The Power of Zami

The Power of Zami

Audre Lorde was a black, lesbian, writer and poet, she was born in the first part of the 20th century, this was during a time when black people were discriminated against and homosexuals were harshly judged. Lorde wrote about her life and experiences in her poetry, novels, essays and other writings. In these writings, especially in Sister Outsider, and Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, she includes her family, friends and lovers, the people that helped her through the harsh world that they all experienced – it was her personal “Zami.” Lorde describes what a Zami is in the epilogue of her book Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, she states, “A Carriacou name for women who work together as friends and lovers” (255).

Upon reading about Lorde’s Zami, the influence and inspiration for the piece, “The Power of Zami,” was found. Each woman included is one of Lorde’s friends or lovers that she had during her life’s journey with as close to description as possible from moments in Lorde’s book. One such description, Lorde described, “Kitty was still trim and fast-lined, but with an easier looseness about her smile and a lot less make-up… Her hair was still straightened, but shorter, and her black Bermuda shorts and knee socks matched her astonishingly shiny black loafers. A black turtleneck pullover completed her sleek costume” (245). The women surround Lorde in a semicircle. The semicircle represents a ring of support around Lorde that she leans on throughout her life. Now, outside the semicircle are signs of the racist and harsh world that together they face – the signs are influenced by modern day slurs, that many feel uncomfortable to speak though racists and homophobes tend to say. The people holding the signs are grayed and lack detail to represent that they fade into the background, they are anyone with no distinct features. Now moving back to the center of the piece, Lorde is in the center because although the women may not have interacted with each other, the focal point of shared interest is Lorde and their interactions with her. Unlike the others, Lorde is on the ground, kneeling whilst the others stand, it is meant to be a more vulnerable position as if she is down or even injured and needs protection from the harsh slurs and cruelty of society. The ring of women protects Lorde but it is only a semicircle, hence the position of Lorde, she has experienced the cruelty of the world and now leans on the others for support and to understand such cruelty.

Although Lorde had these women for support and protection, this was not always the case. The semicircle presents a break in the support, a time and place when there was not as much help and she experienced the cruelty of the world. Such a time was early in her years, when she was still in grade and high school and as she continued to grow. Lorde describes, “Did their mothers caution them about never trusting outsiders? But they visited each other. There was something here that I was missing. Since the only place I couldn’t see clearly was behind my own eyes, obviously the trouble was with me. I had no words for racism” (81). Lorde was forced to experience racism before she even knew what it was. This instance amongst others she experienced early in life would have created distrust towards others, enough so that when she traveled she was shocked by the friendliness she first encountered in Mexico (154). Lorde had frequently experienced racism and discrimination throughout her life, which influences the piece and her position in the circle.
Lorde’s descriptions in her writings heavily influence the piece I created, “The Power of Zami.” The women help Lorde with the struggles of discrimimation and racism in the unjust world of the early 20th century. “The Power of Zami” is meant to represent Lorde and her personal Zami that she made throughout her life, outside of her Zami are the cruel members of society that blend in with everyone else, the racists and the homophobes that treat others with cruelty. Lorde has been hurt by the cruelty she has experienced but has found others to help support and empower her.

Work Cited
Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Crossing Press.

One Reply to “The Power of Zami”

  1. Hi Marian! I love your blog post and the emphasis you made on this semicircle around Lorde. It was a very interesting read especially because you pointed out that yes, Lorde had the support of her many loved ones throughout her life, but she had experienced so much racism and cruelty that this support became so much more necessary.

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