Wednesday, September 21, 2005
What is African Beauty?
WHAT IS AFRICAN BEAUTY?
Defining African beauty
We talk a lot about "African beauty", but what does that term signify? Dark skin, short virgin hair, big flat nose, big lips, full figure, big hips and backside – is this the true version of an African beauty? If you straighten your hair, put on hair extensions, are embarrassed by your flat nose, big lips and big butt – does that mean you're not proud of your African beauty?
Is it true that in this day and age we all subscribe to the popular concept of beauty that condemns plump, dark-skinned women? The recent Nokia Face of Africa pageant raised these important questions about African beauty. Face of Africa judge and TRUE LOVE editor Busi Mahlaba had this to say: "There's no beauty like African beauty - our skin tones, our figures and our shapes are distinct and unique in all of the world!" Busi believes African beauty is about the pride and dignity with which we wear our African identity on a daily basis by celebrating our shape, enhancing those features unique to us (such as our small waists and wider hips). She adds: "African beauty is reflecting who you are outwardly; it's embracing our cultures and traditions, and honouring them." She also maintains it's about being able to straddle the dual roles we women in Africa face today, expressing our traditional values and heritage while living and working in a totally Western world. One way of doing this is by introducing elements of our culture into the way we dress (such as combining a suit with a headgear of African beads).
Happy in our own skin? An article which appeared on June 29 this year in the Mail & Guardian by Cheri-Ann Janes and Malena Ammusa, entitled "Happy In Our Own Skin", claims that according to some men, every guy's dream of beauty is the "it" girl who's thin and fair-skinned. However, I'm sure we've all noticed the growing South African phenomenon of women liberating themselves from this conventional stereotype of beauty by being comfortable in their own skins. Gone are the days when African women were frowned upon because of their black skin, broad noses, curly hair, thick lips and big butts – now women with thin lips and no butts have resorted to plastic surgery to achieve these features! Beauty guru Leigh Tosselli has also gone on record as saying South Africans have come a long way in accepting and embracing African beauty. "We're starting to see a strong sense of ethnic identity – even South African models are starting to realise that they don't have to have hair extensions and blue contact lenses to be beautiful." Now, more than ever, what it means to be African and beautiful no longer depends on how well African women mimic Western aesthetic ideals. Popular Afro-centric hairstyles and fashion speak for themselves. We've become so comfortable with our natural attributes that our white sisters envy us for our beautiful, glowing, clear, wrinkle-free skins, our sparkling white teeth, our strong facial features and our inherently dignified postures!