Stranger In The Village Essay

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I spent hours drawing it, contemplating the loss of life in each pencil mark that built up to convey the decaying pile of abandoned flowers.

The poster says: “Hussein Chit….1988083 to 20151803, allah yerhamak. Family.” There’s this thing about drawing from photographs that allows you to empathise.

I was met by my hosts and they took me to the Konstepidemin, where my studio was. I needed to meet people, to interact, to see how people here interacted with me, whether I would feel some sense of this segregation. Each day of the residency, I would choose one to draw, whether they swiped me back or not.

And one of the first thing they told me, as we trammed across the city, was: ‘Gothenburg society is very segregated.’ ‘In what way? ‘In the bad way.’ I think perhaps they felt they had to warn me, based on my appearance, and, coming from the freedom of London, and having grown up in an expat community where most people were Other to a certain degree, I felt myself immediately stiffen, wondering what indeed my month here would be like. I went to a bar and ordered a glass of wine and kottbullar with lingonberry jam and tried to look approachable and uncreepy. It amused me to spend hours drawing these intimate pictures of complete strangers, willing them to life as it were.

So There were the models giving zoolander realness The musicians giving psychopath realness The boys-next-door taking selfies in their bathrooms wearing party hats, just straight chillin The Supermans busting out. Indeed, this fella, once I told him that my whole tinder presence was an art project and a bit of a social experiment, proceeded to offer to take me to his hometown, where the majority would have in fact never seen a black person, and he would stand some distance away so I can “experience the reaction”, and when it all became too much, he would step in and save me, because he is “very well respected in his hometown”. It’s interesting to see how people portray themselves on these things.

There were the intrepid traveler ones who opened with, “Hej! There’s something sort of earnest about Tinder – it’s all people who just want to connect with other people – and in that regard, there’s a sense of putting one’s best foot forward. The Africans, however, of whom, around LInneplatsen there were only a handful, I noticed seemed to curate their calling cards in a far more fetishised way. Interestingly though, whenever an African man connected with me, which wasn’t often, despite the sexual nature of their posturing, it was immediately familiar, platonic, “sister!

In general – and I’m generalising massively here, but I did spend a good few weeks virtually entertaining these chaps, so I’m something of an expert – the Swedish tinderman’s approach to seduction is humour. There were lots of black bodies, buff and ready, mostly without faces. ”, as if something about my presence made them feel less homesick for a minute.

Through these conversations, I began to learn about and piece together the social intricacies of the city.

We are the Svenne family and we would like to meet an immigrant family.” He was sick of the segregation and didn’t want his kids growing up not knowing anything about the other people who shared their city.

Apparently, the stunt was met by outrage, with nimbys calling him a bad father, and berating him for the danger he is subjecting his kids to.


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