Looking at the Brown Skinned Girl

Looking at the Brown Skinned Girl

Ongezwa Shosha reviews a doc that resonates

Who is deemed beautiful? What features should they have? The complex concept of skin colour as a beauty standard is much questioned yet still very dominant as a determiner of what is beautiful. With integration of brown skinned women in Hollywood movies and media, the concept of skin complexion is challenged as a normative standard of beauty.

In Brown Skinned Girl director Mona-Lisa Msime together with Monde Kawana and Constance Chiwaula share their stories of growing up with dark skin. With society’s perception of beauty as being fair skinned, they found themselves battling with low self esteem, often being called racist names and never fitting the accepted category of beautiful.

The concept of brown skin as not being beautiful is pervasive and stems back to pre-colonial times. Children with dark skin have difficulty appreciating their skin and battle with the challenge of feeling different, not beautiful and being teased. As a young woman with brown skin, I can relate to this struggle of grasping how beautiful brown skin is, even though told by my parents that it is gold. As a child growing up being the darker one, being called ikwerekwere, and never referred to as beautiful, I understand how that rips away confidence from the young self.

This documentary shows all the hardships of growing up with a brown skin and how long it takes to gain confidence as a woman. It is empowering and motivates brown skinned girls to not let anybody bring them down and to see themselves for who they are. With colourism determining standards of beauty even among black people, the film speaks to the present times where we are embracing, celebrating and reclaiming our blackness. It is important that analyse and destabilise the very thoughts and attitudes that were instilled and that we internalised about what it means to be black and beautiful. In redefining and dismantling the dominant conceptualisation of beauty, we need to embrace our blackness and that means celebrating and flaunting our brown skins with pride.

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