Still in mental chains

Effects of colonization on African fashion (wa-nyika blogspot photograph)

This year I find myself to be a tad obsessed with Christmas. I suppose it’s because I now have my own little family and it’s our first Christmas together, I feel more energized and motivated to indulge in all the commercial Christmas traps – a Santa Claus tablecloth and a fresh Christmas tree have already been checked on my Christmas list.

We even travelled to Rennes, France last week to visit a Christmas fair—a two-hour drive from where we currently live—to fatten our eyes on Christmas goodies. Both my husband and I, who are from what would be considered third world countries, are always in awe at the  roads, the pristine care of historic landmarks and the well managed vegetation along the roadways.

Somehow we always dedicate our car talk towards a comparative analysis of why and how things could be different in both our native lands. Last weekend was no different. In fact, it was probably even more topical for me as I had seen pictures of a representative from a system that once oppressed us mentally, socially and economically floating around my Facebook newsfeed. Much of what Great Britain and Europe look like are as a result of colonization in the Caribbean, but there are people who fail to draw the correlation between our society today and how colonization induced many of those damning realities for us.

Later on in the week, I listened to video shared by my Facebook friend Derwayne, who was trying to explain the bias in the approach to culture when our history was mainly written by those who held authority. He then made a brilliant comparative analysis on the political structures of today which mirror those of the monarchy, even though we may not have profiles of king and queen.

Effects of colonization on African fashion (wa-nyika blogspot photograph)

It may be difficult for some to associate colonization with the way we behave today, because some of us may not be informed about our history. It may also be embarrassing for some of us to be honest about our biases and so we prefer to mask them. Today I invite you to think of the clothes you wear, the brands you associate with and your idea of beauty standards and ask yourself the simple question ‘Why?’

Here are a few ways colonization affected and still affects the way we appreciate fashion and beauty standards.

  1. Skin tone discomfort – Bleaching of the skin is a way of life for some people, who feel inferior because of the colour of their skin.

It is because they subscribe to old European standards of what is beautiful and what is acceptable. I have had one person tell me she disliked her black skin very much and when I asked why, her answer was that it was ugly.

  1. Cultural loyalty – Much of our culture was replaced with British culture and we were taught that our culture was ‘uncivilized’. If you examine local designers, a lot of them have a Eurocentric base; few take pride in Afrocentric, Asiacentric and Indigenous designs as they are seen as being ‘too cultural’ for everyday use. We should question whether our views are because of personal taste or if we are being flat-out biased.
  2. Whitewashed fashion association – It is much easier for a designer to be accepted locally once he or she has gotten foreign approval. The fashion industries overseas were able to kick start themselves early and develop, so we have to ask why we need the validation of the predominately white fashion industry to accept our brands and designers.

While these may seem insignificant to some, we have to ask ourselves what our true economic potential could have been if we had complete control over our identity and there was no bias as regards how fashion is consumed, respected and appreciated.


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