Shona Proverbial Implications on Skin Bleaching: Some Philosophical Insights

By Gwaravanda, Ephraim Taurai | Journal of Pan African Studies, June 2011 | Go to article overview

Shona Proverbial Implications on Skin Bleaching: Some Philosophical Insights


Gwaravanda, Ephraim Taurai, Journal of Pan African Studies


Introduction

This study explores the philosophical implications of skin bleaching by drawing lessons from selected Shona proverbs. For Hamutyinei and Plannger (1988), Shona proverbs demonstrate the Shona people's ability to respond to a variety of different life situations without being simplistic but with depth of thought. This entails that Shona proverbs can be used to evaluate the contemporary phenomenon of skin bleaching. The research gathered perceptions mainly on the reasons for skin bleaching from 97 Shona speaking women in Masvingo city because the city is a provincial capital and it is characterized by a high incidence of skin bleaching compared to other parts of the province. In addition, Masvingo city could potentially provide varied demographic information from participants since it has three tertiary institutions (Great Zimbabwe University, Masvingo Polytechnical College and Masvingo Teachers' College), and is comprised of both working class and non-working class populations. The purpose of the surveys was to provide a factual understanding of the practice of skin bleaching before conducting a proverbial analysis of the phenomenon. Grounding itself on the Afrocentric theory and tracing the philosophical origins of white supremacy, this study examines proverbial connotations from the point of view of metaphysics, ethics, epistemology and logic. In each category, three proverbs are examined to give a total of twelve proverbs in the entire paper. The paper focus its analysis to Shona women in Zimbabwe, so by referring to skin bleachers in the female gender, the paper is not being sexist but reporting the results of the study. The paper is not assuming that globally, skin bleaching is a female practice since males also participate in it. However, within the Zimbabwean context, the majority of skin bleachers are females.

The metaphysical assumptions of skin bleaching is examined and it is argued that the Shona draw a fundamental distinction between inner beauty and external beauty (Matereke & Mapara 2009); a distinction between identity and identity crisis; appearance and reality; artificial beauty and inner beauty. From these dualistic perceptions, important implications on skin bleaching are drawn. In the ethical sphere, the Shona have developed notions that dark skin is not a crime, they believe that real beauty lies in the heart and they have questioned the moral intentions of skin bleaching. Skin bleachers in the Shona culture appear to face moral dilemmas and the moral intentions of skin bleachers have been questioned from several perspectives. All of these views can reveal important insights that can provide moral evaluations to the phenomenon of skin bleaching. Epistemologically, the knowledge base, justifications and defense of skin bleaching are based on a foreign rather than an indigenous knowledge system. As the result, the Shona skin bleacher has no justification for the practice of skin bleaching. Based on indigenous knowledge, the phenomenon appears to border around ignorance of identity or a crisis of identity. Logically, Shona proverbs have been employed to expose the contradictions, fallacies and confusion that is associated with skin bleaching and provide valid logical arguments in favor of dark skin.

Theoretical Framework

Afrocentric theory (Asante, 1987, 1988,1990) can be defined as a philosophical paradigm which deals with the question of African identity from the perspective of Africans as centered, located, oriented and grounded. It is a conceptual scheme which emphasizes the importance of Africans, taken as a single group (and often equated with black persons), in culture, economics, politics, philosophy, and history. While taking cognizance of the various strands of Afrocentricity, the research focuses on Asante's ideas of Afrocentricity. The Afrocentric theory is appropriate in this paper because it is significant in giving value and pride to the black skin which has been historically marginalized, abused and displaced by the fallacies of white supremacy. …

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