Okay, I admit the title of this post is a bit of a tease. There are two parts, really. The Good Website part and the Part That Will Cause Reasonable People’s Heads to Explode.
Everybody ready? Great.
First, the Good Website stuff: I just recently discovered this website (which, like everything I find out about in my old age, has actually been around for a while) called People of Color in European Art History. (Actually, what I just linked is the original Tumblr site; there is also medievalpoc.org now, which boasts better searching capabilities and a cleaner look.) The blogger behind the medievalpoc project began with a simple goal: to create an online collection of European visual art depicting people of color. Pieces featured on the blog date from the fall of the Roman empire through the eighteenth century, with some ancient works from Greece, Egypt, and Celtic cultures thrown in. The most common type of post on medievalpoc contains a photo of a painting, sculpture, or other type of art; information on the title, artist, and approximate date of the piece; and links to related scholarly sources.
That’s basically all there is to the site–art plus information. But what an impact art plus information makes. The medievalpoc blogrunner says that she wants to challenge the traditional perspectives on art history that created (and continue to create) a vision of an all-white Europe before the Enlightenment. She points to the destructive power that modern racism has had over media portrayals of race in European countries and seeks to revise such a distorted image–and fantasy versions of that image, where all-white casts of characters are the norm–with a historically accurate visual narrative.
“Visual narrative” is, I think, a good way to describe the experience of visiting the site. Certainly, that’s what I sense when I scroll through image after image and see brown-skinned angels, Black Madonnas, South Asian nobility, and others I’m surprised to see in European contexts. At medievalpoc, not only are you presented with an easily accessible online resource about works of art that often are left off art history syllabi, you absorb a whole story told in faces, clothing, positions, and gestures, an account of medieval society that fills in the countless gaps left in the written record because of poverty, illiteracy, and oppression.
Go spend a while on this site. The break from the same-old, age-old, narrow representations of Western culture is definitely worth it.
…on to the second part:
You know how I said medievalpoc is a blog of art plus information?
How do you think some people have responded?
Take a guess! I’ll wait.
So what do you think?
If you said, “with slander, pornographic emails, breaches of privacy, and death threats,” you’re right!
Yes, the medievalpoc blogrunner reports that in the past six to eight weeks, Internet trolls, stalkers, and members of white supremacist groups have been systematically harassing her and her family and friends over the content of her blog. Which, as I’ve said already, is art plus information.
Art plus information made these pathetic, hateful, cowardly shitbags even try to organize a confrontation at a convention where the woman behind medievalpoc was scheduled to appear. (Luckily, the security on hand at the con was enough to prevent anything from happening.)
To all those pathetic, hateful, cowardly shitbags out there, I say this: You do realize, don’t you, that Western scholarship has known for a long, LONG time that non-white Europeans existed in the Middle Ages? Hell, anyone who’s ever read Shakespeare (not that I’m accusing you Internet vermin of that) know that Europe had people of color.
Here are five names I can rattle off the top of my head without even trying: Othello, Aaron, the Prince of Morocco, Sycorax, and Caliban. All characters that Shakespeare wrote about. All characters who are non-white.
And ANYONE who has even the teensiest familiarity with the history of Spain would know that Muslims from North Africa controlled most of the country during the Middle Ages.
North African Muslims = not white people.
So what the hell, Internet stalkers??? We’ve already had the War on Scientific Facts, on Cultural Facts, on Political Facts, and even on Historical Facts. Do we have to have a War on Artifacts, too?
It’s ART, for Christ’s sake!!! It’s THERE!! Do you see it? If you don’t want to gaze upon something that defies your precious, imaginary vision of a golden age of whiteness, TURN YOUR FRIGGIN’ COMPUTERS OFF!!!
For once, do everyone in the world a favor.
And, for everyone else out there in Internetland: please support medievalpoc. Don’t let the Dumbass Posse for Ignorance, Bigotry and Censorship let a fellow online citizen get bullied out of doing this vastly important work.