Wandered through the park, saw this and decided to snap a photo. Beautiful…
Wandered through the park, saw this and decided to snap a photo. Beautiful…
This is one of my short stories. It was entered into the Brit Writers Awards monthly competition back in January. Needless to say it didn’t win so I’m recording it here for viewing. I hope to be doing many more of my short stories & poems on video.
To be honest I’m not totally happy with the recording, I want to redo it. If anyone has any useful tips for improving it, let me know. Oh, and rate up if you like!
Indigenous Africans are members of the human species that never left the continent nowadays known as Africa. According to the Out-of-Africa theory (which says the 1st humans came about in Africa and different groups of them left to inhabit different landmasses over thousands of years), indigenous Africans are the most genetically diverse of all human groups. This means that despite the existence of different skin colours, hair textures, eye colours and the like in other parts of the world, they still possess more genetic diversity than everywhere else.
(However, it’s interesting to note that despite this, humans are one of the least genetically diverse organisms on the planet. There’s more diversity among a single troop of chimpanzees than in all 6.8billion humans alive today, including Africans! Furthermore, contrary to common logic, there is more genetic diversity between humans of the same ethnic group [eg. 2 Hadzabe] than between members of different ethnic groups [eg. 1 Hadza & 1 Lapp]!)
|Zulu men of South Africa, examples of what are typically thought of as “true Africans/ Negroes”|
Most people think they know what a “proper African” looks like: extremely dark blackish-brown skin, thick lips, wide-set nostrils and kinky hair. However, this idea is based on racist propaganda promulgated from the days of the TAST. Not the fact that such people exist, but the belief that those are the only true Africans is racist. What European slavers did back then was find those Africans who looked most different to themselves and dub them “true Africans/ Negroes”. Any African who possessed features that more closely resembled what they considered typical European was considered mixed (and by extension superior to “true Negroes”). This explains why Somalis for example are to this day considered Arab or mixed with Arab, despite the fact that most Somalis have no non-African admixture and will tell you so. This is also partially why the Kemetics (ancient Egyptians) are believed to be ‘white’, despite the fact that they drew themselves with dark red-brown skin and said they originated from Punt, which equates to the Horn of Africa – ie. the extreme East side of “sub-Saharan” Africa* (Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia & Eritrea).
In fact, in many cases you can very clearly see the differences between different African groups. And there are different groups. Note – some of these terms more accurately refer to linguistic groups, but pre-TAST it was usually the case that languages followed specific ethnicities:
AFRO-ASIATICS: Originally from East Africa (especially the Horn), they now inhabit much of the Middle East & North Africa too. It’s believed that their homeland is where the very first OOA migrants came, thus making them the ancestors of all non-African humans. This group includes the Kemetics (ancient Egyptians), original Arabs (more on this later), Afar (aka. Danakil), Somalis, Hausa, Berbers (which includes Tuaregs, Kabyles & Moors), Harla (aka. Harala), Hamer (aka. Hamar), and Beja.
|Rageh Omaar, Somali-British journalist|
|Ethiopian Hamer girl|
|Djiboutian women doing raks-al-sayf, traditional sword dance|
|Imuhagh (Tuareg) girl with decidedly non-afro hair|
NILOTES: Their language group, Nilotic, is a huge subgroup of the Nilo-Saharan language group. They mostly inhabit the Nile Valley in the Northeast, the African Great Lakes region in the East, and southwestern Ethiopia. They include the Maasai, Turkana, Luo, Samburu, Nuer, Dinka and Shilluk (aka. Chollo). Out of all Africans, these & the Niger-Congo people are the closest in looks to the “true Negro”.
|Salva Kiir Mayardit, 1st President of south Sudan|
|Sudanese model Angelique Deng. Personally I find her more attractive than Alek Wek|
NIGER-CONGO PEOPLE: This group is split into two main subgroups – Niger-Congo A & Niger-Congo B (aka. Bantu). Most modern Africans all over the continent speak a language in this group, because of the Bantu Expansion when Bantu-speaking people spread across the continent from what’s now the southwestern border between Cameroon & Nigeria. This expansion is believed to have begun in 1000BC. In this group are the Wolof/ Jollof, amaZulu, Akan (which includes Asante/ Ashanti, Akuapem, Fante & others), Bakongo (aka. Congolese), Ndi-Igbo, Yorubas, Bubi, Fulani (aka. Fula or Fulbe), Makua, Kikuyu, Shona, Nguni, Manden (which includes the Vai, Soninke, Dyula & Mandinka) and WaSwahili (despite their close cultural & linguistic ties with Arabs). Out of all Africans, these & the Nilotes are the closest in looks to the “true Negro”.
