The default beauty standard is unAfrican. It is a standard that has built a multibillion-dollar industry in bleaching creams used globally across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe.
The world of beauty has been dominated by a Eurocentric aesthetic for decades. One of the legacies of enslavement and colonialism is beauty ideals that move people as far as possible from their indigenous skin, hair, tone, voice, and features. Dr. Yaba Blay, a visionary scholar has long advocated and argued for a more structural approach that requires the dismantling of white supremacy, and its default narrative that the beauty standard is not African, does not look Black, and must be as close to white as possible.
The work of The Nyamal Group explores healing through beauty via workshops, dialogues, and campaigns on the Continent. Led by Nyamal Tutdeal, a Ghanaian dweller of South Sudanese origin, her organization explores conflict resolution connected to our relationship with blackness and beauty, which can shape how we see ourselves, and requires healing.
It may be strange to attach the word healing to the world of beauty and blackness, but it’s not. There is a legacy of trauma connected to beauty and blackness. It is trauma from navigating a world that consistently considers your particular Blackness as other, ugly, less than, and undesirable.
We are shaped by a language of whiteness that has created a false narrative of Africa and Africans as inferior. This narrative has a legacy that manifests in how so many Africans move, lead and work. This healing is a balm for beauty, blackness, and building our future.
This healing matters for Africans and Africa.