flâneuse

She is the wanderer, bum, émigré, deportee, rambler, strolling player.  Sometimes she would like to be a settler, but curiosity, grief, and disaffection forbid it.” – Deborah Levy, Swallowing Geography.

When I come to think about it, I’ve always been a flâneuse. I’ve always enjoyed travelling to new places and part of my process of getting to know a new city is to walk it. Walking the streets aimlessly, eyes wide open, taking in the newness, the dark corners, the urban green spaces. I usually have less responsibilities while away so I can stroll, wander really till my heart’s content. And I observe the life of the place, observe from the sidelines; an outsider, an ‘other’.

I didn’t see myself as doing anything special, as someone who gets to know the city by wandering its streets, but apparently it is special.  As I am a woman. A black woman.

From the French verb flâner, the person doing the walking is usually male, well to do with time and leisure on his hands.  Born out of the beginning of the 19th century, women walking out in the city streets alone was not possible. And if they did so, they would pass unnoticed, to a certain degree.

I’m interested in why I am a flâneuse. Why I do it? What are the benefits? I’m interested in exploring the streets of my neighourhood with these questions in mind. I would like to get lost down streets that I might have taken for granted or never really noticed before. What would I find I wonder while I wander? And what could I stand to lose in the process?

I begin a new photography series around this practice. Why? Because this is a revolutionary act.

“These women came to the city ( or perhaps they were born there,
or came from other cities) to pass unnoticed, but also to be free to
do what they liked, or as they liked.” – Lauren Elkin, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City.


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