|Benin-born actor Djimon Hounsou|
|Woman of the Bororo people, a subgroup of Fulani|
|Tutsi man. Note: there’s disagreement as to whether Tutsis are Bantus or Nilotes. I classify them as Bantu|
|Gorgeous Ghanaian model Teiko Dornor|
Note there are Bantu languages spoken outside mainland Africa too: on the islands of Madagascar, Mayotte & the Comoros (off the Swahili coast, southeast Africa). These languages include the Comorian and Sabaki groups.
KHOISANS: Originating from East & Southern Africa, they now reside mostly in the South & Southwest. Their languages are famous for the click sounds. This group name is a fusion of 2 related groups, the pastoral Khoikhoi (used to be called Hottentots but this is now offensive) & the hunter-gatherer San (aka. Bushmen, also offensive). Nowadays they’re said to be the oldest human group, but that’s assuming better preservation of lineages (which they have) = greatest genetic diversity (which they might have) = genetically oldest, which has not been proven yet. Because of their eastern origins, it’s likely they also contributed to the gene pool of the first OOA migrants along with the Afro-Asiatics. They were mostly displaced by southward-heading Bantus during the Bantu Expansion, and many have mixed with them.
The Damara may be mixed (as they’re a Bantu people who speak Nama, a Khoisan language), or they could be among the first Bantu migrants to the Khoisans’ land. Anthropologists are still trying to work that out.
|Group of San adults & cute baby. Khoisanids in general have epicanthic eyefolds like most Easians & native Americans|
|More San women, plus child|
PYGMIES: This is a vague term as it really only means a group whose average adult height is less than 150cm. However in Central Africa, where they originate, there are specific terms for specific groups: Gyele, Efe, Mbuti (aka. Bambuti), Twa (aka. Abatwa or Ge-Sera), and Bayaka. In present-day Congo, Bantus possess pygmies as slaves.
|Baka dancers in Cameroon|
|Mbuti pygmy Ota Benga. He deserves his own post, but for now just read his story here|
|The big orange strip in the north is the Sahara desert. See Wikipedia for a more detailed explanation|
AUSTRONESIANS: technically not an indigenous African group but I’ve included them for completion’s sake. This is represented by the Malagasy people of Madagascar. The traditional story says Madagascar was uninhabited until Austronesians arrived on canoes around 1500-2000 years ago, with native Africans arriving later, but that is being contested and revised.
* Now about the term sub-Saharan Africa, which you may hear bantered around a lot nowadays. It sounds innocent and rooted in geography, but it’s another Eurocentric and unnecessarily divisive term, a synonym for “black Africa”. It claims to demarcate a clear racial distinction between North Africa (currently inhabited by Africanised foreigners &/or their mixed descendants) and the rest of the continent. It also claims the desert somehow isolated ‘blacks’ from the rest of the world (the Saharan barrier theory, or as I call it “true Negroes are scared of sand”). It’s inaccurate and misleading for at least these reasons:
1- There was once a time when the Sahara desert itself didn’t exist. It used to be forestland but over centuries became arid sand and spread further south, some of which the Kemetics & Nubians witnessed in their lifetimes.
2- Even after the desert came to exist Africans didn’t consider it a big deal. There were and still are native Africans living there (eg. Tuareg, Gnawa), and other groups who’ve travelled and done trade through it like any other piece of land. That’s why the African Union doesn’t consider it a barrier, more like a bridge.
3- Female circumcision originated in Egypt and spread almost all over the continent. If the desert were a barrier it wouldn’t have spread anywhere.
Then there are the stereotypes that go along with the term. Funny, that. If ‘sub-Saharan’ were so innocent why are stereotypes attached at all? It’s where HIV/AIDS is rampant, children die from starvation daily, destitute poverty is the norm and where Westerners are always chucking aid money with no results. None of this is the norm anywhere in Africa (except maybe the last one), but that’s how stereotypes of non-‘white’ people typically work. However, Africa is gaining economic strength and international prestige, and Africans are fighting the stereotypes, so they may just finally regain their previous glory in the world. I hope…
I hope to add more posts on specific African cultures, people, individuals, countries, empires, societies and the like. But later.
