A speculative look at colour

I will not say I'm colour blind though but I have never really being interested in how much subsets there are to colours. As a writer, that makes writing about a lot of things difficult I guess.


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I find the name of colours funny especially in my part of the world where colours have been named after certain items as if those things come before colour. What came first; champagne or gold? Why do we have colours like champagne gold? How does one who has never seen a bottle of champagne identify the champagne in a champagne gold coloured tie for instance?

So we have onion purple, ugwu (pumpkin) green, egg white? Is it not funny? Now check this out, the skin of oranges that is indigenous to my country is not orange. It's often green with some yellow. So maybe we would name the fruit something else eh? Over here we have a leafy vegetable we commonly call green? It's green like most leafy vegetables. Why would it be named green?

Anywho, I find the naming of colours nowadays to be weird. I wonder sometimes what painters, the primary users of colours call the colours they use in their paintings. Imagine Leonardo Da Vinci standing before his smiling Madonna and saying to the interviewer, "Well I used peaches for her lips, mud black for her hair, cloud gray for her eyes," who wants to know what colours he used for that fantastic painting.

New names for new colour tones are being imagined even as the world of art evolves through computer enabled technologies. As a poet, a practitioner of the writing arts (sounds like something arcane, I know), I have learn a lot of things in order to share authentic creations of the world within and around me. The world is colour. Nature is colourful. Without colours, this earth would be one drab place. I was reading a Brandon Sanderson novel where colours were being connected to sound in some type of way. I found the idea interesting.

If we consider that certain colours, certain sounds, certain smells give us a certain type of feeling, we can grasped the interconnectedness of things. For example, a particular perfume from my high school days, has stuck with me and every time I perceive it, I'm reminded of a time in my life. It is the same with colours; a colour often reminds me of other times where such a colour had first appeared.

One of the reminders Brandon Sanderson's novel gave me was that colours are actually a function of light. It is light that makes it possible for the human eyes to identify the colour spectrum. Without light there will be no rainbows, no colours. It makes one wonder how can I write of colour in a world where colour has come to mean something hateful?

I mean I'm African. My skin is choked full of melanin. In this world, being black means a lot of things in different societies, even in mine. A colour has been stripped of its light and made into a negative. Is blackness the absence of light? Is light a colour? Is whiteness light? Is white a colour? Am I even black? When people speak of race and refer to skin colour, I find it strange.

The leopard, the lion, the tiger, the cheetah are all of the cat family. They have different colours and characteristics but they are all considered to be from the same family tree. They fight, they kill and some are stronger than others but they do not limit the other because of the colour of their skin, do they? Does a lion kill or abuse a tiger for being a tiger? And these are supposedly savage beasts, untamed animals.

Why has the human race degenerated to the level where a human's worth are determined by the colour of their skin? How did we get here? If we consider that colours are made from light entering our eyes, it could very well be that the colours we see are our brain creating order out of the chaos of the natural world. What if these colours are not real? What if we have maimed our world over something that we cannot claim?

Take the blind for example; they live in this world without colours, they exist beyond the boundaries that colour has locked the human race in. Do you think they do not know of light? Do you think for them, black is evil and white is a god? Do they exhibit racist sentiments and is this because they have seen the colour of a person's skin?

As a poet, I rarely write about colours beyond black. I am focused on the colour because I have been forced by social constructs to focus on it. I am not as qualified as the black poet writing from say Latin America, the Caribbean islands, Britain or the United States who have had to carry the trauma of the black peoples of the world but even in my society, being light skinned (emphasis on light) is seen as beautiful and being dark skinned (emphasis on dark) is seen as dirty or ugly. I am focused on the darkness on my skin.

Yet in the beginning, according to biblical traditions, the world was in darkness, without form or void and God said let there be light. Understand, God did not say let there be colour. Maybe that is what the almighty meant; after all light is the father of colour. Again is black the absence of colour? And if it is, is it so bad to be human only without the bias of colour, the bias of gender, of sex, of status, of education, of religious views? Let me not digress.

Colour is an essence of beauty. It could be positive in the butterfly, the bird, the flower. It could be negative in an inferno, rot, racism, etc. I'm not good with colours and I probably won't be able to tell a colourful story so I do without it in my writing. I will write about black bodies though. I will tell their stories as long as I can because in truth, it is the only colour I'm allowed to own.

When you celebrate the colour of your skin, the tone of your colour which separates your caste from others, which degenerates you to a step above animals, I would like you to understand that colour and the naming of it is a social construct, a means for the human race to bring other to an often chaotic world. It was not constructed to break people, to reduce people to nothing but chattel. It is dark here. I must sleep. Good night.

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