Saturday 23 December 2017

Venetian winds

Something on tonight's PM made me laugh. 

Naga Munchetty was in full 'social justice warrior' flow about Princess Michael of Kent's blackamoor broach when the wind got abruptly taken out of her sails...

...not that she didn't persist with her original line of questioning regardless for quite a while longer though!

Still, Joanna Hardy of The Antiques Roadshow gave her and the Radio 4 audience a welcome dose of informed good sense. 

On a less happy note, it makes you realise (yet again) just how silly, uninformed, irrational and downright unpleasant these kinds of Twitter-provoked righteous frenzies can be.  

Here's a transcript...

Naga Munchetty: Most of us at some point have agonised about what to wear to a special occasion. When is formal really formal? How cas' is smart casual? Rarely though do our sartorial choices depend on how racist they may seem. Perhaps that should have been thought more carefully about by Princess Michael when she was getting ready for a Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace. She's since apologised for wearing a blackamoor broach, which has been deemed racist. Awkward, to say the least, when Prince Harry's fiancee Meghan Markle, who was born to a Caucasian father and African-American mother, was also present. Joining me is Joanna Hardy, a jewellery expert who often appears on The Antiques Roadshow. Welcome Joanna. Just explain to me why is this blackamoor broach considered racist.
Joanna Hardy: Well, it totally isn't! When blackamoor broaches were first created - the 16th-18th centuries - they were everything about the caring companion, nothing at all about racism. They're also called morettos, and this was a Venetian name for a member of the royal household in the Orient. So this was all about the silk trading routes. And they would come to Venice, and there would be all these cultures and gemstones and the exchange of cultures that inspired the goldsmith and the craftsman.
Naga Munchetty: So why would someone take offence to it then?
Joanna Hardy: Well, I suppose if you don't know the history maybe you just think...You're seeing it for what it is now but it's not that. It was never created for that. It was about really revering the Orient. And it was also making people feel that these long lost lands. that they were being connected with it. It gave the goldsmith the fantasy and the skill that he could apply to a broach.
Naga Munchetty: One would assume that a royal member would be advised about what to wear on such formal occasions, that the history of these pieces would be explained?
Joanna Hardy: Well, you know, when I buy a piece of of jewellery I will buy it because of what I know about it, and so I'm sure that that would have been also thought of - but in that context, not in the context that other people are seeing it in.
Naga Munchetty: And these blackamoor broaches are also known as morettos, as I understand?
Joanna Hardy: That's right.
Naga Munchetty: How, when you think about this - and people are listening to this story now - how mindful do you think they're going to be - particularly antique hunters - when you're buying something that initially perhaps you have bought simply because it was beautiful?
Joanna Hardy: Well, that's what it's meant to be. Jewellery is about the craftsmanship and the beauty and the history and the legacy behind it. That's what you must be able to remember when you're buying these pieces. And it's rather like a painting, you know. There's hidden meanings behind them. It's not all obviously just what you see in front of you. And I think one has to be very mindful of that. 
Naga Munchetty: When people ask you advice when it comes to buying antiques, do they ask about the history or is it more about the craftsmanship?
Joanna Hardy: Well, the craftsmanship and the history is very linked together because jewellery is very much representing the social history of the time that it was made too.
Naga Munchetty: So when it comes to jewellery now, what would you say people are buying most for?
Joanna Hardy: Oh, to make you feel good. You're buying something that's beautifully crafted. It's a celebration of craftsmanship. That's why I think people buy jewellery. And also it's a memory, it's a memory.
Naga Munchetty: Do you think this will be seen again on Princess Michael of Kent?
Joanna Hardy:  I don't know.
Naga Munchetty: It was a tricky question to ask you. Joanna, thank you very much for your time. 
Joanna Hardy: Pleasure!


  1. Let's be fair. Naga Munchetty - who somehow became an "economics expert" on the BBC after studying English at University (before finding a natural place on the sofa asking daft questions) - is not the sharpest brooch pin in the box. It is asking a bit much of her to think through an issue.

  2. Q. Naga Munchetty: So why would someone take offence to (sic) it then?
    A. Because, for the BBC, the opportunity to stir up racial tensions AND take a swipe at the Royal Family was irresistible. Quite why they entrusted one of their top airheads, second only to Martine Croxall, with the task is anybody's guess.

  3. I find it so racist having all these token black and brown talking heads on the BBC.


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