op-ed: “most kings queens get their heads [hands] cut off” by dani eugenie o’neill, afropunk contributor

March 22, 2016

The inspiration for this series of work comes from exploring the work of Afro-American artist, Basquiat. As a multiracial body, he got me thinking about the positionality of the othered body within society – what our place is in the world as displaced bodies, as black women, as multiracial black women on the periphery of everything else. Exactly what are the multiple significations of being a black woman? What are the multiple masks, identity erasure, the uncomfortabilit(ies) and subjectivities we navigate in our intimacies with white males and white females in white spaces as noir women? I remember how many times I’ve played the fashionable accessory for nice whites. The Birkin-bag for a nice (young) white madam all in pursuit of respect. Always in pursuit of visibility. In pursuit of finding my OWN body in white spaces along the violent periphery of where I’d been told I belong(ed). With my light brown skin, and quarter-to-kroes hare, the spaces were so violent I could feel the permeance of whiteness like tippex carelessly blotching out my identity. I remember how I’d be reminded time and time again – never in words, always in codified language – by these nice white madams and those nice white men(eers), that I was the exception-al black. Yes, the palatable black girl oreo enough to allow membership into their pool of white mediocrity. Welcome the token.

I still find it hard to find my body in white spaces.

I still find it hard to navigate my friendships with white women…

my intimacies with white men… I grow tired. My skin grows heavy. A heaviness that I feel between my eyelids, forced to remain open, on guard… awake.

How nice it must be for you to not wear this mask of heaviness?

How nice it must be for you to not have to wear more than one face?

By Dani Eugenie O’Neill*, AFROPUNK contributor

‘Black Mary’

‘Cube Face’

‘Kunta Kinte’



*Dani Eugenie O’Neill is a visual artist and photographer based in South Africa.