For July I instigated my very own poem-a-day. I know this is meant to happen in April. It is very unlike me to have this kind of discipline, but it feels so long since I’ve written creatively regularly that I need a kind of kickstart. This kickstart has coincided with another good thing: trying to work out an obsession. I suppose I may have been afraid that I didn’t really have anything to write about (I’m sort of retreating on a farm and nature and me aren’t too chummy). Anyway, the obsession is colour. Colour as totem, I suppose.
So I’ve been reading a lot about interactions between colour and culture, colour and economics, and colour and psychology.
In this reading I came across this: The Purple Rain Protest in 1989, an anti-apartheid protest in Cape Town. What is specifically amazing to me, though the use of dyed water against protesters is far from unique to this protest, is the choice to use purple. Purple, is long associated with power, of classical Emperors and later Royalty. It is not the colour of the many. Roman Emperors wore the rarest purple robes and no one else was allowed that saturation of colour.
So, to use purple to spray down dissenters seems an act of foreshadowing, symbolically. On walls after the fact, graffiti was sprayed saying ‘The purple shall govern.’ And it became a slogan of resistance to apartheid. The continuation of power, but the shifting of who is draped with it.
I had drafted a small and quite awful poem about this as a poem-a-day. Because it was quite awful, I ran it through Google Translate and back again to see what would happen. Somewhat clunkily, I put it into Afrikaans and back to English. Intriguingly, the final translation had eradicated any mention of purple.