To explain this, a bit of background science is needed. This is quite technical so if you’re not so scientifically minded, you can skip this bit:
The body produces a fat-soluble prohormone called vitamin D3, aka. calcitriol, which has numerous benefits for the body. It is a precursor of other vital hormones, enables proper absorption of calcium & phosphorus from the gut and proper “cementing” of them in the bones, prevents cancer (yes, even skin cancer, as long as you’re not letting yourself burn & expose yourself to the sun regularly), and regulates the immune system.
We can get it from eating mushrooms (they contain ergocalciferol aka. D2, which we can convert to D3), fish (WITH the bones!), beef liver, egg yolk or foods fortified with it such as milk & dairy. However, the absolute best way for us to get it is through being exposed to the sun or by going on a safe tanning bed. The body naturally makes vitamin D3 in the skin from cholesterol* (or more specifically 7-dehydrocholesterol), which circulates in the blood until it reaches the liver where it is converted to calcidiol, then is turned into the active form calcitriol either by the immune system or the kidneys.
* Yes, cholesterol is important for many many functions in the human body. Despite what the media and supermarket ads say, there has never been a proven link between cholesterol and heart disease. Most people don’t even realise that about 75% of the cholesterol in the body is made by the body – meaning only 25% comes from food!
There’s a common belief that the darker your skin is, the more difficult it is for your skin to produce D3, especially in less equatorial/ less sunny climates. The common explanation is that melanin dramatically decreases the amount of solar UV radiation that reaches the layers of the skin where cholesterol is converted, and this is an adaptive response to stop excess UV rays being absorbed and causing sunburn. However, according to the articles below this is flawed. Melanin seemingly bears no correlation to D3 production, as traditionally living African groups (Hadzabe & Maasai were the ones studied) had on average 115nmol/l (nanomoles per litre) of D3 in their blood – well above the currently accepted safe upper limit of 80nmol/l. Also, it seems genetic factors other than pigmentation account for the D3 status of ‘white’ people (ie. variants of genes controlling cholesterol synthesis, hydroxylation & vitamin D transport).
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8735073 (note – this one is just an abstract)
http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)60635-6/fulltext (note – this one you either have to sign up to The Lancet or pay to view)
It’s little snippets of new research and scientific findings like these that advance human knowledge in the right direction. However, it’ll likely take at least 20 to 50 years for this to become common knowledge. Although new things are discovered by science pretty much daily, it takes ages for that to change the normal social paradigm and propaganda. This is my little contribution to that.
Human hair naturally comes in different textures:
Afro-haired woman from Nossi-bé, Madagascar
Curly, also called coiled, spiralled or type 3. Though some like to think so, I don’t really think of afro hair (also called kinky, nappy, type 4 and less commonly crisped, woolly, fleecy, frizzy or crinkly) as separate from curly. To me it’s just the extreme end of curly so I refer to it as such, although it too can be divided into further gradations.
Wavy, also called type 2.
Straight, also called wiry, lank or type 1.
This is partially because the follicles they grow from come in different shapes; curly & wavy hair grows from oval follicles, straight from circular ones. However, at least for some, hair naturally changes texture because the hair follicles change shape (though why this happens is unknown). It’s also partially because of the proteins in the hair strands themselves, which are joined together by disulphide bonds. The more of these bonds, the curlier the strand.
Though type 4 hair is most common in indigenous Africans and their diasporic descendants, it is not exclusive to us nor is it the only texture we possess. As for type 1, it is most common in Easians but not exclusive to them nor is it their sole texture. Types 2 & 3 are pretty much the norm everywhere else.
Chinese girl exemplifying type 1 hair
Hair also comes in different colours; black, brown (aka. brunette), orange (aka. ginger), yellow (aka. blond/e) and overlaps. This is because of different amounts of a group of pigments collectively called melanin, of which there are 3 types – black eumelanin (technically isn’t black but very dark brown), brown eumelanin (more obviously brown, like reddish/ chocolate) and phaeomelanin (yellowish-orange). Globally black is the most common hair colour, followed by brown, blond/e and ginger. White and grey hair can result either from old age (during which the hair typically produces less melanin of any kind) or from congenital lessened or aborted melanin production, such as the more extreme forms of albinism.
So what’s all the fuss about? All people naturally have hair, right? Why should a post be made about it?
