MADE OF BLACK: Style or Slogan

Posted: January 2, 2015 in Articles, EZEAMALUKWUO SPEAKS 1, INSIDE NIGERIA
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Guinness Made of Black; photo courtesy of guiness google

Guinness Made of Black; photo courtesy of google

by Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo

It was a fine harmattan evening with bright stars upon a clear sky. On my table, a bottle of Guinness beer –the bottle chilled and dripping of sweat, or ice or whatever the evening has in store for me; which was not looking so good. I sat in this fancy beer parlour, trying so hard to enjoy my overpriced beer. My team was losing, and my mind was going gaga. Externaly; I was an image of solitude, internally; I was breaking into multiple jagged pieces of broken bottle. I was trying hard to ignore the painful taunting of an opponent fan. He was loud, and he was also painfully gifted in the art of taunting, I just had to give it to him. Just then, the Guinness advertisement of ‘Made of Black’ appeared on the tele. I don’t know if it was for want of escape or the need for enlightenment, but something in me was stirred. I was forced to start a conversation with my jeering neighbour, who as it appeared was skilled in other areas besides taunting. We had a very interesting conversation about what Guinness meant by “Made of Black” and what being black was really all about, but I must conclude that besides the commercial gains to be made by Guinness from the advertisement, we both ended up being more confused about the notion: “Made of Black”.

Made of Black. What does it really mean to be black, to think black, rep black, act black in this 21st century of bleaching creams and Brazilian hairs…in this age of bimbos and bambinos. I saw in the advertisement that black is an attitude, and I must ask which kind of attitude? Is it positive or negative?

In my NYSC days while I was serving in one beautiful village in South South Nigeria, I met all sorts of artistic local hairstyles and cosmetics. And I fell in love with them, and with the women who wore them. But I now know that I was all alone in my love affair. One particular incident confirmed my solitary-ness. A young village girl in my compound had just plaited one of those beautiful and artistic hairstyle, and when I saw her, I loved it, and I told her in no little way. She thanked me, and left. Less than an hour later, a guy in that compound saw her, and told her that her african-styled-hair made her to look like a maid. I overheard that, and I came out of my room and rebuked the guy and told the girl that her hair was beautiful and unique. By evening time, I saw the girl wearing a new, different and weavon-fixed hair.

Some would say that this is just an isolated event, but I have rolled with women to understand that this is a norm among them. My ex girlfriend nearly fought me one day because I wanted to see her natural hair. She was beautiful and fair, the kind that turns heads everywhere she goes. Yet in all her beauty lies this unquenchable desire to makeup for the blackness in her blood. That day, she had just removed the wig on her hair and was in the process of putting it on back when I entered the room. I being my inquisitive self wanted to see the beautiful damsel in her natural state, but the damsel was indeed distressed with her own self.

I have always ask african ladies especially those who are so ashamed of their hair, why they feel so uncomfortable with their short kinky hair but so completely at home with loads and loads of wigs and weavons. The answers have always ranged from excuses to downright foolishness.
This has left me with the belief that many black people are not comfortable with their morphology. Is it the case of whitening soaps, creams and bleaching toiletries, those ones are another case on their own.

Another incident that informed the inferiority complex of many dark faired folks especially women took place sometime last year. I was in a park to board a bus one very hot afternoon, the weather was dangerously hot, and my queue was longer than the anaconda. I was contemplating cancelling my journey before my fairly black skin becomes baked cake, when this much more dangerously hot ebony chic came and sat on a bench near my queue. My conflict with the weather disappeared that instance. I was no longer worried about the queue, in fact I became worried that the line was moving too fast. I didn’t speak to the girl, I only wrote a quick poem there in my head, and secretly blessed her for the solace she gave me. I told this story later to a female friend of mine without mentioning the colour of the girl. It was she who brought the colour up, when she said that she believed that the girl was light skinned. I had never quite appreciated the fixation and flirtation with light skin before, but that day it dawned on me.

Women being women crave attention and fair or bright skin calls out attention better than dark and dull skin. And I now know that this pressure for women to be fairer than snow white is mostly applied by men, men who deride darker girls. Black men are less affected by the need to lighten their skin colour than women are, but the attitude of many black men to blackness and black girls help in no small way to fuel the problem.

I feel that the problems of blackness is not just artificially made, but also self-sustained. The media we watch or listen to, images and stories we see and read have shaped our thinking over the years to despise black skin, kinky hair, blackness and many things associated with it.
You switch on the TV and all you see are women with hairs as long as River Nile and skin as bright as the sun’s reflection on a mirror. You open a beauty magazine and you are brainwashed by all that you see and all that you read. You go into a mosque and God becomes a foreigner, who has to be served better in a foreign tongue. You go into a church and what you see is heaven made of white and fair beings, and hell full of dark and depressed souls. These images can be tricky. Children playing Jesus and Satan, Student depicting Good and Evil, find themselves equating perfection with light skin and imperfection/ugliness with darker skin.

