Prose Editorial by Lian Low
Our skin are maps to our identities. It can inspire solidarity and laughter, but it has also ignited violence and riots. It has the capacity to demarcate boundaries, but also slippery enough so that it defies labels.
Racism is a recurring theme in the interviews and articles in Peril #10. Thuy Linh Nguyen is haunted by the gentrification of Footscray, her critique of a marketing design is cutting: “the man might have been lifted from a Mills and Boon cover; the woman is blonde and pretty. No Nguyens, Patels, or Pastores within sight.” Elaine LaForteza’s essay problematises the legacy of Spanish colonisation and the politics of race in Filipino identity. Lia Incognita peels back layers from her life to find out if there is any solidarity behind identifying as a woman of colour. She writes, “What does it mean for me, a non-Aboriginal Melburnian, to identify the struggle of Indigenous women in the Northern Territory against sexual violence and state intervention as a women of colour issue? Does that show solidarity, or does it just allude to a shared subjectivity where there is none?” Even though on a very different subject, Jen Tsen Kwok’s essay also comments on the obligation of speaking for a minority voice through his astute observations of Minister Penny Wong’s time in politics and her racial and sexual identities.
On a lighter note, Komi Sellathurai has presented a tongue-in-cheek anthropological account listing 25 notable points about the “stuff brown people like”. R. Johns also provides a light-hearted account of her brush with Bollywood superstar Salman Khan and her seconds of fame in a movie with him.
On the editors’ front – Owen Leong interviews the enigmatic Gary Lee, who for nearly 20 years has shown photographic art which portrays an “unflinching pursuit of masculine beauty”. Owen speaks to Gary about his own hybrid heritage, racism in the art world and his travels to India, Nepal and Pakistan. As for me, besides serious talk on Australia’s backwardness in terms of race politics, I learn from dynamic duo Fear of a Brown Planet how stand-up comedy can be the perfect vehicle for social change.
Ben Law writes for us for the last time (at least until he finishes his forthcoming book – I cross my fingers) about his hunt for queer TV celebrities in sexually conservative Japan. He succeeds in hooking up with Ai Haruna, singer-commentator-entertainer-comedian-transsexual woman who garnered a nomination as Japan’s favourite television star. The Peril team wishes Ben a wonderful journey with his upcoming book!
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Poetry Editorial by Miriam Wei Wei Lo
‘Skin’ is a charged topic for anyone with an awareness of Asian-Australian sensibilities. I looked for poems that carried that charge, and out of a total of 74 submissions, I have chosen 5 poems. Benjamin Laird’s HTML poem “Skin and Bone” really stood out – subtle and richly suggestive, it raises lots of questions about identity through the matrix of the body (with particular reference to skin). Raja’s “Nautch Girl” is a defiant, brown-skinned fist of a poem, and something of a reply to Susan Hawthorne’s poetry from the previous issue of Peril. ‘Skin’ seems to beg a love poem, and of the many submitted, I chose Matt Hetherington’s “Skin Senryu” for its combination of frankness and delicacy. Siobhan Hodge’s “Borderlines” takes us back to the politics of skin colour as it circles the intriguing image of a white woman in the ‘Chinese passport’ line at an airport. Rory Harris’ “Phu My Orphanage” closes the list with its meditation on feeding hungry children. This is a poem that reminds us of our physical limitations – that our skin contains a body that needs food, a body that is humbly dependent on others for so much it needs to live.