The Wick - Interview author, academic, and broadcaster Emma Dabiri The Wick - Interview author, academic, and broadcaster Emma Dabiri
Monday Muse

Interview author, academic, and broadcaster Emma Dabiri

Interview
Emma Dabiri
04 March 2024
Interview
Emma Dabiri
04 March 2024
Irish author and broadcaster Emma Dabiri uses her own body as a starting point for powerful explorations into race, gender, social codes and politics. From her tresses in the best-selling Don’t Touch My Hair – delving into why Black hair matters and how it can be viewed as a blueprint for decolonisation – to her relationship with her own sense of beauty in her must-read new book, Disobedient Bodies: Reclaim Your Unruly Beauty, she shows how the personal is political.

Here, Dabiri tells The Wick why we need to expand our understanding of our minds and bodies, and which artist’s work she’d most like to own.

THE WICK:   Talk us through your typical Monday.

Emma Dabiri:   I meditate, get the kids ready for school, hit the gym, go to my office or studio and get to work.

TW:   With Mother’s Day approaching, can you tell us how your experiences of motherhood have changed your outlook as a person?

ED:   Having my first son helped me focus and hone my sense of purpose. I also experienced a love I’d never known before. My second son added to that, which is why his name means “my joy has doubled.”

TW:   Your new book Disobedient Bodies encourages us to subvert beauty norms and celebrate our minds and bodies. How has your own relationship with these evolved? Did you ever have a lightbulb moment that encouraged you to think of them differently?

ED:   It wasn’t so much a lightbulb moment as new ways of thinking that emerged from reading a lot of philosophy and critical theory. Many things we take for granted as foundational truths, such as beauty – and how the way a person looks determines the value attributed to things – are culturally specific rather than universal. In this case, it’s the result of something called ocularcentrism [or the privileging of vision over the other senses in Western cultures].

TW:   In the book, you explore how in Western philosophy, the mind and body have historically been viewed as separate. Can you tell us how this differs in other cultures?

ED:   Many cultures, particularly non-Western ones, traditionally have had a more holistic and less binary view of the world and so there is not this inherent separation and subsequent hierarchy.

“Having my first son helped me focus and hone my sense of purpose. I also experienced a love I’d never known before. My second son added to that, which is why his name means ‘my joy has doubled.'”

TW:   Social media has had a profound impact on beauty standards and how we judge ourselves. How are you teaching your children to navigate its pressures?

ED:   They’re not on it yet and I’ll try to keep them off it as long as possible! By the time they start to use it, hopefully their sense of self will be well established enough that they are not as pressured by it.

TW:   If you could add any artwork to your personal collection what would it be and why?

ED:   Anything by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

TW:   You live in Margate. What’s your favourite spot in the town for the culturally curious?

ED:   Carl Freedman Gallery, due to the incredible artists it represents and its visionary director Robert Diament.

TW:   Desert island quarantine: what one book, album and artwork would you take with you?

ED:   Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Ole by John Coltrane and A Convent Garden, Brittany, by William John Leech.

TW:   Who is your ultimate Monday Muse?

ED:   Leith Clark, stylist and editor-in-chief of the Violet Book, for her wit, generosity, support of other women, and her ability to infuse magic into everything she does, which makes real life feel a little bit more like a fairytale.

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