January started with the usual fireworks, but the spirit of celebrating life had been truly dampened by 11 March 2020, when the WHO declared that Covid-19 was a global pandemic.
Everybody who has lived more than two decades has become acquainted with some grief in their life, yet nothing had prepared any living human being for the devastation of the continual global stench of death that pervaded the air for the past year. 2020 – 2021 is a period that will be consigned to the history books as a worldwide annus horribilis.
People who were once greeted with casual joy are now viewed as potential carriers of a fatal disease. Nobody is simply deemed a good neighbour, fearful suspicion is a foreshadow of each previously normal human interaction. Death and terror now walk hand-in-hand.
However, 2019 was not all plain sailing. Prince Harry and his new wife, Meghan Markle – a new, Black, member of the British Royal family, faced overt media racism and became parents to their son, Archie; Theresa May resigned as British PM, Boris Johnson came next – leading the country with his trademark half truths; New Zealand suffered its most horrific mass murder, and the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral was engulfed in flames.
This feeling of witnessing global disaster became personal to most people as humanity plugged in to an almost 24 hour a day news cycle of accelerating horror. Many individuals chose not to believe that a global pandemic was real, while others selected to continue to believe that the, almost half a century, pandemic of institutional racism was the real fake news. George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on 25 May 2020, was witnessed by a worldwide audience trapped in their homes by the new pandemic of Covid-19.
Black people throughout the world are re-traumatised each time another person of colour dies at the hands of those who have sworn to serve and protect, this public lynching was no different. Not even the black squares on social media profiles – that rose and fell like temporary tombstones, could alleviate the pain, the isolation and the distress that systems of prolonged racial inequality and inequity have passed down the generational lines of the ex-colonial world, now disguised as the new Commonwealth. People hurt. Yet, many of them still soldiered on as key workers, and went out on a daily basis to uphold the very systems that oppress them, while continuing their efforts to save the lives of other community members. They were rewarded by weekly claps from the public, and increasing death rates that accelerated beyond the proportion of their population shares.
2021 started in a muted fashion, with scaled back New Year celebrations. Fear, distrust, even naked hatred of the ‘other’ is the new normal emotional currency of this quarter of the new year, where the world still remains socially distanced from each other. Yet, despite the negativity of 2020 – 2021, the creative arts have kept the light on throughout it all.