Thursday, May 29, 2008

Exotica - Josephine Baker (pt. 2)

From the 1999 book 'Exotica. Fabricated soundscapes in a real world' by David Toop:

"Josephine Baker's role as an exotic was complex. Posed in photographs with tiger-skin rugs, she was described as the 'Nefertiti of now' by Picasso. She danced encircled by rhinestone-studded bananas that rose up around her waist like a girdle of sparkling erections. As biographer Phyllis Rose observes in Jazz Cleopatra, the bananas, set in 'jiggling motion, like perky, good-natured phalluses' evolved into stiff tusks. Photographed in The Ziegfeld Follies in 1935, Baker wore a bikini that mutated her erogenous zones into spiked weaponry, impeding any action other than display, anticipating Madonna's spiked bra by more than half a century. Walking her pet leopard along the Champs-Élysées, glorious in her role as a stranger in a strange land, she colluded with the crude fantasies of Africa that so enraptured the French (which were, after all, a relief from the unequivocality of American racial segregation or the racial abuse she suffered from Austrian Nazis), yet she scrubbed her skin with lemon juice at night in the hope of lightening her dark skin."

Here is a beautiful and touching BBC documentary on Baker:

Here is a link to a nice London Review of Books article on Baker.

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