Caribbean Journal of Philosophy, Vol 6, No 1 (2014)

Skin Bleaching and the Question of Identity of Black Zimbabweans: An Afrocentric Critique

Dennis MASAKA, Munamato CHEMBURU



The purpose of this paper is to discuss the extent to which the phenomenon of skin bleaching in Zimbabwe has been influenced by the colonisers’ objective to degrade the black skin while at the same time elevating the aesthetic value of the white skin and culture to the lofty status of the ideal that every race ought to aspire to achieve and match (Tembo 2010, 19). For Street, Gaska, Lewis and Wilson (2014, 52), ‘skin bleaching is the use of creams, gels, or soaps to lighten the skin and is known to cause a number of injuries, many of which are potentially life-threatening.’ For the purpose of this study, we accept Street, Gaska, Lewis and Wilson’s (2014, 52) understanding of skin bleaching but we add that in the context of the colonised world, it is an outcome of the colonial experience that has fostered psychological injuries to the colonised people that have led them to aspire to be like their colonisers in regard to skin colour and cultural values. In this regard, we are in agreement with Robinson (2011) that skin bleaching is a relic of colonialism.

Grounded on the theoretical framework of Afrocentricity, the present paper argues that the de-centering and dislocation that the indigenous people of Zimbabwe have suffered at the hands of the colonisers can be remedied through adopting an Afrocentric stance that enables them to regain confidence in regard to who they are. The paper focuses on the phenomenon of skin bleaching and how it impacts on the question of identity. Despite the ban of these skin damaging cosmetics in Zimbabwe, their use has become widespread. The paper proceeds to argue a case for the restoration of the agency of the indigenous people of Zimbabwe in understanding beauty in the context of a pluriverse and not a universe .

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