Growing up, a little girl called Susannah Brighter was considered the prettiest in all those stretch of estates – from Nairobi West shopping centre.
Of course these were those long gone years, when weather was fair in predictability.
Hot in Jan and Feb, long rains starting March, heavy in April, muddy early May turning to cool June; chilly July, gray August, sunshine in September, cold October, neutral November …
And Who-Gives-A-Damn about the Weather in December, when it is holiday time galore?
As far as I could tell in later years, the only reason Little Miss Brighter was considered very pretty by us young Africans was because she was a ‘half caste’ girl – plus her white English mum invited us to their rather posh house in South C on Sunday afternoons – and fed us on milk, cookies and muffins.
The ‘Light is alright!’ mentality went on through most of our primary school years in the estate.
Maria was Ethiopian, Angel was light Swahili, Wanjiku was a very ‘yellow yellow’ Agikuyu girl.
But in school, as the lads hit adolescence, something shifted ‘funda-mendally.’
Instead of brown Roda wearing the tiara of ‘hottest’ girl in class, the title was now split between chocolate-coloured Beverly (who had big boobs) and Paula, who had the big bum, and was as black as a moonless night.
And that trend continued throughout high school, as boys became young men, with specific beauty preferences that go well beyond skin complexion.
I was reminded of those long ago girls and ladies as I watched a TV programme earlier in the week.
The KTN Lifestyle panel consisted of the hostess, and a bunch of darker toned African ladies re-living the ‘colourism trauma’ of their childhood; and it reminded me of the time our black panther Lupita Nyong’o told Vogue that, growing up in Kenya, she didn’t know she was beautiful.
Look, I personally happen to think Kenya has a much bigger bunch of rotten bananas for our youth to be worrying about, other than the Western nonsense they pick up on the Internet.
National debt repayment, mega corruption, huge youth unemployment, shilling killing inflation!
But I decided to do an honest ‘manly’ reflection on my past serious lasses over the last two decades (from 1999 to now) to gauge my guilt – in as far as ‘colourism’ is concerned.
My college girlfriend was quite light, my first work girlfriend was silky black (till she glistened), then I dated a dirty brown (in colour, not behaviour) Kamba, married a woman who was truly multi-racial – and now it’s all perfect chocolate when it comes to taste.
There is a colleague whose skin is so darkly beautiful it actually lights up all her other features.
In other words, I get it why so many mzungus go crazy over tall, thin, very black women; in the same way I get it why so many guys from the Lakeside love short, hot, heavy set ladies from Nyeri and ‘Kia-Boo.’
What I don’t get is the following.
Why skin colour, let alone a condition like albinism, should blind anyone to the rest of what they are. Skin is like a newspaper wrapper around a kilo of meat. You can’t eat the news off the page, however sweet.
As you ponder that #KisiiProverb, allow me to recall a ‘racist incident’ in Surabaya, 3 years ago.
We were at some dance culture arena, and at some point, the host asked a whole lot of 6 and 7 year old performers to come off stage and choose someone to help them sing MJ’s ‘We Are The World.’
To the host’s embarrassment, the mzungus were selected first, then fellow Asians, with the forlorn Indonesian kids reluctantly ‘choosing’ us left over miros.
Yet I noticed, in the arena, that the dancing Asian young women most wanted to groove with us.
All I am left with, night after night for the last decade, is a plaintive wail at the moonlight.
‘Ooo Michael, why did you have to bleach, dye-and-die?’
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