As I prepare for my upcoming trip a nudist colony, I've been doing so much reflection on what it means to actually express myself in this way. Hang ups surrounding nudism seem to be SO prominent within the American psyche. While some have embraced nudity, in many ways as another facet of life (with prominent nude beaches and even restaurants taking shape) .. Here in America, it seems that we are still wrestling with old "fire and brimstone" Puritan beliefs. The idea that nakedness is bad or or reserved for very limited situations ... and almost always only for private consumption.
Unfortunately, the effects of colonialism have not only influenced thoughts of nudity stateside, but its reach touched many indigenous tribes around the globe (especially within Africa). Within these global societies, prior to the arrival of European settlers, traditional garments mixed with "clothing optional" communities were the norm. However, with the ugly creation of slavery and the triangle trade, what also became norm was the global spreading of grossly negative stereotypes about black individuals and their bodies. These false theories ranged from the belief that African slaves were hyper-sexual (sex obsessed / sexually dysfunctional) to wild and hedonistic. There was a complete (intentional) disconnect and disregard for local culture. In the minds of slave traders and colonizers alike, the only answer was forced assimilation ... Forcing indigenous black and brown natives into layers of euro-centric fabrics, indoctrinating the Bible, and commodifying of the black /brown bodies ... For both labor and sex.
The arrival of colonialism irrevocably changed what it meant to be black ... To be African ... To be a woman ... To essentially be me. That said? What does it now meant to travel to a space where, of my own doing, my nude body will be on display? What will it feel like to reclaim it back from the world as my very own? ... To dispel myths ... To shatter stereotypes ... To not care what others think or feel regarding it ... I'm not sure, but I'm so ready to find out!
There is excellent discussion of this very topic on Dynamic Africa's tumblr page which can be found here. In it, a young South African woman named Tsholofelo Maseko discusses her own journey with reclaiming her body in a South African context, where her modern and traditional Ndebele tribal experiences collide. If you have a moment I invite you to read her post. If not, the short film (Ephasini Lamabhudango), in partnership with Zimbabwean filmmaker / photographer Ndumiso Sibanda, has been posted above to get a sense of her experience, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
As always ... The journey continues!