Mark - Colour Craft Collective

Colour Craft Community H4

Words - Julia-Beth Harris and 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.

Mark - Aether Element

Light years ahead, you look back on how it started

And remember your childhood self

Your school had no rule of thumb

For a brown kid with a Nigerian dad and a Fresian mum

Standing out as an anomaly

Made you want to know yourself properly

So you made every school project about black history

Expanding your view to include Martin Luther King and Haile Selassie

You remember finding it crazy how most stories began with slavery

Or savages in the bush

And you needed to really dig deep

To learn of the Fulani Empire, Mansa Musa, or the Kingdom of Kush

You tell me how it felt to get angry when your blackness was referred to negatively

A racing heart, constricted access to air

Crackling electricity signaling the collective side-eye

Of generations no longer there

You say deep down you knew it didn’t matter

But matter transfers energy

And energy knows no boundaries

And I imagine a cosmic interconnectivity

And collective memory binding us all together

Like the phenomenon called the aether

Spread across time, gathered in space

an element science believes in but cannot trace

It’s said to permeate the cosmos, an in-between sort of place

Filling the distance between planets and the distance between cells

Conjuring the illusion of individual selves

And I imagine how knowledge of self brought you face to face

With the skin deep delusion of more than one race

Gifting you the superpower of vision beyond surface irrelevance

And a direct channel to sacred intelligence

You tell me you fell in love with words

How they formed stories that opened your mind

You loved how they transformed sounds into rhyme

One deliberate verse at a time

You tell me you were looking for answers to specific questions

And then hip hop came along with a lyrical education

And you admired storytellers like Kendrick Lamar and Jay Z

Saying, ‘they were depicting life in a way that school couldn’t teach me’

You mention how it’s weird that the school system’s hierarchy

Puts money-making above original thought and creativity

When the greatest change-makers were speculators

For what is science if not knowledge gained from experimentation

By ways of the imagination, ideas shape reality

And speaking the word is the beginning of creation

It reminds me of your ability to freestyle rap

A whirling formation of meaning and metaphors that match

Expanding from your gut, a word universe from scratch

Glittering grammar shoots from your chest like stars

Dreadlocks orbiting your mind like a spacecraft

Your teeth tear through words, slice into syllables

Letters dissolve into particles that spread

Over an eager crowd of bopping heads

You tell me you like to make use of informal slang

And I imagine a local ignition of energy evolving into a big bang

Like modern language creates an interconnected web universally understood

In the beginning, there was the word and the word was good

I ask you about being in between blackness and whiteness

You say sometimes its a trip to look in the mirror and see a ‘black’ likeness

You say that doesn’t begin to describe how you feel

It was the first sign that race couldn’t be real

You tell me your track ‘Halfbloedje’ helped you heal

From the violence of being called half black and half white

You felt it diminished the fullness of your humanity

And that just didn’t sit right

Now you have the space to keep it humble

Knowing that it’s less half and more double

You say some slights come through subtle

With underhanded compliments like, ‘Your Dutch is so good’

You say the slap comes with the assumption that this is not your neighbourhood

And you question the definition of Dutchness

Highlighting that much of it is imported culture from colonial travels

The more you try to pin it down, the more the thread unravels

So Dutchness including only whiteness cannot stand its ground

And you say it’s similar with being brown

And begin to break it down

Saying the common experience of having been capitalistically colonised

Doesn’t mean the various cultures connected to one skin tone can be homogenised

And while you support black consciousness saying

We own what we are

You think defining it as a race takes it too far

It gives the fabrication of the racial construct credibility

And I think about how belief shapes identity

We can choose

And just like the aether fills up the in-between

With waves that are felt but not seen

The 5th element is not detectable like the other four

And I notice your silhouette starkly black on the floor

As a bright slant of sun streams in white through the door

And I’m struck by the agency of those in-between

to embody either, or and neither, nor

You tell me your Igbo name is Onuoha

The Igbo being one of the primary tribes of Nigeria

I look it up and it translates to ‘Mouthpiece of the people’

And I think about which ‘people’ that claims

When I ask you what unites different ‘races’ you say – pride and shame

And it opens my mind to how pride in one thing excludes another

And how shame comes from standing out as ‘other’

It makes me think of the human ego and its function to define

Mediating between the conscious and unconscious mind

A labeling agent naming what is me and what is you

Essential software that the cave-human used

But as the universe’s most evolved, sophisticated technology

I think of how we form one human body

A global network of encoded mindsets

Separate manifestations but all still, one internet

Like the aether - an intangible medium interconnecting space

It is nowhere and all over the place

It stitches together our reality like glue

It is me, it is you and the space between us too

In South Africa, we call it Ubuntu

I am me because you are you

I am me because you are you

I am me because you are true to you

I am true me you because are

Because because

Me cause you

You cause me too

Notice, the crumpled question mark between your brows as order shifts

Now notice the option of being a witness

To the human reaction to difference

You share with me how it’s important to observe patterns

How people may not outwardly hate

But may be running survival software that discriminates

Its what the ego does out of primal habit

But it also dictates our innate talents

We can choose

We are the data, the servers, the algorithms

Beyond afro- we are human futurisms

A collective overthrowing of systems that keep us asleep

Pinch the crowded air between your forefinger and thumb until it clicks

You are awake



To collectively transform and see

That how we relate creates the shape

Of who we could be

Hessel Du Mark is an independent rapper and performer based at the Treehouse Community and is of Nigerian and Fresian ethnicity

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