Marie Claire (South Africa) - - FILTER -

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.

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