Why in swel­ter­ing heat they wear win­ter clothes

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - KHAYA KOKO [email protected]

IN DECEMBER 2016, Tshepo Mako­bela went to visit his pa­ter­nal homestead in Bochum, Lim­popo, dur­ing the small town’s hottest pe­riod – but found young black women dressed warmly and cov­ered up.

As some­one who was from Katle­hong in Ekurhu­leni, the sight of young women dressed in win­ter cloth­ing dur­ing sum­mer shocked him to a point where he even­tu­ally asked them why this was the case.

“The young women told me they cov­ered up in sum­mer in or­der to gain a lighter com­plex­ion for them to be able to at­tract guys from Gaut­eng like me, who come to Lim­popo dur­ing the December hol­i­days,” Mako­bela told The Star.

“I IM­ME­DI­ATELY be­came shocked at the lengths women would go to at­tract men, es­pe­cially be­cause I had heard about bleach­ing and all these skin-light­en­ing creams that were used to gain lighter com­plex­ions.”

And, just like that, a light bulb went on in Tshepo Mako­bela’s mind, which led to his dis­tinc­tion-awarded Mas­ter’s the­sis from the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg (UJ), Per­cep­tions of Black Men in Katle­hong about Fe­male Yel­low Bones: A Case Study.

It is an in­ter­est­ing 133-page aca­demic study, which lu­cidly traces the ori­gins of in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plexes among black peo­ple as a di­rect re­sult of colo­nial­ism and its re­pres­sive spawn apartheid, while also delv­ing into in­tri­cate con­cepts such as colourism and pa­tri­archy.

Mako­bela in­ter­viewed 18 young males from his home­town of Katle­hong, aged be­tween 18 and 26, for what he called his qual­i­ta­tive study in or­der to “de­scribe, un­der­stand and ex­plain hu­man be­hav­iour”.

He said he se­lected par­tic­i­pants who ei­ther are or were in ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships with light-skinned women.

The re­sponses from the par­tic­i­pants were var­ied and in­ter­est­ing, in­clud­ing one from a 23-year-old street ven­dor, who said he reg­u­larly re­cited mini poems when­ever he en­coun­tered a “yel­low bone” in the street.

“You know, say­ing: ‘Ey bathi veties and lemonies (hello light one like le­mon cream) yel­low bone, mn­tana ugeza ngo bisi ug­co­bisa nge botoro (the one who baths with milk and mois­turises with but­ter),’” is the poem the street ven­dor is said to re­cite.

Oth­ers read­ily ad­mit that so­ci­etal norms in­flu­ence their views on women’s skin colour, with a 20-year-old foot­baller say­ing: “When­ever I see a light-skinned woman, I think she is pretty without look­ing at other fea­tures. But that’s what has been cus­tomised in my mind.

“That’s what has been drilled ac­cord­ing to so­ci­ety, ac­cord­ing to what I see in the me­dia.”

There are large sec­tions within the study which fo­cuse on the neg­a­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tions of dark-skinned women in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, which Mako­bela says causes in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plexes among women of a darker hue.

Asked why he chose the term “yel­low bone”, which is largely seen to be deroga­tory, Mako­bela said it was to ap­peal to peo­ple whom he wanted to en­gage with his study.

“If I had used colourism, the study would have been elit­ist and re­mained within aca­demic cir­cles. That’s not what I want.”

He ad­mit­ted that this was far from be­ing a com­plete anal­y­sis as the sam­ple and ge­o­graph­i­cal size was too small, but hoped to ex­pand on it in the fu­ture.

The link to the full the­sis is pub­licly avail­able at Mako­bela’s LinkedIn pro­file, as well as on UJ’s web­site.


TSHEPO Mako­bela, stu­dent at Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg, has based his the­sis on the per­cep­tion of black men in Katle­hong about fe­male “yel­low bones”. African News Agency (ANA)

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