If it weren’t for the color of my skin and if my hair wasn’t frizzy, how do you identify me?”
The statement comes from Wenta Ghebrehiwet, 32 years old, dancer and language teacher for German. The Mönchengladbacherin shows her face in the first photo book by the photographer Mara Tröger: For a more individual perception of “People of Color”, who are often only seen under catchphrases such as “dark-skinned” or “with African roots”. A limited pigeonhole thinking, far removed from any reality.
The “Black isn’t Black” project has existed since 2012 and focuses on people in all their diversity and uniqueness – the illustrated book, which Ethletic was able to produce with production costs, shows, among other things, prominent faces like the Moderator Mola Adebisi and star chef Anthony Sarpong, as well as characters that the 33-year-old photographer with French-German and Guyanese roots met on her travels.
“I realized how essential it is to dispel prejudices and misunderstandings. Pictures say more than words. They are my language to visualize how diverse people of color are “,
says Mara Tröger. It donates the net proceeds from the sale of the illustrated book and the special model of sneakers from Ethletic to the Rwanda child and youth welfare organization. We spoke to Wenta about her motivation to appear in front of the camera for “Black isn’t Black”.
2020 was not only the year of the corona pandemic, it was also heavily influenced by the “Black Lives Matter” movement after the
I am originally from Eritrea and entered the country as a politically persecuted person in the mid-1990s when I was six. I am now 32, a dancer and a German language teacher. Sometimes I have to laugh myself about the fact that I teach German with brown skin and frizzy hair … But I have to honestly say that I am a little bit divided when it comes to the term “black”.
In what way?
First of all: I don’t understand why I am “black”. I am aware that I mean a race, but … I have no idea! Licorice is blacker than me and doesn’t belong to that breed, right? On the one hand, I feel pride and strength and specialty in “Black”. Then again, that’s the only reason why I seem interesting. If it weren’t for the color of my skin and if my hair wasn’t frizzy, how do you identify me? I’m not just that. Personally, I’m the kind of “Black” with an Arabic touch. I’m petite with strong curves … “like a gazelle”. My nose is named “Stupps”, my lips have fullness and shape. My cheekbones flatter me and my expression says ‘this way and no further’. But not every “Black” has these features. Which “Black” am I now? Get it ?!
So “Black” can be another drawer. Have you actually had the experience that the individuality of People of Color is not perceived and valued?
I remember waiting in line once. To my right was a German lady. Before me, it was the turn of a dark-skinned man who could not communicate well and who had problems communicating with him. Then the lady said to me in a demanding tone: “Yes, help him! You can talk to him!” I was so mad at the moment. “How can you demand that?” I thought to myself. I calmly explained the situation to the lady. Just because we’re both black doesn’t mean we speak the same language. She then took herself back.
For which statement do you show your face in the illustrated book?
I show my face in this context because I am only a “shade of black” and I hope that others will notice that too. I think Mara’s project is an extreme godsend. That this message of diversity is being spread precisely at this time of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Many misunderstand this as a trend, attend demos, shout “Black Lives Matter”, are proud of their origins. When it comes to origin, however, it is often not actually origin that is meant, but only the pride in being black. There is nothing behind it. Take a look at Mara’s illustrated book and understand where you come from and what defines you. Almost nobody knows its history, its culture, customs, let alone its language. I stand by “Black isn’t Black”.But before you go out there in solidarity, understand that the whole thing has nothing to do with trends.
In collaboration with Mara, Ethletic is launching a “Black isn’t Black” sneaker. Would you wear it
The shoe would be nothing without this statement. It would just be a black shoe. Trend. The statement makes him special and gives him a sense of wearing him. My origins give me the awareness to carry my personality. In this respect: yes!
The illustrated book is available for 89 euros in Mara Tröger’s online shop at www.maratroegerartwear.com. Part of the proceeds from the sale of the book and the sneakers will go to the children’s and youth welfare organization in Rwanda.