African Woman and “Double Beauty Consciousness”

By Shivute Kaapanda [Think Tank Africa]

To demonstrate why most African women suffer from double beauty consciousness I have to share my own experience.

Just recently I had a telephonic conversation with a female friend from Oshakati, and all of a sudden we had to end the conversation unfortunately because, while we were talking, her friend sent her a text message so the two should meet at a local salon to have their new wigs fixed to their hairs as well as to have some long nails again fixed because they were going to attend a wedding party the next day.

Surprisingly these two beautiful young black African ladies already have their own hairs and their natural nails polished.

It’s unfortunate that they had to go for another round of beauty at a salon so that they will look double beautiful.

In digesting the state of affairs such as this “double beauty” we are reminded again as Africans how our women have been caught between two dimensions in their definition of what beauty is.

In most cases (and not all) one hardly finds an African young lady without a wig (extra hairs on top of another), long nails (extra nails on top of another), and eyelashes (extra one) if not the combination of all.

This is apparently an attempt to achieve modern beauty as illustrated and promoted by popular culture which is by origin a western culture.

To most of the African young ladies today nature is no longer a foundation of beauty as it was during the old days, ‘thanks to colonialism and European adventurism’ some African ladies would say.

The advent of colonialism in Africa has not just robbed Africans of their languages and religions it has also destroyed the psychological processes and disrupted social norms through which Africans have seen themselves as unique; everything has been turned and being seen through the eyes of the coloniser.

African ladies are not convinced that with their natural hairs, skin, nails and eyelashes, are as beautiful as they look; it is as if they have their own God of beauty of blonde hairs and bleached skin.

The modern beauty of African ladies is fully sponsored by the European colonial race. It’s extremely insane to think that one has to put a wig on top of an African woman’s hair so that she can look beautiful, beautiful in whose image?

In making this into a fruitful discussion I need to invoke a fraction of what an American sociologist and a Pan-Africanist civil rights activist W.E.B Du Bois termed as ‘Double Consciousness’’ in his 1903 book titled “The Souls of Black Folk”.

Du Bois coined a term “Double Consciousness” to demonstrate that to his study and experience there is an internal conflict experienced by subordinated or colonized groups in an oppressive society which he further describes as an African-American psychological challenge in reconciling an African heritage with a western upbringing and education.

He narrated … this is a psychological challenge by African-Americans of “always looking at one-self through the eyes of a racist white dominated society”.

The idea of double consciousness has played an important role in illuminating the experiences of black people who lived in a post-slavery America and it also set a framework for understanding the position of oppressed people in an oppressive world and by extension also in regard to the addiction of western beauty to African women who embrace so much the look from their colonial masters with regard to their hair, eyelashes and painted nails.

The wigs on top of the African ladies’ hairs represent nothing by colonial oppression, they have lived and continue to live in a toxic world in which beauty is defined for them by a dominant race and therefore for them to catch up with popular culture they have to become fashion and beauty copy-cats.

Those who disagree should give us statistics of how many whites in Africa or in Europe put wigs on top of their hairs to look beautiful?

It’s really disheartening to witness the African beauty covered in wigs even by the most educated sections including graduated; it is a clear indicator that our education in Africa from primary to university does not teach a black child matter of human self-worth especially with regard to the black condition.

African leaders need to look at issues of incorporating knowledge of self in formal school system and teach African kids the concept of Steve Bantu Biko’s ‘Black Consciousness’ so that Africa can produce well-groomed scholars not the types of graduates who continue to embrace colonialist tendencies of “double beauty”.

Through Du Bois teachings African women need to un-learn the tendency of copy and paste and must be able to begin to realize that nature is a foundation of all beauty, there is no need to put on Brazilian hairs on top of an African black hairs or remove the eye lashes and draw lines or have long dangerous nails to look beautiful.

Such learning can only be championed by progressive African men and women in leadership who have firm beliefs that an African woman’s definition of beauty is not an extension of a western culture or race.

– Shivute Kaapanda is a Pan-African Activist from Eyanda village in Northern Namibia and an author of a book titled “The Conscious Republic” published in 2020.