Sunday, December 17, 2006

Talk to Her: the Limitations of Words, the Language of Colours, on the Day Hal Left the Project

Hal left for Christmas. He’s coming back for two weeks in January to finish his contract, but basically his time in Wako has ended. We were all on good terms when he left, but it was a relief, never-the-less. The robbery brought us together, I think – it was an experience, though he’s never talked about it – only the stupid things – the incidentals – not how it felt or what affect it might have had. I couldn’t even imagine having such a conversation with him. When speaking with him – who I knew better than any of the other South Africans – I still felt what I felt when talking to any of them: that we’re speaking the same language – that the way we construct language for communication purposes is the same – our order and construction of sounds make the same words – give or take a ‘hey’ (at the end of statements) and a ‘yah’ instead of yeah – but the meaning, the emotion, the perception of the world, the way of thinking, the routes and directions of thought, were completely and utterly alien to me. I felt – I feel – that I have more in common with Angolans with whom I have to communicate in Portuguese (despite my pitiful Portuguese) than I do with Hal, or any of the other South Africans. I asked Hal before he left if he liked my Christmas eucalyptus plant (there aren’t any Christmas trees in Angola!), and he laughed at it, and said, yes, it’s very nice, when he actually meant; what a pointless waste of time! I could hear the disinterest in his laugh, and see his incomprehension on his face. I pity his lack of imagination, his disbelief in it. And his racism sucked the colour out of me.

Eran and I watched Talk to Her. Wow. What an incredible film. Our gender and film tutor would have had a ball. I even know which part she would have wanted to scrutinise – what with her Pandora’s Box persuasions – it would have been the silent movie scene, when the tiny man scales the mountainous female body before diving head-first into her vagina...

But the most consuming scenes – they prickled with danger, and shocked with their colours – were Lydia’s bullfights. We are so affected by the emotions of colours – they have their own languages.

There was a wealth of issues to object to: no least ‘objectification’ itself – of the ‘female’ body – and of the assumptions and appropriations of the experience of being ‘female’ – as well as penetration, voyeurism and exploitation. But there was another strong angle on life that was the first time I understood the idea that life, from a male point of view, might be dominated, overwhelmed – like the undulating curves and the cavernous vagina – by women, from whom there is no escape, even if you’re gay.

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