Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Endo- and Exo-Bleaching: A Helicopter View of Selected African Literature

Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Endo- and Exo-Bleaching: A Helicopter View of Selected African Literature

Article excerpt

Introduction and Conceptual Framework

Bleaching refers to whitening using chemicals or sunlight. When referring to people bleaching normally refers to use of chemicals to alter one's skin pigment from dark to white. In this sense it is the outside appearance which is altered. This is what the writers of this article refer to as exo-bleaching. It is easy to notice this kind of skin mutilation because the chemicals are normally applied to the face so it is the face which undergoes a marked metamorphosis while the rest of the body maintains the original skin colour. This phenomenon is referred/ described by some Zimbabweans as 'coca cola body and fanta face' to refer to a markedly lighter face compared to the dark body.

The other type of bleaching can be referred to as endo-bleaching which refers to "whitening" from within. This is a covert type of bleaching which manifests itself through certain behaviours such as exo-bleaching. However not all victims of endo -bleaching engage in exo-bleaching- they may remain pitch black but may display a frightening level of self-hate which may be apparent in clothes worn, food tastes and the form and content of what is said about black people as well as the whites. The genesis of bleaching is self hate. In the case of black people centuries of slavery and colonization left a big septic wound on the Africans' self esteem. Manifestations of self-hate are evident in such spheres as literature; music sung which is so westernized that it is hardly audible even to first language users of the language. In Zimbabwe there is a genre called urban grooves that is associated with acculturated urbanite youths. One singer who is very popular with the youths sings about being a 'salad' that cannot stand many experiences that are rural and therefore typically black African (such as use of firewood as a fuel) that he describes contemptuously. In fact the urban area is depicted in many African literary works as a center of vice for the African, a place where the African is exposed to Western norms and values which he imbibes to a drunken stupor where in the comfort of anonymity among total strangers the once cultured boy or girl undergoes a complete metamorphosis graduating into vice incarnate. The urban areas are often described as KuChirungu (Shona) or emakhiweni (Ndebele) meaning the white man's place. To many this is no place for blacks to live permanently-it is a place where one goes to earn some money to invest back in the permanent rural home. It is akin to a forest where one goes to do his or her hunting and brings back the trophies-one does not live there where danger lurks at every corner. If one has a house in the urban area it is only described as such: 'a house' or more accurately a 'kumba' (Shona) or 'edhlini' (Ndebele)-this remains 'a house' no matter how comfortable and 'modern looking' it may be. 'Kumba' or 'edhlini' is emotionally detached-it is just some habitation to satisfy a shelter need. This is different from 'kumusha' or 'ekhaya', the rural home, where under normal circumstances, one's umbilical cord is buried after it falls off (a week or so after birth), to indicate one's attachment to the soil, rural soil, where one's clans people, both living and 'living dead' are. When one dies in town or in the Diaspora many families get into huge expenses to transport the body 'home' to be interred among its own whether living or departed.

The advent of western education and industrialization resulted in a subculture among Africans where some believed being lighter would make them get closer to the white masters and bring with it better benefits either socially or economically. Some Africans even went as far as using skin lighteners with disastrous results, as the lighteners would make one very light but after some time they would become darker than they were before [burnt by the chemicals], a process that was irreversible.

Since literature mirrors society at various stages, most African writers who wrote especially during the colonial era captured this in their works of art. …

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