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Decolonial thinking for beginners.

Dr Temi Odumosu, Living Archives, Malmö University. Published in Bästa Biennaltidningen 2017 (s. 36,37)

Do you want to be a decolonial thinker? Be prepared for mind and heart expansion! Here are some tips…


1. Look back.

Learn about your history, and not just out of a book but from art and museums, and also by listening to people. Listen to the elders. You need many sources, and I will tell you why. When you attend a music concert, there is usually a crowd.
Each person experiences the event in a unique way: one person may have met the band and got autographs, but another person sat at the back where the sound was not good. Those two people will not describe the event in the same way. History is the same. There is always more than one perspective.


2. Look outwards.

Learn about the world’s history. Navel-gazers are not interesting. What more is there to say?


3. Drop the labels.

“He’s short”, “She’s loud”, “He’s cool”, “They’re nerdy”, “She’s different”. Boring! Would you like to live in a very tight box with no windows for the rest of your life? Probably not. Labels are uncomfortable and confining, like a box. They don’t just limit others they also limit you. The world is full of unlimited possibilities. If you want to be decolonial, be open-minded and free!


4. Confront the bully in you.

Everybody wants to be liked by others. I mean popular people always look like they are having so much fun! But are you making other people unhappy or uncomfortable in your quest to be seen? It’s a hard question, but I know you can take it. So much of history has been about people trying to be the Lion King. Maybe its time for change. Share the power, share the love.


5.Take a spiritual selfie.

Yes, you heard me! Instead of looking at your face all the time, take a moment to look at what’s inside your head and your heart too. Self-reflection (i.e. asking yourself questions about the special kind of person you want to be) is a basic decolonial practice. Why? Because it helps you to separate what is true to you, from what you have borrowed from the world.


6. Art is fresh air. 

Go to an art museum or the theatre next time someone asks you. Exposing yourself to art is important. Artists are amazing because they are always thinking in new ways. They ask questions, notice the things that we ignore, and make us feel so many different emotions. Art keeps us open and curious about the things outside of our personal experience. Remember, no naval-gazing!


7. Mind your language.

Try to stay away from any words that are not inspiring or that undermine the dignity of others. Basically words that make people feel bad. This means you have to be extra vigilant! You may not use a rude word like “neger” when you are speaking, but is it in your storybooks? Or in the music you listen to? Words are tricky, they creep into everything!


8. Memories are treasure.

Look after your memories and other people’s memories like precious things. Keep the long and the short ones. Memories remind us of where we have been and what we have achieved. Honestly, they are the only true possession in life. The good memories will keep you warm; the bad ones will remind you to hold on to the good ones, and to make more of them.


9. Racism is real. 

Period. A decolonial thinker who has read their history will already know that we have inherited cruel ideas about human differences. We cannot change the past but we can determine our actions in the present. Please respect when somebody tells you they have experienced racism, it is real and painful. Ask that person what you can do to help, or, just listen. If you are that person, I am sorry you had to experience that.


10. Feel it in your body so it sticks.

Lets do a decolonial thought experiment. Imagine this: You are standing on the playground at school and then suddenly a tennis ball hits you from behind. You were not looking, so it catches you by surprise. It really hurts and will probably leave a bruise. This is how racism can feel. It appears suddenly and without warning, and then leaves something nasty behind. You might be walking down the street quietly daydreaming, and then somebody behind you says: “do people like you wash your hair” OR “go back to where you came from”. What a mood-killer! Such moments happen to many people every single day!


11. You don´t know all. 

Decolonial thinkers realise that human beings are always learning and that good ideas and information can come from so many different sources. They also actively seek out knowledge from places that others will not go. Have you ever had a conversation with a homeless person to ask them about how they live? When was the last time you watched someone who is visually impaired navigate space? There is so much they know that a full-sighted person does not. Stay open.


12. Learn from your feet. 

As you explore the world, taste, touch, feel, move, smell, and listen. Decolonial thinking is not just about words. Its really about being. There is important information in ALL of our senses and human experiences.


13. Everybody matters. 

You see that girl at the back of the class who doesn’t speak much, she is important. And that new boy who just arrived from a country you can’t remember the name of, well, he’s important too. Every life, every story, every memory is important. There is room for us all.


14. Instead of asking why, ask how. 

Sometimes asking why is not enough. How, on the other hand, can take you on a journey. Why did you come here? That’s a little cold. How did you get here? Now that’s the beginning of a great conversation!


15. I care. 

These two words are like magic. Use them to let people know that you are open, and that you are willing to connect and share. Use them and you hair” OR “go back to where you came from”. What a mood-killer! Such moments happen to many people every single day!


The big idea: 

Listen; colonial history is filled with a lot of pain. Blood, sweat, tears, and death. Broken families, and memories lost at sea. A 500-year history about people who travelled the world in search of power and money, and all the bad things they did in order to get it. Please take some time to find out about it. We don’t want to dwell on this past but there is a lot to learn from it. That is what decolonial thinkers do. Study the past, take care of all its memories, and find new ways to live and love in the present day. I hope you will join us!