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IKNOW my gram­mar isn’t al­ways per­fect, but heck, some things are as ob­vi­ous as the nose on your face. My grandpa used to be a stick­ler for it. He lived in coun­try Vic­to­ria and was al­ways call­ing ABC ra­dio to com­plain about its mis­pro­nun­ci­a­tions. His bug­bear was hour: It’s not owwere, it’s (h)our.

He died nearly nine years ago, but I still pic­ture him at the pearly gates giv­ing gram­mar lessons.

This doco opens with the line: There’s a story that’s never been told be­fore, the one writ­ten in the colours of the skin.

Grrr, be­fore is su­per­flu­ous, it makes sense just never been told. This rubbed me up the wrong way for the first five or so min­utes, as did the ob­vi­ous na­ture of their re­search.

Pen State Uni­ver­sity head of an­thro­pol­ogy Pro­fes­sor Nina Jablon­ski’s goal was to see if she could con­firm that skin colour is re­lated to sun­light . . . well, thanks, cap­tain ob­vi­ous.

Even­tu­ally though, this doco does stum­ble into in­ter­est­ing ground, talk­ing about why pig­men­ta­tion oc­curs.

It turns out, it’s all about fo­late, which is vi­tal in reproduction for men and women. The West once ac­cepted the the­ory that darker-skinned indi-

Skin sci­ence: Nina Jablon­ski. vid­u­als were not as in­tel­li­gent as white folk — an ab­hor­rent stance by to­day’s stan­dards. Turns out that white skin is a mu­tant of darker skin.

White skin de­vel­oped be­cause peo­ple needed vi­ta­min D, and when we mi­grated from Africa and set­tled in cooler cli­mates, we no longer needed in-built sun­screen to pro­tect us, so our skin be­came lighter.

Aus­tralia rates a big men­tion in this — it was an Aussie who re­alised the im­por­tance of fo­late in pre­vent­ing birth de­fects.

Not only does this doco try to un­cover the sci­ence be­hind pig­men­ta­tion, it also tries to break down the so­cial in­equal­i­ties sur­round­ing skin colour . . . a noble quest. And for that, I will for­give them their gram­mat­i­cal stum­ble. Skin Deep SBS One, 8.30pm

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