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Back in 2019 I wrote a blog post with 10 suggestions for decolonising your bookshelf. I was prompted to write the blog because I was tired of seeing so much unquestioned whiteness in the publishing and book world. I wanted to provide a simple list of ways that you decolonise your reading habits and to give readers the tools to think critically about what they read and why.
Decolonisation doesn’t stop at your bookshelf though, and I wanted to give you all an updated list of ways to decolonise your life and your home.
Like I said in previous article, decolonisation is for everyone, not just for indigenous populations or people of colour. Everyone, especially white people, need to think critically about their place in colonisation. Often times, people just don’t know how to approach decolonisation, and sometimes white people can feel attacked by this (just read the comments on my previous decolonisation post). Although, decentring whiteness is not done with the end game of removing white cultures, or harming white people. On the contrary, it is done with purpose to address the power imbalance colonisers have had over the colonised and create equitable spaces for all.
So, if you are in the process of decolonising your bookshelf and want to think more critically about other ways you can decolonise your life, then keep reading. Where I can, I will add some resources for your below, but also feel free to share in the comments below the ways you are decolonising your life.
Decolonise your beauty
Ask yourself – what makes someone beautiful? Is it blonde hair? Big lips? Long legs? A small waist?
Ask yourself, do you feel pressured by these beauty standards?
When you are out in the world, do you see yourself reflected in the advertisements you see? Is your skin, hair, nose shape, and eye colour prioritised in the beauty and fashion world?
When you buy clothes, shoes, and make up, do you think about the models the company uses?
Before you buy into a beauty standard or product ask yourself these questions –
How size inclusive is the brand? Are all bodies and sizes include: XXS to XXXL?
What models does the company use? How many different kinds of bodies do you see in an ad campaign? Dark skin, light skin? Fat and slim? Models with mobility aids? Models with scars?
When you buy make up, what is the shade range of the product? If there are 5 complexion colours, then ask yourself, who is being excluded? And do you want to support that exclusion by buying products that don’t reflect the diversity you would like to see in the world?
Chances are, if you have honestly asked and answered these questions you will notice a pattern. White, euro-centric beauty standards tend to be prioritised above all else. When certain beauty trends like the big booty are made popular, it is done at the expense of the people who were ridiculed for these features. White women can get lip filler to have full plump lips and yet the same lips naturally occurring on a non-white body are caricatured and degraded.
The best ways to decolonise your beauty is to support brands that are transparent and diverse in their campaigns and products. What beauty brands do you love for their inclusive culture?
Decolonise your garden
When I moved back to Australia at the end of 2019, I was extremely excited to see the flora and fauna that I was most familiar with when I was growing up. When I heard a magpie for the first time after being away from home for so long, I actually shed a tear.
For all the amazing nature that Australia has, most Australians are pretty terrible at celebrating it. Yeah, of course, we love our colourful birds and poisonous animals, but most homes are surrounded by foreign plants like roses, oaks, and agapanthus just to name a few.
The beauty of Australian native flora is horribly underappreciated and also just unknown. I myself, would probably know more about foreign and non-native plants and their care than native ones. The knowledge of native bush foods and the beauty of our flora has been forgotten and discarded by the dominant culture. Of course, indigenous elders and peoples carry a lot of knowledge and if you dig around enough you can find some pretty amazing resources to learn more about native plants and habitats. As a lover of nature and plants, I definitely want to learn more myself. As someone who was cut off from their roots, it saddens me that I don’t know more about my own country.
One such book for Australians wanting more knowledge about indigenous practices and our nature is Fire Country by Victor Steffensen. In the wake of the 2019-2020 bush fires, now more than ever we need to respect and learn from the indigenous leaders with knowledge about country care.
Questions to ask yourself about your garden –
How can you introduce more native plants in and around my home?
How can you learn more about taking care of your native environment? Look for indigenous run workshops.
How can you honour indigenous knowledge while decolonising your garden?
If you’re based in Australia you can also check out Melbourne Bush Food. You can buy native flora from them and even use some for your cooking! This link is not an affiliate link. I just really love the brand and what they are doing one native tree at a time.
Decolonise your kitchen
Much like decolonising your garden, decolonising your kitchen is about asking yourself what do you know about indigenous cuisine. Whether you’re in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Brazil, think about the indigenous groups local to your area, think about the local native flora and fauna, and think about how much (if at all) do you incorporate that in your everyday kitchen.
Melbourne Bush Food have a range of food, spices, and teas you can buy to start your journey. If you’re stumped about where to start, try social media. Look for cook books written buy indigenous chefs, search for local indigenous restaurants, and start your cooking journey.
Decolonise your history books
When I lived in Switzerland, the general consensus was that Switzerland was a neutral country. It had never participated in wars and had never owned a colony. This meant for many Swiss people, they didn’t think they had any need to learn about colonisation or decolonisation. To them, their country was free from guilt. Not to burst anyone’s bubble here, but even Switzerland, the home of neutrality participated in and profited from colonies on the African continent. They had business stakes in the slave trade and missionaries also tried to bring Christianity to the continent. Even though some Swiss people apposed some colonies like that of the Belgian Congo, they still had a lot of blood on their hands. How do you think the Swiss got their hands on cocoa to make their world-famous chocolate?
That anecdote isn’t shared with the hopes to shame the Swiss, but to highlight that if you exist today, you have been impacted by colonisation. If you are in Europe, and other euro-centric (white dominate cultures) you have and continue to benefit from colonisation. Until you stop reading the conquers’ history books, you will not be truly able to disentangle yourself from colonisation.
There has been a recent debate in Australia about changing our school curriculum to include more about indigenous cultures and history that also speaks to a time before the British invasion. A lot of white men around Australia are going into hysterics about this. Cue the worlds smallest violin.
Equity and decolonisation can often feel like an attack for those in the majority (read white). But equity, true equity and peace can only come about through acknowledging the true past. While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa had its problems, the idea of telling truth, of coming to terms with past crimes and hurts, is not a bad way forward.
There are some amazing history books written by indigenous historians and authors and I would strongly urge you – where ever you are in the world – to learn about your country’s history with colonisation.
For those in Australia, I can strongly suggest starting with Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe.
Decolonise your social media
This last one is a really simple and easy way to learn more about indigenous cultures from around the globe. On my Instagram account I follow inuk throat singers like Shina Nova to hoop dancers like James Jones of Notorious Cree. Gillawarra Arts are great teachers and artists. Pia Designs, from Tasmania, is also a wealth of knowledge and is a talented artist. No matter where you are in the world, there are so many amazing indigenous artists, activists, musicians, and creators that you can follow and support.
This is meant as a guide and to help you ask yourself the right questions if you truly want to decolonise your life. Decolonisation is a process, not an end game per se. So while ever you are doing it, you are moving in the right direction. Hopefully this journey will help you learn more about indigenous cultures and to also be a better ally. As always, share the reading love.