Artificial catch you
You be man or woman
Na you go catch am yourself
Na your money go do am for you
You go yellow pass yellow
You go catch moustache for face
You go get your double colour
Your yansh go black like coal
You self go think say you dey fine
Who say you fine?
The Nigerian Movie industry has actually come a long way. These days, one can actually enjoy watching African Magic (Yoruba), sometimes. Other times, the reasons why the industry still has a long way to go are very blatant. But, this article is not about the quality of the acting. Rather, it is about the actors (male and female) themselves. I have been toying with the idea of doing movie reviews for solely Yoruba movies lately. I find that these movies, outside the continuous allusion to the powerful effect of black magic in the lives of the characters, have plots that show some depth and the actors have their moments. But I digress.
You know the other outstanding feature of those movies. A large number of the actors have this weird skin colour. Is it a requirement to act in these movies that you have a skin colour that can’t be described? Then as if that is not enough, those artificial eyelashes and horrible make up that starkly contrast with dark knuckles that look like they have been intermittently dipped into burning coals just makes the thought of sitting down to watch the movie an utter waste of time. It is repulsive, and that is saying just the way it is. The interesting thing about Nigerian movies is the recycling of actors. It works like this – if a movie is released, and the lead actor put up a stellar performance, the next thirty to forty movies produced for the following period will feature that particular actor in the lead roles. This makes it easy to spot any physical changes in the appearance of the actor. So, when you see the already fair actresses getting transparent, and the dark ones begin to look like a rainbow, you are not surprised. I don’t know about the whole of Nollywood, but as far as the Yoruba movies are concerned, the actors – both male and female – are seriously bleaching their skins. If the WHO report that put the percentage of bleaching women at 77 had considered this portion of the population, they would probably realize that the percentage is higher, and that is the plain truth. They would also have realized that the bleaching population amongst men is also on the increase.
The young ones have caught the fever too. The first time I ever saw a lightening shower gel was when I was in the boarding house. It wasn’t common place though. At the university, however, it is very common place. A large population of girls uses these lightening shower gels with contents ranging from goat milk to whatever. As if that is not enough, there are lightening or whitening serums that may be mixed with the shower gels. I wonder how students can even afford them, ordinarily. Then there are these horrible creams that promise results in nine days. They always end in white – Snow white, Perfect white, Caro white. Then there are the other ones that end in ‘claire’ or describe themselves as body milk or toning lotions. There are different ways to go about it – there are drugs these days. It is just very sad how people have to go through hell just to look beautiful. The cosmetics companies have also caught the bug. They have realized that they are gradually losing their market to these bleaching creams and shower gels. What they have done, is to introduce lightening creams and shower gels. These days, when I go to the market, I don’t just pick up any jar of Vaseline or Jergens, because I might be picking up a lightening cream. I have to read carefully so I know that I have picked a mosturiser and nothing more.
The unfortunate part is that children have not been left out of it. I happened to be in a private tutorial for a particular period. And I noticed that every mother who happened to be bleaching was doing the same thing to their kids (female children). For God’s sake, these children were not even five yet. That is so wrong. It should be some form of child abuse. The signs were there – dark knuckles, indescribable skin colour, dark patches around the feet. It is so unfair. How is that child supposed to look when she is eighteen? The more unfortunate part is that some are in denial. You hear things like, ‘I am just toning’, ‘I am trying to even my colours’, ‘Bleaching is different from toning’, ‘I just tone to become slightly fairer’, ‘It depends on the cream you use, you should use a cream that works well with your skin’. Of course, some of these cosmetics companies are smart, for those in denial; they describe these creams as ‘toning body lotions’. But what does a toner really do? And why aren’t these creams toners? What about our celebrities and the crème de la crème? At least, they would have access to the more expensive and clinically tested and approved ones – still doesn’t mean it doesn’t have side effects.
The reasons are even more interesting – ‘What did you want me to do? I wasn’t getting the modeling jobs; they were always picking the fair girls’. Basically, it all boils down to some quest for a higher level of beauty or attractiveness that can only be attained if you are fair skinned. While the scholars have pointed out several causes like: colonial mentality, inferiority complex, the media, I just want to say that whether we like it or not, it has come to stay.
The next thing that must be done is serious regulation. The SON must be on its toes. Why is Africa a dumping ground for all these chemicals – hydroquinone, mercury etc. Why are these creams not required to undergo some testing? When I was growing up, every advertisement for cigarettes was usually followed by, ‘the federal ministry of health warns that smokers are liable to die young’. This is also a plea to Cosmetics Companies. Some of us actually don’t mind being black. We love to care for our skins. Is it possible that our own line of products will still be accessible? At least, we should still have baby lotions and Shea butter. I just pray it doesn’t get to that stage. This is my proposition, even with regulation, in the case of any advert there must always be warning of the possible side effects. The posters and bill boards are getting bolder. We need serious regulation as far as these things are concerned. The Federal Ministry of Health must work with the state ministries and regulatory bodies. If we pretend like this is no problem, then it would just be the Nigerian thing to do.