What does it mean?
To be Caribbean?
Now living overseas I find myself pondering on the question of identity. Turkish people have a very strong sense of self that is not to be negotiated or confused with any culture. On the other hand, Caribbean identity has long been ambiguous and fluid; a not so perfect amalgamation of European, African and indigenous sensibilities; the shameless appropriation of all things glossy constantly undermining any authentic integrity.
Given our schizophrenic self, I always thought that Caribbean identity was lacking in a backbone.
Of course, acclaimed Caribbean poet Kamau Brathwaite argued strongly that what could be perceived as fractured, was in fact a nascent identity and culture that was birthed; the conception of several different cultures.
Hence why the Caribbean identity is so ambiguous today.
Before Independence and perhaps a little thereafter, Caribbean people were forced to privilege their European parentage to the detriment and dismissal of what was perceived as 'lesser' cultures.
With post colonialism, came a greater awareness of these 'lesser cultures' and a (re) creating of an identity that included, and paid some attention to them.
Again, I am sadly bowing to a European epistemology by saying 'an' identity and in so doing being quite oblivious to my above argument.
There is not just one Caribbean identity, but several.
Because what post colonialism did was grant Caribbean peoples the autonomy to say who they are however they so defined. Only Independence could give Caribbean people the ability to craft their own narrative and claim one of the most important liberties of human existence.
Since every Caribbean person and State has the right to reach into their ancestral bag and choose the cultures and sensibilities that resonates with them, I think if it were possible to define the collective Caribbean identity, it would be autonomy.
Autonomy in Turkey
So what does autonomy do in Turkey?
Especially since Turkey is the symbolic representation of an amalgamation of cultures: East and West.
I had stated in a previous post ******** that I had donned a headscarf, worn Caribbean style and in that spirit. Now this was NOT in an effort to replicate or mimic the Turkish woman who wears hijab, because I am not Muslim.
However, seeing Turkish women with their heads covered, reminded me of just how beautiful and creative a head covering is and could be.
Turkish women tend to wear their hijab in one particular style. Of course a headscarf and hijab are two different things because of the different purposes for which they are worn. Hijab is a covering of the head yes, but must also be accompanied by a covering of the neck and shoulders/arms. Turkish women have a very distinct way of wearing hijab that is very different to Muslim women across the middle east.
And it is their distinct hijab look that I admire. They don't cower to other cultures' interpretation of hijab. They have their own identity.
Because I am not bound by any religious code on how to wear a headscarf, I have full autonomy to construct my own head covering styles.
But in a place where every woman is comfortable with only one style of head covering, exercising my autonomy to create my own head turban styles is a bit problematic.
I want to be able on some days channel my french roots and rock a Parisian turban and on other days, wear my African inspired wrap around and on other days, channel a Caribbean look with a classic bun in the back turban.
However, because a head covering with a scarf is instantly considered as a sign of Islam, and because as a non-Muslim, I don't wear my headscarf in accordance with the hijab code, I am nervous about offending and perhaps not being accepted.
And that I think is this same very anxiety that characterises Caribbean identity: that even with all the autonomy in the world to define ourselves, the perpetual search for validation of one's choice.