Well, here’s the deal. For ‘black’ people (especially women nowadays) it is often a self-esteem issue. Our story starts from the trans-Atlantic slave trade (TAST). When ‘white’ people captured Africans one of the first things they did was shave their hair. This may be no big deal to us but in some African belief systems the hair is on the head, and because the head is the highest part of the body it is therefore closest to God. This effectively meant that head hair was a symbol of connection to God. Therefore for the hair to be cut off and discarded like filth was, in a word, traumatising.
However it gets worse. Soon after the slave trade started both ‘white’ and ‘black’ people were being worked like nobody’s business. However, while the elites started passing laws to stop them uniting and rising up they tried to find ways, no matter how trivial or fantastical, to justify the laws. They thus declared Africans to be naturally inferior and fit for eternal service, and one of the MANY ways they ‘evinced’ this was to pass judgments on the differences between Africans and Europeans. Nose shape, skin colour, language differences, lack of Christianity* and the like were all used (and this is also when the negative stereotypes started being invented), but for the purposes of this post we’ll focus on hair texture. The respected scientific minds of the time espoused that our natural hair texture was more bestial (beast-like), suited for jungle & wilderness and overall hideous and revolting. The church authorities agreed, claiming that our hair was part of the curse of Ham – even though the Bible doesn’t mention the nature of this curse.
* This was ignoring the newly converted slaves, and that Christianity came to Africa about 500 years before Europe.
As such, many ‘black’ people were convinced that their natural afro hair was cursed and ugly. They could have tried styling their hair, but as slaves they barely ever had the time and usually just covered it in a headwrap. The only way for them to have hair closer to ‘white’ people’s (what became known as “good hair”, a very common phrase in USA & the Caribbean) was to have children with a ‘white’ person. This meant that either:
1 – ‘Black’ men would have to have children with ‘white’ women (which as far as I know never happened back then. It would’ve been absolutely forbidden and the man could be killed/ mutilated for it), or,
2 – ‘Black’ women would have to have children with ‘white’ men (this was very common, and pretty much always happened without the women’s consent – in other words ‘white’ men raped ‘black’ women and their mulatta children, especially in the southern states of USA. And were never punished because raping ‘black’ women wasn’t considered a crime).
Almost ironically, the ones who worked indoors (who were usually the products of rape anyway and thus had “good hair”) were the ones who had the time to style.
Al Sharpton, ‘black’ man with straightened hair. Yes, even at that age
Even after the TAST was abolished and the Civil War had ended, the psychological damage therefrom was ignored. This damage has been passed down to near enough every member of the African diaspora since. The desire for straight hair gained strength and prominence in mainstream media since the 1900s, when it was considered a sign of prestige and changing from “country” life to city life.
Note: the desire for straightened hair infected the men’s and women’s minds.
This explains why so many subscribe to the belief in euro & mixed hair as good & afro as bad. Obviously not all of us believe it but we all are familiar with it, and most of us know why. The Black Pride movement of the 50s and 60s worked well to counter this damage – for the time being. However it didn’t last and the ‘white’ media pushed the image of straight hair as beautiful with a vengeance. This is why the vast majority of ‘black’ women now either straighten their hair* or wear weaves/ pieces. Funnily enough, ‘black’ men no longer do it (except Al Sharpton) but most of us have been brainwashed into preferring our women with long silky straight hair.
* To do this they can use hot combs, but the much more common – and more damaging – way is chemical straighteners. Some ‘black’ Americans call it creamy crack, because its use is compulsive despite the health problems often brought with it. See Chris Rock’s Good Hair for elucidation, as well as its psychological & financial effects on ‘black’ women. And ‘black’ men, even though most of us don’t use it.
Because of colonialism and globalisation, even many women on the African continent itself (especially in the industrialised areas where Western media flourishes) hide their natural hair texture under blatantly fake weaves. Luckily, natural afro hair is making a comeback throughout the African diaspora, through the sporting of African/ afro-hair-friendly hairstyles or not styling at all. Most ‘black’ women are somewhat scared to do this because they think afro hair doesn’t grow and therefore looks manly. Afro hair can grow to awesome lengths, you just have to know how to look after it.
Even short afro hair looks good and feminine
LONG natural hair
However, there’s another phenomenon taking place. It’s highly counterproductive and I don’t know how prevalent it is so I’m not going to call it a trend, but there are cases of women with naturally non-afro hair (including ‘black’ women) getting it chemically treated to resemble afro hair! What the hell?
But anyway, long story short (tee-hee!), everyone should love their natural hair texture, ‘black’ women especially.
An Earth-honoring religion rooted in science
All science, mostly casual.
Challenging superstition in the pursuit of human dignity and compassion
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