Some would argue that these are not really that important, but a look at Africa and African countries and communities, would show the big-brother adoration black africans give to people of fairer skin, be they Europeans or Chinese, Indians or Lebanese. It is the same; “I know you are much better than I can ever be.” How pathetic. In Nigeria today, made in Holland peak milk sells much more faster than its Nigerian counterpart even though it is more expensive. European and Arabic names have since surpassed the Native names in number and importance. Foreign accent is now seen as a measure of enlightenment and sophistication. The list goes on and on.

How can a people who are down and downtrodden, rise to develop and better themselves when they have lost all sense of pride and purpose, all sense of dignity and duty, innovation and inspiration. Everything Black is gradually fading away, from religion, to language, from names to traditions, hair style down to skin colour etc.

So I ask again, what is made of black? What does Black being an attitude mean? What does it mean to be black, think black, act black, rep black in today’s world of bleach and Brazilian hair?

Okoye Chukwudi writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You may reach him on twitter @Mr_Charlze

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and does not necessary represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

  1. Nancee says:

    Nice write-up Solar. I can imagine how a sweating bottle of guiness inspired this piece. In favour of your opinion that we Africans bought the notion that white is more beautiful, I think it comes with being insatiable (general human factor). If we can be satisfied with who we are, it will go a long way in changing the ‘white is the in-thing’ mentality. More especially on the issue of hair, many people prefer the hair of an Indian, Brazillian, Chinese etc to their own kinky hair because they are not content with their kinky African hair. Of course, it’s silkier, longer, shinier, bla, bla, bla but it not yours. However, few have arisen and taken it upon themselves to make African hair more desirable and to this course, I give my full support.

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      I agree with you my Sister. The wite is the in-thing syndrome of most Nigerians, especially our ladies which majority of them induge in without even knowing sometimes drives me crazy. I just don’t know what our fashion designers and stylishers do. Why can’t they take that which is african and modernise it, must we do away completely with what is ours? I just don’t understand the slave mentality of many black people really.

  2. chime221 says:

    In one of my poems, A Song For Anekeachime, the persona sings some choruses appraising the beauty in being made of black (I think Guiness should see that poem…lol):

    “I’m the son of Anekeachime
    Black is what I am,
    Innocent and natural.
    I’m black from hair to toe
    I’m the son of my father, and his father
    Before him. We are black”

    “I am black in colour and memory
    Not whitewashed, not enslaved
    Nor packed in a white bottle.
    I’ve experienced light and darkness
    None is superior: White or black
    Each is peculiar to its own soil”

    “I am black! And proudly so
    Polished pure coal black,
    What is wrong with that?
    My beauty is in me!
    My blood flows in black veins
    It cannot be whitewashed”

    “I am black, coal coloured skin,
    The black spot in the eyes,
    An open door, countless windows.”
    My good man, your write-up captures the rationale behind the composing of that poetic praise song.
    The same also informed the sentiments of Leopold Senghor and his compatriots on Negritude.
    It’s unfortunate, however that a handful of our black people today can never come out of the dellusion that white/fair is better than black.

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      The thing tire me no be smallooO. Imagine a woman in trying to get me to buuy some of her goods, told me of how she ordered this juice from USA, that snacks from Belgium and so on and so forth. As in I was forced to ask her which one did she order from Nigeria, because her faith in foreign superiority was just too depressing for comfort. We; the ones who are concerned about the loss of our Blackness should never cease to speak up voraciously on this madness.

      And yes, I love that your poem with passion, my good man.

  3. Echebi says:

    A great write Ezeamalukwuo, I meela.
    Most of my fellow black people have blatantly refused to use the thinking faculty bestowed upon them by nature. If only they’ll spend 2 minutes to think about their anxieties and decisions, they will go a long way towards solving their identity crisis. Why do I need a fair skin? What is wrong with my hair? Can most Britons pronounce a single word of my language correctly? What really defines me, what people think about me or what I think of myself? Etc. These are questions that when answered will help one become less confused about his/her person.

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      My Brother the work ahead for any true African no be here. We need Education, proper education not this cut and join style of education we have here. Africans need to be taught the pride in being themselves. We need an african synod to discuss this jesus is white and devil is black thing, we need a jihad to combat this Islam is Arabic oriented, we need a serious reorientation to see ourselves not as slaves and sub-humans but as real men whose collective destiny lies solely in their hands.

