Shun ‘Bleached Girls’ Warn Karimojong Elders

The narrative of skin colour and beauty has for centuries provided fodder for creative imagination, even giving storylines to music and movie industries.

An entire negritude movement was born out of the self-consciousness of being black. It became a literary and ideological philosophy that celebrated blackness, African history, traditions and beliefs.

In the 1920s and 30s, black students and scholars mainly from French colonies kicked off the dust that opposed Western domination of Africa. Francophone African intellectuals, writers and politicians coalesced around Martinican poet Aime Cesaire and Leopold Sedar Senghor who later became President of Senegal to spread the negritude movement.
Form then great writers such as Richard Wright and Franz Fanon emerged.

A century later, elders in Karimojon region of Uganda, who have neither read nor watched a book or movie on negritudism, were preaching to young Africans on the importance of being proudly African.

The elders from Namalu Sub-County, Nakapiripit district in Karamoja were livid from the fact that beautiful Ugandan women were destroying their God given beauty by bleaching their skin.

Either through ignorance or stupidity, the elders argued, some women were too ashamed of their dark complexion and invested in skin bleaching creams.

The angry elders used a public forum to warn their sons and grandsons against marrying women who use skin lightening creams. Such women, they argued, were irresponsible, ill-mannered and badly brought up.

John Apalokol an elder and a resident of Tokora described as ‘disturbing,’ the increased and continued use of skin lightening creams among women in Karamoja: “What are you girls looking for when you bleach yourselves. You very beautiful in the way God created you but you destroy that by bleaching yourselves. I am sure some of my sons are here. Should you bring a bleached girl home for a wife, I will disown you and I will not contribute to your marriage,” he cautioned.

Mathew Lokol, also an elder, said a bleached woman is unfit to live in the Karimoja environment which involved tough activities like grazing and digging. He believes that light skinned women cannot cope with intense physical activity.

The elders’ warning compelled some light skinned girls and women to leave the meeting in fear.

Sarah Nakut, a mother, blamed the current high rate of bleaching to Western education, which she said has taught girls to copy bad cultures.

As the elders meeting ended, their audience went home with the age old narrative ringing in their minds. The bleaching and skin colouring debate will continue informing the literally and entertainment industry from Karamojong to New York City.

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