By Jedidah Nguyo and Ogova Ondego
Published May 8, 2015
Ivory Coast has on May 6, 2015 banned skin-lightening products from its market on health grounds.
The ban by the French-speaking West African country, according to an AFP news agency report, â€œaffects whitening creams and lotions containing mercury and its derivatives, cortisone, vitamin A or more than two percent hydroquinine, a lightening agent that is used to develop photographs.â€
AFP says that though there are no official figures of how many women use such products across Africa, billboards advertising the potentially deadly creams can be seen in cities across the continent.
RELATED: Yellow Fever Grips Africa
But skin-lightening, that is believed to stem from inferiority complex among mainly black women who think looking like a European is both superior, beautiful and is the key to success in life, is hardly a new phenomenon in Africa where Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti called it Yellow Fever, a term Kenyan artist Ngâ€™endo Mukii adopted as the title for her experimental (animation/fiction/documentary) film.
Michelle Shindoshingi Kamunyo, a 15-year-old Kenyan student at Nairobiâ€™s Aga Khan Academy has called the practice Skin Deep and tackled it in a 31-minute documentary film that is scheduled for screening and discussion at Lola Kenya Screen film forum, Nairobiâ€™s premier critical movie platform.
Adopting a news reportage format spiced up with some animation and Microsoft Power Point presentation style, SKIN DEEP looks at the reasons that make women to bleach or lighten their skin. It gives examples of international celebrities who suffer from this fever and brings to the viewer interviews with people on the streets of Nairobi using voice-over, animation, interviews and archival footage.
Kamunyoâ€™s documentary provides information on what skin lightening is, how it is done, its potential dangers, and how people who have undergone the procedure can protect their skin from further damage.
The young directorâ€™s main message is that real beauty lies deep within someone and is not determined by the colour of oneâ€™s skin, hence the title â€˜Skin Deep.â€™
While the subject of the documentary is important and timely, the style of telling the story is rather flat. The documentary uses too many narration techniques. The voice-over of the narrator, archival footage and the interviews would have sufficed. Also, some of the interviewees, especially the â€˜expertsâ€™, are too dull. Some viewers might be tempted to skip the dull parts thus miss important information. The documentary ends with archival footage of world-famous dark-skinned people who have not bleached their skin. This stresses the point that â€˜successâ€™ or â€˜fameâ€™ does not depend on the pigmentation of oneâ€™s skin.
Michelle Shindoshingi Kamunyo, an International Bachelorette (IB) student who attended Riara Primary School and Nairobi Academy before joining Aga Khan Academy, says she has gained media production experience from her internship at Mojo Productions, a Nairobi-based production house that â€œspecialises in the production of TV and Radio advertisements and documentaries.â€