  4. Chris Tilewa says:

    One effect the Guinness’ Made of Black commercial is having, asides promoting the brand, is restoring the pride in being black. Is it not fitting that the media that had demean the quality in black be used as tool to restore it. I think people’s attitude to their nature is getting better.

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      Do you really believe that Guiness made of Black is really having any impact on Black Mentality? Using musicians and entertainers who are as artificial as plastic can get to me is just going to achieve little, besides the fact that people will want to watch the advert…which inturn will make you to patronise them. Made of Black should have been an ideology, a movement, a way of life, a religion. And need serious intellectual input…and not just a body shaking on TV. Don’t you think.

  5. Sheyzznote says:

    Beautiful… Truth be told, our idelogies of who we are is not of confidence, but inferiority complex, and imitation. Originality is gone!

  6. Chris Tilewa says:

    Ezeamalukwuo, not all movement needs foot protests, creeds, or rife with grey and intellectual indications. Truth be told, messages that sink in our minds the most come from sometimes illarious and ‘chill-out’ mediums.

    And of wether the artistes used are artificial; well, that statement is not quite credible. And being made of black does not begin with the skin colour or hair texture, but a certain pride of being african. I don’t know where you are in, but here where i am, recently, a fair boy of nine made a painting of himself and tagged it ‘made of black’, other examples abound like that.

    But them we can’t put the weight of the whole ‘mentality change’ thing on one brand’s commercial.

  7. Ezeamalukwuo says:

    I must concede that you do have a point and that I do agree with it. But I feel that we should not get carried away by the things we see on Television and lose sight of things that are obtainable in reality. A lot of folks propagating made of Black don’t know a thing about being black, and some who know pour scorn on their blackness by the actions they take.

    I must not fail to admit that the work to be done in restoring faith and pride in Black-ness is much, more like a Long Walk to Freedom. Guiness in making this advert must also be commended, eventhough it is all for commercial purpose. Now the ball is on our court, we the negroes, intellectuals and lovers of our black heritage.

  8. timonize says:

    This is a very Nice piece, Mr Charlie.

    indeed, many blacks have taken black to be anything But authentic. it’s no wonder the whites take us same way.
    however, when white and bright is used to depict right and proper, it is not necessarily a derogatory black mentality thought. it’s the pattern of human psychological development. If I decide to buy a Dutch Peak milk and not the local variety, will it not be too hasty to presume that it’s cos of my low black self esteem? it may be cos the foreign variety offers better quality.

    I for one appreciate beauty. Be it foreign or Nigerian. Beautiful black hair, black skin or black apparel. I think a perchance for. one type (black or white ).or the other does not instructively signify a bias against the unpreferred. it may just be personal taste.

    But If truth must be said, the average black man must arise from the dirges of BLACK – IS – BAD and start to CONSCIOUSLY – I repeat:CONSCIOUSLY start to seek every possible avenue to promote BLACK and its virtues . Also, If we must buy the BLACK CONCEPT, it must be portrayed as modern and innovative, intelligent and readily acceptable.

    PS: I enjoy the bit of comic relief viz: your queue as long as anaconda. and the lady provided you solace to compose a poem. Somewhere this morning, I heard this line: LOVE AT FIRST RHYME. lolxx

    Tim Nwaobilo

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      I am quite short of words to pen down. If a black person prefers holland made peak milk even though it’s more expensive, because of its quality, I have no qualms, but you have to understand that the subjugation of black race has infiltrated every strata of our psyche that if we must uproot such mentality from our inner being, we must have to make do without some of the qualities we prefer. Black people don’t even trust themselves to make anything quality. It is so badt that rich people are now trying to buy things directly from abroad, how do you change this, you gas go back to that holland-made peak milk and other trivials issues like that. We need to make ours first before others, that’s the way forward.

  9. Anene Francis says:

    hmm I see we are slowly and unconsciously being carried away from the initial motive of promoting the black race as equally beautiful and prestigious as any other race to colour… Any mention of black is attributed to race. No na!
    * Black is a colour which so happen to ALSO mean a race. That I don’t like black shirt do not mean I dislike the black race. If na so oya everybody paint your house black to show you love the black race lol… Don’t get it twisted.
    Black is attributed to darkness and evil just as Red is attributed to danger. I see nothing wrong there. Let’s not bring race into it abeg.
    * True, inferiority complex have entered our bone marrow and must be expunged by enlightenment campaigns and mentality change. Puplic figures would go a long way in helping us here, since people take their lifestyle as icons to emulate.
    * And for the Guiness advert, I don’t think the intended message was referring to black as a race but if through it one can tap avenue to promote the black race, hey carry go!
    I second Nancee and Tim’s comments specially… Beautiful write up mr Solar. Keep it up

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