Nigeria Matters

Tragedy Of The Unknown Nigerian Beauty

Over the years, it was one beauty touchstone or the other: some said that it lies somewhere in the eyes of the beholder. Others think that a thing of beauty provides everlasting excitement and stimulates enjoyment. With the dude who says that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, I know he did not expect that there would be an evolution of all sorts of designer specs that can influence what you see and that the colour of the aforesaid spec also is a vital determining factor in the definition of what constitutes beauty.

I read this one story when I was a kid about certain weird people and their weird reaction to the abduction of their beautiful icon, Helen: I hope you did come across that story too and how it was that it resulted in the Trojan War. Menelaus, who was the husband of the beautiful Helen got all of his pals and brother-kings in place and they launched a thousand ships (an equivalent of the nukes that North or South Korea is said to be developing), to get her back. At first I thought it was an ego trip laced with all sorts of petty squabbles. Otherwise, why should any sane guy go after a woman with nothing more than a beautiful face but hadn’t the corresponding leash to safeguard Menelaus’ uncommon wealth?

What is responsible for an introduction of a Classical antecedent at this initial stage of my discussion with you is the subject of my thoughts-the concept of the beautiful Nigerian girl or woman and what our reaction has been over the years concerning who we do know to be a truly beautiful Nigerian girl, and that forced down our throats by the purveyors of today’s ‘beauty’ pageants. I enjoyed and loved to weave threads of the Classics around what I contemplate. However, my job as a journalist sometime last year weaned me off this tendency to be somewhat circumlocutory and engage in pompo-verbosity. But the British Council here in Lagos Nigeria organizes a monthly ‘Management reading club’, a coterie of supposed intellectuals who occupy management positions in their various places of work. I attended this month’s. It was a vista that threw up a plethora of pertinent issues like the moral and ethical implications of advertising harmful products like cigarette, (these ads) couched in half-truths and deliberate distortions and in effect exploiting a vital element in our morphology as human beings-GREED. It was indeed a plus that members argued over contentious issues like culture and values in an age of Globalisation, where the unwritten DaVinci code stipulates that America and the West must have ‘open doors but secure borders’. That in simple English is to say that we must open the doors to our markets for all manner of their goods to come to us as dumping grounds but they create a needle’s eye or bottleneck through their pet channels like AGOA, maybe to nip occurrences liker 419 or 911 or to select a few of those in their favour to do business. If you think I am lying, get a transcript of the speechPresident Clinton gave at yesterday’s 7th Annual Leon Sullivan VII lecture in Abuja. Hear him: ‘There is no single tragedy in Africa more than robbing people of their dreams’.

The other point that engaged our brains had to do with the Nigerian woman’s penchant for second-hand clothes either at the flea markets at Tejuosho or the one at CMS. Is this to do with our Nigerian sister’s need to be snazzier than their sisters in the UK or the US and be cut in that mould or is it something more of the erosion of our values via satellite that compels them to patronize these second–hand clothing, including lingerie, bras and panties? Or else, are our sisters in Nigeria victims of inferiority complex? Someone in that gathering thought that it must have something to do with poverty. Poverty?

For me sha o, I remember that before the advent of CNN or MTV or the Internet and all of these big multinationals, African-Americans who had problems with sorting the identity dilemma highlighted by Alex Harley’s Roots were either ‘black and proud’, or relied on the ‘black is beautiful’ recipe to confront the frustrations of living in a post emancipation era, what with all its sometimes quiet, sometimes relentless demands of social acceptability and of integration. African Americans wanted to be known as African-Americans(AA) rather than as ‘black’ or ‘nigger’ or ‘negro’ or ‘kunta kinte’ and went on ahead to don African bead ware, cowries, kaftans, fez and babanriga, buba and shokoto considered un-American by mainstream white community. Their coiffure was either the corn row, the dreadlocks or even today’s popular braids. Their intellectuals and notable historians at NAACP meetings made African beauty relevant by referring to notable African women such as Queen Amina of Nigeria, Queen Idia of Benin Kingdom; Queen Cleopatra, Nefetari and Nefertiti-wives to Kings Ramses and Akhenaton respectively of Egypt. This was some of what the African American did to define their identity, nationality, style and essence in a country that mostly saw them as underdogs and relegated them to the backwaters of civilization. It must also be relevant at this point to point it heretofore that it was almost at this point that that intellectual warfare between Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal and Wole Soyinka raged. While Senghor did all he could to devalue the French colonial policy of ‘Assimilation’ and restore the dignity of that blackness that a revised ‘Association’ tried to whitewash with his Negritude philosophy, elegantly and vigorously enunciated in ‘Black Orpheus’, Soyinka asserted in a different podium that a tiger had no need to proclaim its ‘tigritude’, that if there was something inherently enduring in black consciousness, it would ultimately withstand whatever imperial attack it encountered. At this point therefore, I dare say that with the cultural and identity crisis facing the average Nigerian lady today, the ghost of that cultural backlash that was produced from that intellectual dogfight is yet to be exorcised.

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