Magazine article New African

Why Are We So ... Troubled?

Magazine article New African

Why Are We So ... Troubled?

Article excerpt

The black hair business rakes in $9bn a year, mainly for Indian, Chinese and other foreign companies producing the wigs, extensions, and other "beauty products" for black women. When will our women learn to love their natural selves, and African parents take pride in our identity by giving their children African names, asks Stuart Vukayi.

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I MUST SAY THAT I WAS VERY PLEASED when I saw Akua Djanie's article "The black woman and the beauty myth "in the October issue of New African. For so long had I been waiting for this moment when a proud African woman would assert the beauty of her natural self without apologising for it. Akua wrote about how our African women are shortchanging themselves with horse's tails or hair extensions in the name of beauty. I was beginning to wonder if we had any African women proud of their natural looks and Akua's article brought a sigh of relief. My hope is that her reflections will finally bring other African women to their senses in accepting themselves for the beauty they truly have in their natural selves.

From a man's perspective, I would like to reiterate that African women are beautiful without the horsetails or extensions or the toners they add on to their hair and skin. As a contribution to Akua's reflections, I find it interesting to note that so much has been said about neocolonialism manifesting itself in economics and politics, among other things. Yet, it is very ironic that it is the same men who claim to fight against these so-called new imperial weapons who yet fail to notice the real victims of neo-colonialism in their own homes, in their wives through the tails they deprive of horses by patching these on to their heads. Whilst perpetuating colonial stereotypes like the idea that there is something wrong with the black skin and short hair, hence the need for "fixing" them, the capitalists, mostly from India and the West, are also benefiting financially through the endless list of beauty products.

Good inventions and products are usually those that positively benefit humans by making life better and not those that through some hidden technique perpetuate stereotypes. Capitalist sympathisers respond positively to this by buying these products in the name of beauty, whilst creating reasons for justifying their purchases and sustaining the "beauty industry".

Ask a woman who puts on a horse's tail, wig, or extension why she does so and she will justify herself by appealing to reasons like beauty, easy maintenance, and "after all, I have the right to do what I want with my body", and "you men don't get it."

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The moment is probably ripe for African women to wake up and smell the coffee and realise what they should have realised ages ago, which is that they have been created with short hair and other people have been created differently with long hair. And so why would one want to have what she was not meant to have, if she is not driven by a poor self-image born out of such messages as a woman with long hair is more beautiful?

What's in a name?

Having said this, I am also dismayed at the rate at which Africans in the name of "freedom of choice" choose Western names for their children over African ones. Now some of you may be wondering why I am writing against giving African people Western names when I have a Western name myself.

Whilst writing this article some friends drew my attention to the seeming contradiction. In response to my friends and you the reader, I write against giving Western names to Africans because I probably know better from experience about the identity dislocation caused by such names to Africans. …

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