriarchal forms of media is an uphill battle. I went on a mission to find answers to the questions we obsess over as creators who want to make something authentic and moving — whether it be finding a way to use personal experience to advocate for our audience, or overcoming the fear of simply being seen. We all approach this process from a different angle but at the centre of it all is a deep desire to make something meaningful and rich. It is an act of preservation to learn from and listen to each other. I hope you feel the light that emits from the work produced by these four trailblazers. 

The Beauty of Reclaiming Space 

"Reclaiming space is a process, and it's not a simple one. For gal-dem it began by finding our place in the online world before we realised just how key it was to develop our ideas and create them in the real world too. Since then, through our events and our printed magazine, we have reclaimed so many spaces where black and brown bodies are rarely found – from shop windows to dusty museums and the shelves of bookshops. Through reclaiming space we have found our best friends, have developed our identities, have spoken to so many people to help them to no longer feel alone."

– Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, deputy editor of gal-dem zine

Trusting Your Voice as a Young Creator 

“It often feels, especially with the paradoxical gift/curse of the internet, that we’ve reached saturation in terms of content. But trying to dupe that saturation can be the most compelling and interesting thing you can do as a creator - trying to find your voice by filling crevices and bending your work in weird shapes that fit the kinds of things you want to see, and aren’t seeing. With Plasma we’re trying to make a magazine we’d want to read - dense and specific, thematically cohesive, bursting and intentional. Your gut, intuition, voice, whatever you want to call it, is alchemic - you can’t quite put your finger on it maybe, but you have to trust that it’s what makes your project different and worthy of existing.

– Emma Cohen, editor of Plasma Dolphin 

The Relationship between Self Care and Creating

“I think creation, if we're talking in an artistic/process-based context, mostly lies somewhere in between self-care and self-destruction. Some (a lot of) artists treat their creation as catharsis, which could definitely be qualified as a form of self-care. But I think that in the process of reworking, critiquing, examining and generally just revising one's work, it can become closer to an obsession, sometimes in an unhealthy way. Creating can very quickly lose its "wholesome" aspect, but I don't necessarily see that as bad thing.”

Elena Senechal-Becker, editor of The Strand Newspaper and Hart House Review

The Power of Individuality 

“I think rewriting the narrative around bodies of color is vital to progress because it allows POC to reclaim our lives. Historically bodies of color have been excessively governed in our movements through life, as we move into the future and gain more freedom surrounding our representation we have the ability to give multifaceted representatives of our lives. I claim my identity by representing my life as rawly and with all the truthfulness I can. I give voice to my experience that has yet to be represented and give it objective qualities so it can be seen as a small portion of a collective experience.” 

 Jheyda McGarell, artist and curator 

Thank you to Jheyda for curating this month's book list! Check out their top picks below and head over to our Goodreads to revisit last month's guest list

Jessica Kasiama is an emerging writer, currently working as an intern at With/out Pretend. Through her work, she hopes to hold space for raw storytelling in order to inspire social change.

follow her on instagram 

“By writing herself, woman will return to the body which has been more than confiscated from her, which has been turned into the uncanny stranger on display - the ailing or dead figure, which so often turns out to be the nasty companion, the cause and location of inhibitions.”

- Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa (1976)
On Jheyda McGarrell's Shelf
Salvation: Black People and Love
by bell hooks
The Body Keeps the Score 
by Bessel van der Kolk
The Black Body
by Meri Nana-ama Danquah 
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