Artwork by Pawel Kuczynski
In his novel, Astonishing the Gods (1995), Ben Okri described the effects of racism as ‘invisibility: the main protagonist is introduced as having been born invisible. His mother, too, was invisible, ‘That was why she could see him.’ What may appear as magical is, in fact, rooted in very tangible evidence:
‘It was in books that he first learnt of his invisibility. He searched for himself and his people in all the history books he read and discovered to his youthful astonishment that he didn't exist. This troubled him so much that he resolved, as soon as he was old enough to leave his land and find the people who did exist, to see what they looked like (p.3).’
He travelled for seven years, and his quest was 'for the secret of visibility'.
Currently students who demand radical changes in curricula have picked up on this: how come, they ask, we (Black, often working class) and our reality is not to be found in textbooks?