If you ask a couple of people both men and women to tell you extremely honestly with no shame at all, what African skin tone in females they consider beautiful, i’m sure your question will elicit a lot of debate. As Africans, i believe we are highly blessed to have a variety of skin tones which caused me to do the following exercise;
Now i decided to arrange these photos of 5 African women from the African continent, including me, in descending order from the lightest skin tone to the darkest. My idea behind this little exercise was not to further the already nasty stereotypes in place concerning darker women but to actually show my readers and the world that we are indeed blessed with different skin tones and that all skin tones are very beautiful to look at.
I know that there exists a misplaced notion in the West where a section of people assume that all Africans are pitch black in skin tone. Far from it! There are caramel tones, chocolate tones, ebony tones as well as really light tones as in the first woman’s case where her mum happens to be half British and half Kikuyu (a Kenyan community). But still, there are indeed pure African women with no mix at all in them who are as light as Brenda Wairimu.
I personally consider myself chocolate. Juliana Kanyomozi is equally chocolate but of a darker chocolate shade which means there are actually two chocolate skin tone shades, the lighter chocolate and the darker chocolate.
So for a couple of surprisingly African people to actually conclude that only light women are beautiful, i find it totally absurd. From pre-colonial times, Africans were made to feel like they were inferior in class and skin tone to the other races of lighter shades and silkier hair. They were illetrate, supposedly backward because they lived in mud huts and walked around almost naked, had no idea of Christianity and didn’t even wear shoes.
No wonder some traders of other races had no qualms selling Africans into slavery all the while making them feel like human forms of bulldozers who resembled `monkeys’. The missionaries enlightened the Africans with Christianity which i thank them greatly for, don’t get me wrong. They taught them how to be smart in dresses, shirts, trousers, ties and shoes when attending Sunday service.
Then the colonialists came and considered Africans trouble because they posed an obstacle to their desire to acquire our fertile lands and minerals. They made them feel inferior to them and actually used their skin tones as a weapon against them. Sadly, the African remained with this notion that black is ugly and that anything lighter is desirable.
We of the new generation carried it into our society and started placing beauty according to what category of skin tone someone fell into. We hated those who were supposedly darker and exalted those who were considered lighter. Am i blaming any particular person for all this? No. I’m actually blaming all of us including myself.
It is indeed very true that many African and Kenyan women are highly insecure with their skin tones and especially if they fall in the chocolate to ebony category. The well intentioned comment to a fellow lighter woman who is trying on an article of clothing at a shop of `wewe unakaa poa na red kwa sababu uko mweupe. Mimi nikivaa red nitakaa aje?’ (you look nice in red because you are light. If i wear red myself how will i look?) further attests to this insecurity with skin tone.
Who said only a certain skin shade looks nice in a certain color?! The bleaching by some to acquire a lighter shade. The giggles directed at our fellow counterparts from Sudan, who are genetically darker than what is considered the `normal’ skin tone for Africans, when we see them in colors we consider too bright for them, is another form of nasty skin tone shaming that we innocently engage in, while considering ourselves more superior for being lighter in shade.
The colonialists lied to us that our skin tones as Africans had a problem because their reasons for coming to the African continent in the first place weren’t well intentioned. They had to do that just to kill our spirit and achieve what they initially had in mind. Colonialism is long dead and buried but sadly Africans themselves, again including me, are engaging in ugly modern colonialism tactics of segregating one another based on skin tone.
How we do this segregation is by subconsciously and at times obviously preaching that light is beautiful and dark…hmm, acceptable, but not quite. No wonder the abundance of really light skinned women in African music videos as video vixens and some nasty comments directed at our very own Oscar winner, Lupita Nyong’o by none other than fellow African women, because her skin tone isn’t what our kinda warped society thinks is acceptable for a superstar.
African women need to celebrate the versatility of our skin tones. We are equally beautifully and wonderfully made and should actually desist from skin tone shaming. I believe that there is much more to a woman than the color of her skin and therefore her mental abilities and talents should not be judged based on that.
Gone are the days when some rogue bosses in my country employed lighter skinned women never mind that some were not that qualified for the job even, and overlooked the darker skinned women because they did not find them desirable.
Gone are the days where African women could not find make up that suited their skin tones. We are in the 21st century where more emphasis than ever before is being placed on women empowerment. This empowerment should also enable women of African descent, to accept themselves no matter what skin tone they fall into.