Dashiki Dialogues: Boity’s booty – Our new Saartjie moment

2014-02-23 10:00

Call me a party pooper, but I’ve chosen to read Boity’s booty parade as our latest Saartjie Baartman moment.

Ok, in case you have been living under a rock for the past week, let me bring you up to speed.

Actress Boitumelo Thulo, or Boity as she’s affectionately known, took part in Marie Claire’s latest Naked Issue, along with other celebrities.

The nude pictures were taken in aid of the Lunchbox Fund charity, which aims to feed 4?million destitute children.

However, the social-media explosion that followed highlights the nature of how pop culture consumes black female bodies as commodities.

It’s crucial to acknowledge Boity’s agency in the matter.

She says she “felt empowered because it allowed me to be comfortable with my body and who I am as a woman. The fact that it was done tastefully makes me feel even more confident.”

Some have argued that, for a change, a mainstream magazine that normally celebrates white female beauty has at last included a black form.

However, Boity’s is not the only black female body in the catalogue.

So it’s not her historic black skin but her posterior that caught the mostly male gaze.

This connects her paraded booty to Baartman.

We know from historic records that Baartman, who was exhibited in Europe for her large posterior and labia, told British abolitionists who tried to rescue her that she was in London of her own accord.

This convergence of their individual agency as women pursuing self-determination is complicated by the ways in which the female form exists in society.

Consider that this whirlwind happened days after we joined in on the weight shaming of Thandile Sunduza, chairperson of the arts and culture portfolio committee in Parliament.

She made the mistake of showing up on the red carpet at the state of the nation speech while fat and female.

Heavily pregnant, she wore an unflattering yellow dress, which earned her our casual misogyny.

The truth is, images are texts that occupy space independent of their makers.

This is to say, Boity and Marie Claire’s image might well have been conceived and created with good intentions, but it enters the world loaded with history and circumstance.

In a world struggling with gender justice, Boity’s nude parade demands a new grammar of publicly celebrating those parts of ourselves that were once despised.

It will not be an easy dashiki to dialogue with.

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