Showing posts with label African fashion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label African fashion. Show all posts

Monday, December 13, 2010

Behind the Painted Faces

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I had been in her room for 30 minutes, inhaling the sweet, lavender flavoured scent that intermittently wafted out from the electronically operated air freshener on the far wall.

Having spent that long holding back a need to empty my Gordon Sparks distended bladder, I requested to use her bathroom. As she pointed towards the door, a glint of something, perhaps unease, flittered past her eyes; more intent on answering nature’s call, I didn’t dwell on that.

It was only when I entered the well appointed, pink tiled bathroom that I began to understand that brief look of hers. Arranged in an order that I, the cosmetic novice, would never understand, were rows of bottles, tubes and palates—enough cosmetics to keep a little corner shop in business for long while.

Through with my nature call, I moved a little closer and my awed eyes flowed past a hundred names. Now, they were not in singles, as each brand name found expression in powders – cakes and conventional, lipsticks, lip-glosses, eye shadows, hair relaxers, hair treatment creams, conditioners, hair sprays, deodorants, perfumes and hair removal creams. Some I could understand; even explain, but the ones that lined a lower, somewhat hidden shelf, defied grasp. Prominent among them was a L’Oreal breast lifting gel, two brands of tummy tightening creams, a buttocks firming cream, a face lift cream.

There were more, tucked further back in the shelves and peeking from the corners of bags hanging from hooks, by the side of the same overstocked shelf. Wow! I was really impressed.

I went back to the room, now knowing the look I had received earlier, to meet a stoic faced friend, who couldn’t help but act like I had caught her stealing meat from a pot of egusi. I knew deep within me that the low-keyed conversation that followed had a lot to do with what I had seen and this got me pondering on the battle she endures to look better everyday

What is it about today’s women and the need to coat up everything with layers of cosmetics?
What happened to the conventional dab of power and touch of lipstick?

Clear answers elude me, but I can sniff hints from the women I see on the streets every day, looking like art pieces on an abstract canvas. What with the way they match up colours and re-invent the natural lines of the face. Geniuses, I called them, but that was before I stumbled into every woman’s secret in my uptown lady friend’s bathroom. Artists they might be, but their art is fakery, superimposed upon a canvas – their faces – better appreciated in its natural state.

I admit to being unapologetically old school, especially where it concerns female beauty. I do not believe that letting my woman experiment with any new fad and accompanying her to salons, spas and whatnot identifies me with women’s’ lib; there are better ways to cut that, I think. Perhaps if women really knew what men want, they would save themselves the stress and money it takes to look like the modern woman.

We, even those modern-thinking brothers my female friends are wont to compare me with, like those lipsticks sparse. Why, because it saves us those embarrassing smudges that tell tales we’d rather keep to ourselves. I am yet to meet a man that understands the need for those coloured eye shadows that women tend to wear, sometimes matching shoes, wristwatches, clothes and even the colour of their cars.

Consider the mini supermarket in my friend’s bathroom. One might understand the need for some, less physically endowed persons, to maximise their looks through application of cosmetics, but that is hardly the case with our babes, as use cuts across all strata.

I have seen the ridiculous, the humorous and the downright stupid; facial paints that can easily compete with the greatest works by Da Vinci and others that remind one of the worst of Hammer House of Horror – those ones that make you want to run and hide when you encounter their bearer at night. What about those fillers – they call them foundation – used to patch up every foreseeable smudge. Walahi, a well-heeled modern woman carries around, on her body, more chemicals than NNPC can readily identify.

I know our ladies will never agree to toe this line, I mean, give up on this drive to cosmetologise (na my gift to oyinbo language, leave am dia) their existence – well, that’s how I explain the craze – but the plea is for them to simmer it down, at least.

As I remarked to my uptown lady friend, you mustn’t all be artists and panel beaters to look good, joo.

Published in on December 12, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ranting for Africans

It was my intention, this morning to write a flash fiction about the coming independent anniversary for Myne Whitman's

But as I browsed through the day's news and took in some opinion pieces in a Lagos based newspaper, I suddenly realised how much we as a people have drifted, carried away by what I see as an ill blown wind, fanned by an overreliance on western opinions.

First, I read a piece where a woman, way into her fifties by her picture's reckoning, speculated about the coming of what she saw as a new fad, a first of its kind; denim jeans cut to fit the African woman's waistline. Timely, she says of it, but then she went on to complain about the route it took - from the west via China - and bemoaned it for not being African enough, as if trousers were ever African in the first place.

I was about to consign that experience to the dustbin when I was drawn to another article, this time the accompanying photograph placed the writer, also female, somewhere between late twenties and early thirties. This time the topic was food and she was complaining about our local foods, which she said she abhores because of the high calorie content. I would not have picked issues with her had she not gone on to reel out healthy food lessons that she obviously copied from a western fashion magazine, more or less calling diets that kept our forefathers strong and healthy, poison.

I would have screamed aloud if decency allowed it.

However, I actually let out some curse words (sub vocalised anyway). We seem not to know it, but our society, our Africanness, that thing that makes us whole, is slowly fading away and the painful thing is that we are doing nothing to fight this trend.

Yes, a society is supposed to change with time, to evolve.

This may or may not mean assimilation with another culture. In our case, there is little assimilation going one. Truth is, what we have is a one-way thing, with our culture being suppressed and overshadowed by imported values. Our gods are mostly dead, starved of the worship that all spirit beings need; our dances are mere show things; our customs are being shoved into the dust bag of history by youth who deem them too local and outdated, even as they embrace those of another, believing them to be new age, pristine.

I talk not for talk's sake, but to draw our eyes backwards, to return our souls to those days when we sought very little, when in harmony we breathed with the land we live, not the degeneration that people call modernity. Imagine, an African woman calling African food poison, all because a doctor who has never breathed a lungful of African air told her so.

We might not have the resources of the west, but we still have, or should still have, our head firmly on our shoulders. How can anyone say garri is poison, or call palm oil an artery clogger?. The fact that some of you have forgotten how to live in harmony with the earth does not mean the earth has changed.

I will tell you what the poison is. The poison is easy living, from air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned offices. From comfy couches at home to comfy swivel seats in your offices. The poison is those lumps of dough you buy in your high-class fast food stores. The poison is the lack of exercise that is big money's gift to you. The poison is processed sugar that you stock you refrigerator with. That is the poison making 

Africa fat, not our traditional cuisine.

As for fashion, well...a woman above forty really should have little or nothing to do with fancy jeans and whatnot. It is this misplaced fashion sense that has turned our young ladies into scarecrows. Yes scarecrows, with fake fingernails, fake hair, fake skin tone, fake eyelashes, fake lips, fake bosom held in place by padded bras and the like and fake accents.

We are not just losing our selves to this new elite-driven-western-hobnobbing, but our souls too. These days it is more fashionable than not to espouse ideas by the likes of Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters. Our ladies make their lifestyle choices based on premiums set by a society that is continually seeking to recreate what is already perfect. We try to dress like the western media tells us is best, mostly without recourse to our weather conditionality; we force our feet into extra high heeled shoes, regardless of the discomfort inherent in our mostly unpaved roads.

Africa, we need to wake up before it is too late. We should be exporting new ideas to the west, not embracing their junk. Now is the time to start, why don't we all start by not rubbing those foul smelling relaxers on our hair?

This piece was published in the passion for fashion page of Next newspaper on October 3, 2010
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