Robin - Colour Craft Collective

Colour Craft Community

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.

Robin - Air Element

You tell me it started out of nowhere

Your background they just couldn’t place

You were neither here, nor there

A part of your history erased

The kids would say, what was it again Egypt? Something North African

Yes, would come the whisper, ‘my grandfather was from Sudan’

You tell me you have a large family there

But here it feels like you’re the only one

You tell me how sometimes you miss that warmth

And I imagine an eagle in the sky reaching for the sun

Swept up high, soaring solitary and silent

While drumming inside is a tribal riot

A rhythmical GPS system

Your forefathers gather on your skin

There’s no keeping them quiet

They burst through your fingers at the age of four

You tell me you kept banging on surfaces

So your parents let you explore

And sent you to a musical conservatory

Where you learned classical technique

But you say it’s hard to force creativity

The thinking mind doesn’t always get you to a beat

I imagine it takes the use of a different instrument

Clearing cloudy thoughts is usually what leads to it

You tell me you like to look out at nature and listen to music

Attuning to the flowing notes like the wind

As it blows, inspiration flows and you are cued in

To the ensemble within, a flying flock in formation

Jazz or the blues carried from generation to generation

Black is not a colour

It’s always been a vibration

I ask you about your experiences with whiteness

You tell me how you thought they weren’t being ‘racist’

But trying to be funny by pointing out difference

At first, you laughed along

But over time and time again you got angry

Because neither laughing nor speaking up meant that you belonged

And no matter how calm you were, your skin colour sounded an alarm

You mention how this made you understand how it feels

To be left out and revealed

To be unknown, and to be set on a journey to seek your own

When you‘re in a society where chances are circulated among clones

Of a single type

You mention how being between black and white

Has given you perspective and double privileges

With melanin, you can blend in in many different villages

And a Dutch name and passport easily gets you there

With both powers at play, favour is in the air

You tell me when you call your cousin in Sudan

And ask how he’s been, he says -  ‘Always flowing, like the Nile’

It strikes me that flowing is also a way to be and doesn’t exclude anything

Especially if your identity exists in between

The opposite is a European approach to time

Where a moment encompassing everything is considered undefined

Structured timekeeping holds the line

I imagine these are the makings of a natural drummer

Like Dutch dominion over water, you pace the beat to create tempo

And like Arabic script, you embellish melody for flow

You tell me how when you play, musicians hear African tones

Deciphered heritage expressed and assembled

You read the signs and make the cymbals tremble

Swept up high the eagle hears the song of the sun

It says music speaks soul to soul

And recognizes everyone as a part of the whole

Robin runs Robin van Rhijn Drum School at the Treehouse community and is of Dutch and Sudanese ethnicity

Robin van Rhijn
tt. neveritaweg 55-57
1033 WB Amsterdam, NH