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Skin by Letlhogonolo Ndhlovu

Letlhogonolo Ndhlovu and her sister

by Letlhogonolo Ndhlovu

It is disappointing to still find that no matter how liberated we are as people we are still haunted by categorized forms of beauty. This piece is mostly for my little sister, a gorgeous dark skinned tall twelve year old. When she was younger, she’d be teased about her complexion, well that was a lifetime ago because I let her know from the time she told me her story that she is a queen.  Then we danced to India Aries’ hit song Brown Skin which goes, “Brown skin, you know I love your brown skin…Apparently your skin has been kissed by the Sun.” ooh!

Men and women from all races are bleaching their skin for a fairer complexion. In most extreme cases, people who are already light skinned bleach regardless. I don’t understand why society feels the need to conform to bizarre methods in order to be deemed beautiful. While doing research for this story, I ran into phrases advertising agencies use to convince, mostly women, to buy skin bleaching products. One read, “Have you always wanted to achieve celebrity like skin?” As I read further, it continued with statements like, “Live the life you’ve always wanted, feel more beautiful with a lighter brighter glow, and boost you confidence…” Insane!

Dark skin is just as beautiful, this just means the pineal gland is producing more melanin in the body and it’s normal. Melanin is a dark brown to black pigment that controls all the physical and mental body activities. Melanin is naturally produced in the body; there is no food source that contains melanin! This pigment is found in the most vital part of the brain stem, the medulla oblongata that helps regulate breathing, digestion and blood vessels. Melanin gives colour to hair, gives colour to the iris of the eyes and helps with clear vision as well. Melanin is the primary colour source and the protector of the delicate deeper parts of the skin by filtering out sun rays that could cause skin cancer. Lack of melanin in the human body is considered a disease called Albinism.

Skin lightening products reduce melanin in the skin, making it difficult for the skin to absorb sunlight and depriving the body from receiving Vitamin C from a natural source.  I’ve read case studies of skin bleachers who later suffer from Ochronosis which is irreversible bluish black spots on the skin. Then there are stories of “celebrities” such as Mshoza who claims to feel more confident and beautiful, with her new bleached skin. In an article published by BBC news, Mshoza said, “I’ve been black and dark-skinned for many years; I wanted to see the other side. I wanted to see what it would be like to be white and I’m happy.” I’ve always believed self-love and self- acceptance to be the only source of pure happiness, I guess views differ in a vanity driven society that is completely engulfed in illusions. My best friend Andile always says that there are a lot of us Homo sapiens here on earth and we are all entitled to our own beliefs. True!

All I am saying is that You Are Beautiful, whether ivory Nubian, dark skinned Oriental or caramel Caucasian. Don’t believe everything you see on TV. You Are Beautiful. Don’t believe everything you read in magazines. You Are Beautiful.

I do hope that my little sister Kebaabetsoe Ndhlovu never ever feels the need to lighten her beautiful mahogany sun kissed skin. Frantz Fanon in the book Black Skin, White Masks wrote, “When people like me, they like me “in spite of my colour.” When they dislike me; they point out that it isn’t because of my colour. Either way, I am locked in to the infernal circle.”

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