"With hair they cover theirs with wigs like mops/And
faces they plaster like earthen pots/Even bleaching their skin/For white is not the colour of the land”
- Ayeola Mabiaku
These lines from Mabiaku's “Black Beauty Gone” mourned the loss of the African beauty, using the African woman as a metaphor, but for this article it portrays where the image of being black and beautiful has gone.
This controversial topic of black/african beauty, has been nagging my mind for some weeks now,maybe this evaluation is based on my religious viewing of model search M-Nets Face of Africa(yes the same show which discovered Nigerian model maverick Oluchi)as its finale(which is taking place in Lagos) approaches iv found myself in countless discussions as to which model should take the grand prize. Now for anyone who has ever watched this show, u would know its not your conventional beauty search and that the winners,for the sake of being politically correct, are rarely ever classed as the most beautiful of the crop by d average onlooker.
Now this got me thinking, what does this choice of beauty imply, seen as this lucky girl goes on to represent africa on the fashion runways of the world.There are two schools of thoughts, I have received through my discussions.
One is that its a model search and not a beauty pageant hence the appreciation of a beauty that's quirky and different(this usually translates to unattractive) While the other school of thought is of the impression that this so called quirky look is how d western world wants african beauty to be portrayed,under the guise that this quirky beauties are genuine un diluted african beauties as opposed to say Adaeaze Igwe(Yobo) who represents, the now common trend of western diluted versions of african beauty, due to their over subscription to hair extensions,toning products,Mac make up and coloured contact lenses
However being a subscriber to all these vices personally ( please read Brazilian weave and mac make up addict)I find myself agreeing, that black beauty is beginning to look a lot like Bierge. And u my dear reader imply the same , every time when we list Beyonce,Tyra Banks,Lauren London asBlack beauties, we subsonciously insinuate that lighter skin is more beautiful.
I'm not saying these women aint beautiful, in fact I remember many a times screaming Beyonce every time the "who is the finest destinies child" argument came up.All I'm saying is why don't we reach that same conclusion with a native hair patted and make up free celebrity, if ever there is one(now people not Eryka Badu! That would just be hypocritical).
Now if we african female pinoquos were to be honest, the Brazilian weaves, mac make up and fake eye lashes would go, (ok let's not get ahead of ourselves let's start with taking a short break) and we would show our natural beauty in all its kinky and patchy glory. And celebrate once again those differences that make our beauty different
This brings me back to my question what is black beauty, well again I have gone round in circles, as this question would b hard to answer especially as the african woman has many faces, there is edgy the indian/arabic facial features of the east( found in the Sudan, kenya,somalia) hovering above the beautiful curves of their darker black bodies, then we have the more rounded facial features of the west above the more curvy and lighter toned black bodies. African beauty is diverse.
So i say, black beauty is not defined by the texture of our hair,the shape of our nose,the colour of our eyes or the darkness of our skin. Its defined by the gracefulness of our walk, the strengths of our backs as we carry our babies and our families through the rigours of life, and our ability to look our best amidst this all.
By Miss L.C