Alexandre - Colour Craft Collective

Colour Craft Community

Words - Julia-Beth Harris

Photos - Benny van der Plank

How do you write about something that doesn't exist? Through Poetic Portraits of the people who experience its effects the most. Color Craft Collective is a conversation building platform processing the effects of race.

Alexandre - Water Element

You tell me it started with the BBC

Spilled over from Hong Kong like a hot cup of tea

The British influence gave Macao channel 1, channel 2 and 3

Broadcasting a confusing image of who you were supposed to be

The airtime then went mostly to pretty stars like David Beckham

You knew you could never reach his level even if you’d met him

They could spill from the pot and call the kettle black, blue, or yellow

But you couldn’t just spill back into white, ho there fellow

You started to understand the terms for being white

Was nothing short of the gore and glamour of a birthright 

The seaside town of Macao comes from the Chinese

Goddess of the sea, A-M​​á, protector of sailors

And I imagine a friendly spirit traveling with you to the Netherlands

Like Karma that comes back around

Like water rising from the sea to the sky and raining back down from clouds

She gifts you the superpower of fluidity

Those who journey need to feel at home among different nationalities

Knowing that no matter how opposite things may seem

They exist because they function as a team 

So when contrary forces arise you can easily let it go

Knowing it evens out in the grand balance of flow

You tell me about your brother’s guitar

It aided him in studying classical music

And it showed you who you are

You say education in Asia is uniform

Another brick in the wall

It made you lean into your individuality and want to

Break out from high rise buildings and barriered balconies

You tell me an inner conflict arose

‘Should I stay or should I go’

Using music to calm the storm

You strummed your way through jazz, rock, and neo-soul

Sound waves that carried you all the way across the blue

End of discussion, next chapter, I’m new

‘To end conflict’ has the Chinese character ‘Mu’

And the word for art denotes skill and expression of beauty

’To end conflict skilfully’ is the closest interpretation of the martial arts

And I think about how that includes many parts of what you do with music

Like ocean waves smooth themselves onto the shore

Your fingers soothe guitar strings into harmonious chords

When you surf on melody and let that friendly spirit sing

You are more than a rider on the storm

You are the musical Shaolin

I ask you what you think about the term people of colour 

You imagine for a moment then give me an analogy

Saying you think the term is a strategy:

Imagine, “White is like the paper, it is always white

And if you put something, it’s colour, white is not the colour”

It strikes me that if white is the paper then all that’s left for everyone else to be 

Is a mark, something dark, with coded colours for the game

Colours with labels that link to shame and so keep a majority tame

You recall a memory from your teens

Where you would pinch your nose daily 

In the hopes of it getting sharper, whiter, unstained

Meanwhile, in South Africa, I recall doing the same

And it strikes me how whiteness is not a group of humans

It is an idea, that thrives on an international inferiority complex

Instilled by generations of fear

As you talk I notice your bright tattoos

How the markings here tell your story

And the canvas is you

You tell me skin colour is uninteresting 

How you treat people is more worthwhile

It’s a delicate matter but a question of style

And I notice how the printed patterns of your clothes

Clash with your inked sleeves like wild waves

You tell me when you came to Amsterdam you felt embraced for being different

You could drop the fantasy of wanting to be white

And settle into feeling alright, comfortable with your being

Standing out for exactly the thing you once hated was freeing

You mention it’s important to keep an open mind

Even when white paper comes to discriminate

Try a warm smile and watch tensions evaporate

You tell me your mother tongue is Cantonese

And you explain about the economy of the language

You tell me you can have one word with with four meanings

Pronounced as different inflections

Ice, liquid, vapour - three forms, one substance

If language shapes culture and mentality, it stands to show

An Eastern capacity for space and a tendency towards flow

This brings ease, an instant way for giving

I learn that what may seem like compliance is actually grace 

On account of space for multiple views at various points

Like warm water’s magic to loosen stiff joints

You explain that if you have to think in black and white 

You approach it like yin and yang

Each giving rise to the other, not separate from one another

Whatever the colour, you hold your brother

It gets me thinking about the human challenge

Of surrendering to naturally imperfect balance

You suggest we both write ‘Amsterdam’ in our native script

And the accented boxes of Cantonese looks like tiny houses

Next to the cursive writing, I learned as a kid, they form a motley group

Different styles from across the globe, and still, one hood

Like the sea swells to accommodate energy for a tidal wave

I see an imminent collective cresting

The beginnings of movements can often look like resting

But that’s when we grow, and if you don’t know - now you know

That as well as a resounding vibration

Black has also always been flow

Alex is an independent guitarist, based at the Treehouse community and is of Chinese ethnicity.

Benny van der Plank
Julia Beth Harris
tt. neveritaweg 55-57
1033 WB Amsterdam, NH