My daughter happens to be one of the most talented bloggers I know. I look up to her writing and I liked this one so much I thought I'd steal it from her. For more, take the time to visit her blog: www.thatafricankid.tumblr.com
So I found this ancient treasure (not kidding, it falls apart even more with every page I turn) in a charity shop while waiting for my friends to turn up for lunch (they’re both black fyi so I was in there a LONG time). Written in 1892, during the Victorian era (when Africa was nothing more than an exotic mystery to many*) by an English writer, I was intrigued, to say the least, how a white man came to tell a story of “the most beautiful of Zulu women”.
A sleepless night in, a cup of strong coffee and several chapters later, I was a little bemused when the narrator confessed: “I believe her blood was not all Zulu… her eyes were softer and larger than those of our people, her hair longer and less tightly curled, and her skin was lighter”, revealing that “the beauty of Nada was rather as is the beauty of the white people” as her grandfather was a white man.
Now this tells me two things (maybe more): (a) Just when you thought that beauty was JUST beauty, turns out there are TWO kinds of beauty, and one of them is superior (b) Nada is “fairest” in the land of the Zulus because she has Caucasian blood in her.
What troubles me is the fact that these are the opinions of a black, Zulu man- portrayed and presented to us by an English writer. In a world defined by “us” and “them”, is this how “they” really imagined us- somehow believing that “their” beauty was more beautiful than “ours”? It took reading a few chapters of this book to realise that perhaps the white Englishman, writing over a century ago, saw that the black man regarded himself as inferior even before the black man understood the implications of such seemingly harmless thoughts. And perhaps, if we will learn to accept beauty in a multitude of places, then people are just people; there is no “us”, no “them”, just people. Guard your minds, follow my blog (Hahaha that was a joke but it made me feel important) .
(*Africa remains nothing more than an exotic mystery to many today)