I'm a 50-something, white, middle class woman who paints. This smacks of privilege. I acknowledge white privilege and recognise this in a world that still discriminates on the basis of ethnicity, class and gender. But appearances can be misleading and, like all of us, I prefer not to be typecast.
I'm from Scottish, working class stock. My father was a boxer and a miner. His father was a boxer and a gold miner. I was brought up in a poor, multi-cultural inner city neighbourhood in Auckland, Aotearoa (New Zealand). Grey Lynn is now a millionaire's paradise but when I lived there it was a hard edged, tough environment with a bad reputation for danger and crime. Despite this, Grey Lynn had its own riches. I was immersed in a diverse mix of cultures and strong sense of community. Tangata whenua (Māori - Aotearoa's indigenous culture), were in the majority and there were immigrants from all over the Pacific. I was in the minority, but never experienced discrimination from my friends or peers.
I did however witness discrimination against my friends and experience white privilege from a young age. It repulsed me and still does. Institutional racism was expressed by teachers and various 'authorities' who swooped into our neighbourhood. My family and our Scottish traditions aligned with Māori cultural traditions but this does not mitigate against the fact I have been raised as part of the dominant culture. There are many subtleties I am oblivious to.
These early days formed a strong sense of social justice in me and a commitment to call out and counter racism wherever it arises. Fairness has always been important to me and is a strong theme in my art.
I am examining my own bias and if you're also interested in checking out some good resources I can recommend the book White Fragility: Why it's so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, by Robin Diangelo, published by Beacon Press, 2018. Another excellent resource is Layla Saad's self-published 'Me and White Supremacy', 2018. Saad has produced an excellent workbook that unpacks unconscious bias and complicity in an oppressive system for those of us holding white privilege.
I wrote most of this before Christchurch massacre on 15 March 2019, but it seems all the more urgent and important to address these issues now.
Education in all forms was valued by my family - it was a way out of poverty. My mother instilled a love for art - looking at it, reading about it and making it. My father's alcoholism and the ongoing psychological devastation from two world wars filled our home with stress and sadness.
I was orphaned from age 13. My two brothers and I lived on our wits, evading social services. I never forgot where I was from or the value of education. I worked from the age of 15. Later I put myself through Law School, and recently completed Art School. Being a lawyer was all about social justice. Being an artist is my calling. I feel lucky to paint and have engineered my life to find ways to keep making and learning about art.
I have exhibited in 4 solo, and many group shows.
In 2018 I graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Painting) from Auckland University of Technology.
I live in Wellington, Aotearoa (New Zealand).
© Linda Gilbert 2019