// 1 July 2008

kerosene cover imageAulelia from Charcoal Ink kindly sent me a copy of her excellent zine Kerosene.

“The aim of this zine was to exhibit diverse voices of the diaspora,” Aulelia says in the editor’s letter. “I hope this slice of printed media will challenge and inspire anyone who reads it. It was created in the hope of stirring debate.”

And so it undoubtedly will. Here we have the typical dilemma of the zine – it wouldn’t be what it is if it had a greater distribution, yet a wider audience could definitely benefit from reading it.

The opening piece is by Tinashe Mashakavanhu, editor of, about the experience of living as a Zimbabwean exile in Wales, is enough to make the heart sore:

“I am different. There is always baggage that comes with that, this feeling that you’re constantly on display, being judged and stereotyped and never knowing quite how people feel about you. Sometimes I just want to bolt and disappear.”

Mashakavanhu also calls attention to the poverty of the education system, and how it contributes to the situation in Wales:

“There is no Africa in their curriculum. There is now Africa in their imagination. Africa is one big country. There is no difference between Zimbabweans and Nigerians and Kenyans and Tunisians.”

Onyeka’s essay is also really interesting, as she describes the “coy” conversations people engage her in to get to “the bottom of the mystery of who I am”. She says:

“I shun all these useless labels: black, female, heterosexual, British – in or out. Identity is fluid, it is unstable, and it is multiple.”

But the collection is, as you would expect, very diverse. It includes an interview with Sylvia Kerali, the blogger behind I like her style!; articles by Orville Lloyd Douglas about the new trend for blackface and lack of black gay men on television; and a piece by Aulelia on black women bloggers – “the tide has turned,” she says. “Blogs have cut the women’s movement wide open and revealed a digital underground of articulate, sharp and opinionated black female bloggers”.

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