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Women's Beauty The African Connection
The ‘butt’ is one part of the human anatomy that is misunderstood. Women feel it more because of sexism.
Entertainers such as Ini Edo, the Nigerian actress, Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez do not care. They define their own beauty and are totally confident in their skin.
Outside that, the butt is usually an object of derision because most of the attention is on hair and eyes as measurements of beauty. They are in our face. They can be examined closely without violating someone’s privacy.
In New York, buttocks, or ‘the butt’ is behind closed doors most of the time because of harsh winters. Come summer, it is visible in shorts, jeans and dresses and that is when there is a never ending comedy about it.
There is name calling. Men bump their chests after an Oscar winning comment about the state or size of the female butt.
Women in the Victorian era (1837-1901) knew the secret of the butt. It made clothes feel at home, made a woman elegant. That is why their maids helped them with butt enhancement accoutrement such as the crinoline. Their dresses swayed like swans when they were on the floor dancing the waltz with princes, earls and lords.
Functions of the Human Anatomy
Nature is a genius. Every part of the human body has a function. We use buttocks for seating.
‘Please be seated’, means put your butt on a chair. You feel comfortable because that part of the human body is padded.
‘Please be seated’ also applies to the toilet. We eat, go to the toilet and eat again. It is called life. We end up in the hospital with all kinds of tubes wired to the body when this cycle breaks down.
The butt makes it possible for us to sit down and eat and also sit down and do our business. Poor Kevin Hart. He might be the flavour of the year with Think Like A Man Too, but his character was stuck on a toilet seat in the movie Soul Plane.
Bringing up Kids
Mothers in Africa and other parts of the world carry children on their back so that they can multi-task: carry water on their heads, cook or do laundry while taking care of kids.
In fact, they do not carry them on the back. The child is strapped on the mother’s back but it sits on her buttocks. Without them, the child will slide down.
One two three, the child is asleep because of the warmth from the buttocks and the mother’s solid back the child uses as a pillow. It is called ukubeletha in the Zulu language. This term is also used for giving birth. They say usezobeletha, meaning the pregnant woman will give birth very soon.
Object of beauty
I would hesitate to initiate this kind of debate in Africa, because it is a given that the butt is an object of beauty. The United States, South America and the Caribbean also feel the same way because of all the Africans that landed in these parts in chains.
North America and Europe are another matter, where the emphasis is on eye and hair colour. Maybe I’m wrong. There are children of African descent in these continents that come back from school crying because somebody said their butt is too big.
Traditional African Beauty
The prominence of the butt in Nigerian movies indicates that Africa still regards it as an object of beauty. A favourite line is when characters say, ‘I use what I got to get what I want.’ They laugh and grab their front and back.
Women were revered in African societies. Making a move on a woman needed certain artistry. Make that a way of words. Fathers and brothers taught younger men how to state their case and appreciate a woman’s body, not in a denigrating way.
Traditionally, the people called amaZulu, who live in South Africa described a beautiful woman as black, had generous legs to grip the soil of her ancestors and had a noticeable butt. If they were from the royal family, they would have their own praise poetry which includes this body part.
The butt in Music Appreciation
People dance with the whole body in Africa. It is more interpretation than dance. The drum says something that needs some part of the body to respond. In the movie Dance With Me, Rafael (Chayanne) could not believe it that Vanessa Williams’ character was dancing without music.
The club scene in Nigerian movies takes extreme proportions but the way those girls dance is based on traditional dance. I do not know what it is called because I’m an outsider, but moving the feet and buttocks, for both men and women, is an important element in Nigerian traditional dance.
Rap and Hip Hop Magazines
Rap and hip hop videos continue to be criticised for their portrayal of women. Such images also feature prominently in magazines that cater to this music, such as Vibe and XXL.
What is overlooked though is that they define black youth’s reality, what they regard as a beautiful young woman. Beauty is passed down consciously and unconsciously. Children growing up in Tibet love their national costumes because they see them all the time.
Boys who love the black woman’s body do it unconsciously. Most of their grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters and other older women who nurtured them have a particular female shape which includes the butt.
There is nothing like a big and small butt. It all depends on who is talking. I grew up with older women lamenting a small butt. ‘Poor thing. It will be hard to get a husband.’
Measuring or de-measuring the butt goes against the Creator’s intention. The butt should be seen in the context of the whole body. Most body parts are twins. Two eyes. Two hands. Two arms. Two pads for the butt.
The butt is a sister to the thighs or curves. They meet at the waist. It is a beautiful combination and the essence of a woman.
We tend to miss that because the woman’s body is now arranged like supermarket aisles, with the breasts, eyes and hair nearest to the cashier and women spend serious money on these.
Models and the Runway
Critics point fingers at the fashion industry for unrealistic images of women, thin and look like electricity poles. It is not intentional, just pure economics. Fashion designers spend a lot of money in showcasing their clothes on Milan and London runways.
It is cheaper for them to have two outfits from a metre of fabric. Remember the new collection might have day wear, beach wear and evening wear. Fashion designers therefore want 10 metres of fabric to have air miles, or runway miles. That is why they use little girls or women with little girls’ bodies.
The era of the butt
The butt, in the year of the Lord 2014 seems to have been resurrected in North America. There are now advertisements promising a firmer butt.