Fatten Her Up!

2014-11-25 15:08

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If the Oprah Winfrey Network had an illegitimate love child while on holiday in Nigeria, it would be EbonyLife TV. The new DStv channel features everything from reality and talk shows, to drama, teleshopping and news.

My first encounter with the channel came on a boring Saturday afternoon when I came across a show titled Fattening Room. Intrigued by the title, I proceeded to watch.

Needless to say, the show offers exactly what it says on the tin. In this episode, a group of women from across the continent began their journey at what seems like a feeding camp.

Set in Nigeria, the show is centred around the African notion that bigger women are more beautiful. Through various cultural experiences, the women are fed large amounts of food, massaged and made to sleep for long periods of time to increase their weight and become bigger.

The “fattening room” is a long-standing tradition of the Efik people of Calabar. It’s a process seen as a way of preparing young women for womanhood and marriage.

It involves various beauty treatments that include covering the body with a native chalk that is said to help shape it and help distribute the fat in “all the right places”.

Standards of beauty

As much as the contestants’ participation comes down to personal choice, isn’t the concept of a fattening room just as questionable as the Western act of starving oneself?

Surely, stretching the body beyond its barriers is harmful to your health? For what real purpose? In the hopes of become the ideal women in the eyes of a man?

Another interesting aspect of the show is that is has a white contestant. Sally is a South African who is working in Boston in the US as a global marketing manager for a technology start-up company.

At first glance, it seems strange to see a white woman exploring such African traditions, especially considering the contrasts between Western beauty norms and African beauty norms.

She says her participation is derived from wanting to explore another African country, experience another culture, and learn more about herself and her character. But what is she really trying to achieve?

For Africans, by Africans

Despite Fattening Room’s questionable endorsement of women striving for an unhealthy standard of beauty, EbonyLife TV is a breath of fresh air.

With its variety of lifestyle shows, it has provided a platform for stories that are about Africans, for Africans, by Africans – all tied together with some Nigerian flair.

Although the South African market has become accustomed to Nollywood, EbonyLife brings a completely different experience. For the average South African, the channel shows an alternative view of Nigerian TV and life.

Most of the channel’s offerings seem to be aimed at a female audience with shows that reflect an enriched perspective on the various aspects of African life.

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