Colorism in the East African film industry

I grew up in the early 2000s listening to my favorite American singer Brandy plus Nameless, Wahu, Kleptomaniax and Major,my best Kenyan artists. It was in this time that the national wide TV station KBC was the only hot thing ruling the analog waves in Kenya.

The American TV programmes; One on Oneand My Wife and Kids, were the shows i watched before being ‘shooed’ to bed or worse being threatened to bed by the adults in the house.

American and Mexican shows were popular in those days unlike today. All you could see in the screen were Europeans and people from mixed races,very few local programmes were aired like Tausi, Generations, Vioja Mahakamani and Vitimbi.

I grew up wondering if people like me existed anywhere else than in Africa.

The years after 2008, there was more inclusion of African women into Film industries of America, Europe and Asia due to the campaign against racism.

Here in Africa, we are majorly black but there was and still is favoritism towards lighter skin shades, but that is gradually changing due to the influence of ‘melanin’ appreciation rocking other continents.

You could find that in the early 2000 films, in an African-American family the father is darker in shade than the woman and the same is to the children; the girl has a lighter shade than the boy.

Does this mean that it is OK for men to be black but women to have a shade lighter than the men’s?

Programmes that featured all family members having a darker shade of melanin were rare.

This form of visual programming installed a message to darker shades of melanin in women that being lighter is right. This led to a rise in bleaching among black African women.

Very few films show inclusion of all African skin shades.

Kenyan film industries has also tried in its own way to keep balance between the darker and lighter shades of African skin by dishing out major roles that were once preserved for lighter shades to darker actors and actresses (like in the Kenyan series This is Life and the movie Nairobi Half-life)

A propagated lie is still doing rounds in the film industries where single parenthood is featured. More than 50% of movies or series involving an African single parent has the children or child being mixed race.

While this notion is not totally wrong, what makes it wrong is the anomaly of not seeing more children of darker shades playing a role in the single parent families.

Although darker shades of African skin have been highly favored in fashion shows, in music films this is not true. African music videos,majorly Tanzanian Bongo, has its scales tipped towards Asian, White and Mixed race women . It is quiet ironic to have a music video about African queen featuring whites and Asians only. Many video vixens are of lighter skin shades too, showing how far the exclusion of darker skin shades has reached.

Due to the visual favoritism of lighter skin shades, darker African shades have been plagued with low self-esteem.

Not only in films but in the make-up world of ponds, foundations and lipsticks. Make-up has been primarily based on white, Asian and lighter skin shades until recently when companies changed their manufacturing procedures to include darker skin shade beauty products thanks to the Black Movement.

Darker shades of African skin do not need blush since the African skin glows against the sun, it reflects the sun on its surface no wonder in fluorescent light the face glitters appearing ghost-like in screens.

Darker colors of lipstick blend well with dark African skin compared to luminous colors. Every shade has its own preference in color of lipstick, foundation or ponds.

The African continent inhabitants should realise that what makes us unique is the different shades of brown. It gives us more diversity than any other continent. Darker shades of melanin are not inferior to the lighter shades. We are all equal despite the race, for our blood is red and the skeletal structure the same. It begins with us.


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