A CFBG.In case I’m coming out of a closet you’ve never heard of,it’s one I’ve been shoved into for much of my life:the black female stereotype. The one where you’re either labelled the angry black woman, mocked as a coconut or bartered as a handy token.
art director Jamala Johns described the CFBG as more than a singular type or a style but as an attitude or spirit that allows black women to enjoy the ‘freedom and exuberance of simple moments and pleasures’. Its archetypes include Solange Knowles, Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi, Janelle Monáe, Erykah Badu and Lupita Nyong’o. It is largely a US phenomenon, but I’ve started seeing it here, in the visual worlds of influencers like Kitsi Sebati, Sindiso Khumalo and Nonkululeko Phiri. It was born on social media platforms where black women finally became the editors of the magazines we’ve always wanted to read. With a hunger to share and consume, this content became easily accessible, along with alternative images of what black women can be and can do.
What I enjoy most about the identity is that it was created by and for us – but it’s not without its flaws. Some decry its shallowness and I’d have preferred it if the phrase read ‘carefree black woman’ but, as Jamala says, ‘This particular audience is equally exposed to content exploring identity, culture and history and its implications on them.There’s a clear reverence for the difficulties they might face but an equal focus on embracing the qualities that make them unique and beautiful. The idea also embodies not letting an outside gaze rule the way you express yourself.’ In a piece penned for Patricia Ekpo argues that‘the use of the identifier of“girl”rather than“woman”suggests that black women can and do exist in states of childlike happiness and joy.’ She says that it ‘does the work of combating historically rooted perceptions of black girls never truly being children because of automated roles of laborers and Mammies.’
Whether in floral headdresses, Afros or weaves,riding bikes or hanging out at music festivals, there is a comfort, confidence and happiness in these images that reinforce that black women are many things but, most importantly, we’re fully human too.