Dunking colonial hangover in African beauty

02 Jun, 2019 - 00:06 0 Views
Dunking colonial hangover in African beauty

The Sunday Mail

Lonias Rozvi Majoni

The appreciation of beauty has seen the white colonial tentacles like body type, skin colour, accent and hairstyle just to mention only a few reaching every nook and cranny of Zimbabweans and Africans at large.

There are certain attributes which, out of the colonial hangover are now regarded as imperative and set apart individuals as the most beautiful in a society or amongst a certain group or class.

However, the subject of beauty has remained a contentious issue and it brings about the deteriorating effects of colonialism.

A number of youths in the 21st century cannot help, but visibly portray a nagging colonial hangover, in relation to the treatment of beauty. Both males and females, have shown the syndrome of colonial hangover through the adaptation to the colonially driven and socially constructed (though erroneous) perceptions on beauty.

For instance, a considerable number of women believe being light skinned, having long hair, and having a slender built physical structure makes one a perfect maiden.

The same goes with men who also subscribe in some of the factors mentioned. Sadly, this has invited an era of total shame and madness as youths have joined the bandwagon of the inferior lot in various embarrassing acts like skin bleaching and a number of surgeries, in a bid to fit within the white colonial spectrum of beauty.

It is sad to point out that this “panel beating” exercise has proved to be an absolute disaster as new species of ghostly creatures produced are far from even the least expected basics of beauty.

In addition, futile and shameful attempts to meet certain standards of beauty have not only left the victims endangered, but suggests serious psychological defects or lack of knowledge thereof.

Of particular concern is the desire by many to be light. Both females and males in Zimbabwe have not been shy to reveal their dream to be light skinned, as an additional feature to enhance their outlook.

This has resulted in a furore over skin lightening chemicals and subsequently skin bleaching. In the same vein a lot of devious acts have been carried out with the goal to shed weight as well as attaining a flat belly. Efforts have also been made to temper around with certain organs like breasts and buttocks and even reproductive organs resulting in extreme cases like acquisition of artificial organs. In tracing the genesis of this schizophrenic wave, which has hit the generation of youths in Zimbabwe and Africa at large, the pointer leads to slavery and colonialism in particular. Colonialism and its legacy goes beyond the political demarcation.

Even in simple or rather general societal facets of life, the effects of colonialism are visible. The ultimate goal of the aforementioned attempts for the enhancement of beauty like skin bleaching, weight loss and certain hairstyles is to match the appearance of a white man.

Indeed, every being has an entitlement for personal adornment to look presentable and physical exercise for the maintenance of healthy fitness levels, but a certain section of Zimbabweans now has a different agenda altogether of being white.

It is undeniably true that a certain way of defining beauty is operative, with the whites being the pedestals. For instance, as mentioned earlier, one would wonder the reason behind the act of bleaching.

The attempt to lighten the skin through the removal of the black pigment, one can conclude that the ultimate goal goes beyond matching the light skinned Blacks in society, but rather to match the physical appearance of whites. A large section of Zimbabweans are still victims of the social effects of the colonial legacy.

Some women still believe that an epitome of beauty should have qualities, which include long hair, a slender built body structure and being light skinned, with a flat belly; all which is seen in an ordinary white person.

It is sad to note that even some men try to match the white man through attempts to have falling hair, flat bellies and being light skinned and a certain colour of hair and eyes. These socially constructed attachments on defining beauty, mostly broadcasted and made a norm under the guise of “fashion trends” are completely a dehumanising characteristic of colonial hangover.

Even beauty pageants are a clear example of a colonial hangover, since a crop of individuals, with certain qualities regarding to height and body type, to mention a few are considered beautiful; and tagged models.

Of course, in Zimbabwe other pageant have been introduced to accommodate people with certain conditions of bodies, for example Miss Matofotofo, Mr Ugly and Miss Curvy.

However, the value attached on these events cannot match the “universally” accepted pageants, but rather have become just a source of entertainment and a money making scheme where the categorised people are lampooned, thus a confirmation of a colonial hangover in the treatment of beauty.

Even most hairstyles are now an imitation of whites, not to mention the extent reached through wigs and weaves. The same can be said to skin bleaching, outrageous battles with weight loss and the general ways adopted in adornment of the body like fake nails, to mention only a few.

These acts are not just an exhibition of a devastating inferiority complex, but a sad revelation regarding to the definition of beauty, with the Whites being the embodiment thereof.

Of particular note is the predominantly tertiary students Afrobeauty brand; Beauty Diverse, nationally operating as Melanin ZW . The intellectuals driven initiative seeks to liberate black minds from the shackles of colonialism, which prevents people from realising their own beauty.

The CEO and Founder of Beauty Diverse/Melanin ZW, Avante Nyasha Mafusire highlighted that her brand is involved in a number of projects, with the ultimate goal of helping the black community as well as giving blacks a sense of identity and belonging.

“We believe beauty is diverse. There is no single and absolute definition of beauty. Beauty comes in diverse shades, shapes, heights, colour and so forth. Beauty is everything that is positive. . .we are not fighting against the lighter shade of blacks in any way, but we are fighting a system. Through BEAUTY DIVERSE, we embrace all shades and seek for equal opportunities for all shades of black as well as other races.

“However we feel that for decades, dark people have been discriminated and put out of the picture, thus the creation of Melanin ZW.

“So we do not fight against light skin people, we believe all shades are beautiful, but we are against the colourist system that has caused an inferiority complex.

“We do not discriminate and as proof, we actually have many light skin models and light skin people in our organisation. . .”

On a sad note, certain elements are not willing to assist in the preservation of culture and heritage. Toxic bleaching chemicals are smuggled in the country and many have fallen prey to the legacy of colonialism through bleaching and other mentioned acts which show a strong desire to be white.

In Literary circles, works of people like Okot p’Bitek, Walter Rodney, Chinua Achebe, Dambudzo Marachera and Charles Mungoshi are included in Zimbabwean education curriculum as part of efforts towards decolonisation and liberating the mind from colonial bondage. Of particular interest is the “Song of Lawino” by p’Bitek, where beauty is defined from a Black spectrum, with a colonial brainwashed woman, who represents modern and erroneous notions of beauty, in the character of Clementine being lampooned and presented as grotesque:


Brother, when you see Clementine!

The beautiful one aspires;

To look like a white woman;

Her lips are red-hot;

Like glowing charcoal;

She resembles the wild cat;

That has dipped its mouth in blood;

Her mouth is like raw yaws;

She resembles the wild cat;

That has dipped its mouth in blood;

Her mouth is like raw yaws;

Tina dusts powder on her face;

And it looks so pale ;…


This shows the importance of the study arts as it liberates the mind by revealing the truth on the definition of beauty from an Afro centric standpoint.


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