Nigeria’s dangerous skin whitening obsession

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2013-04-07 01:29Z by Steven

Nigeria’s dangerous skin whitening obsession
Al Jazeera

Mohammed Adow

Nigeria has the world’s highest percentage of women using skin lightening agents in the quest for “beauty”.

Lagos, Nigeria – After carefully washing her face, legs and arms, Taiwo Solomon vigorously rubs cream over her body. She is meticulous and makes sure she covers her entire face. Soloman, 32, is bleaching her skin. She believes fairer skin could be her ticket to a better life. So she spends her meager savings on cheap black-market concoctions that promise to lighten her pigment.

This has been a daily routine for the past 15 years. Now several shades lighter she says her new skin makes her feel more beautiful and confident.

“Bleaching just makes me feel special, like am walking around in a spotlight,” she told Al Jazeera. “I am not seeking to be totally white, I just want to look beautiful. I cannot stop using the lightening agents,” she adds.

Solomon is not alone. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 77 percent of women in Nigeria use skin-lightening products, the world’s highest percentage. That compares with 59 percent in Togo, and 27 percent in Senegal. The reasons for this are varied but most people say they use skin-lighteners because they want “white skin”.

In many parts of Africa, lighter-skinned women are considered more beautiful and are believed to be more successful and likely to find marriage.

It’s not only women though who are obsessed with bleaching their skins. Some men too are involved in the practice…

…Dangerous consequences

Skin bleaching comes with hazardous health consequences. The dangers associated with the use of toxic compounds for skin bleaching include blood cancers such as leukemia and cancers of the liver and kidneys as well as severe skin conditions.

Hardcore bleachers use illegal ointments containing toxins like mercury, a metal that blocks production of melanin, which gives the skin its colour, but can also be toxic…

Read the entire article here.

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Finding a Match, and a Mission: Helping Blacks Survive Cancer

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, New Media, United States on 2012-05-12 15:53Z by Steven

Finding a Match, and a Mission: Helping Blacks Survive Cancer

The New York Times

Donald G. McNeil, Jr.

A month after his 2009 graduation from Yale Law School, Seun Adebiyi learned he had not one but two lethal blood cancers and began an odyssey to find a bone-marrow donor. Mr. Adebiyi, 28, who came to this country from Nigeria as a child, made appeals through Yale, on radio stations, in a YouTube video and even on a trip to Nigeria to ask law students to volunteer.

But finally, his doctor called, saying that a Nigerian woman in this country had donated her baby’s umbilical cord blood to a “cord-blood bank” and that the stem cells in it were a close enough match. After his own marrow — the source of his cancers — was wiped out, those cells were infused into him at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He has been in remission since.

Now he is trying to repay that debt, with an effort that experts say may save the lives of both Nigerians and black Americans. In February, he helped start Nigeria’s national bone-marrow registry, the first in Africa outside South Africa. He is now raising money to start a cord-blood bank there…

…But for African-Americans like Mr. Adebiyi, finding matches is particularly difficult. Blacks are less likely to register as donors; while blacks are 12.6 percent of the population, only 8 percent of registered donors are black.

“It’s lack of education about it, and mistrust of the medical system after scandals like Tuskegee,” said Shauna Melius, co-founder of Preserve Our Legacy, citing the Tuskegee, Ala., experiment in which government doctors recruited black farmers for research and let those with syphilis go untreated for decades. Her organization recruits donors at Harlem Hospital and through drives featuring black celebrities.

“Plus,” she added, “people are skeptical because you’re collecting DNA.”

Complicating the problem, blacks are more genetically diverse than whites. Anatomically modern Homo sapiens existed in Africa for 200,000 years before migrating north to Europe a little over 40,000 years ago, so all Europeans descend from the shallower end of the gene pool…

…It will particularly help those with more African genes. Most black Americans have some white ancestors and, on average, 35 percent European genes, but individuals vary widely…

Read the entire article here.

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Red Dust Road: An Autobiographical Journey

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Monographs, United Kingdom, Women on 2010-05-06 22:31Z by Steven

Red Dust Road: An Autobiographical Journey

Picador an Imprint of PanMacmillan
304 pages
214mm x 135mm, 0.43 kg
ISBN: 9780330451055

Jackie Kay, Professor of Creative Writing
Newcastle University

‘What makes us who we are? My adoption is a story that has happened to me. I couldn’t make it up.’

From the moment when, as a little girl, she realizes that her skin is a different colour from that of her beloved mum and dad, to the tracing and finding of her birth parents, her Highland mother and Nigerian father, the journey that Jackie Kay undertakes in Red Dust Road is full of unexpected twists, turns and deep emotions.

In a book shining with warmth, humour and compassion, she discovers that inheritance is about much more than genes: that we are shaped by songs as much as by cells, and that our internal landscapes are as important as those through which we move.

Taking the reader from Glasgow to Lagos and beyond, Red Dust Road is revelatory, redemptive and courageous, unique in its voice and universal in its reach. It is a heart-stopping story of parents and siblings, friends and strangers, belonging and beliefs, biology and destiny, and love.

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Double Consciousness in the Work of Helen Oyeyemi and Diana Evans

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2010-03-25 18:19Z by Steven

Double Consciousness in the Work of Helen Oyeyemi and Diana Evans

Women: A Cultural Review
Volume 20, Issue 3 (December 2009)
pages 277-286
DOI: 10.1080/09574040903285735

Pilar Cuder-Domnguez, Associate Professor
University of Huelva, Spain

The first novels published by Helen Oyeyemi and Diana Evans feature twins of mixed-race parentage—a Nigerian mother and an English father—growing up in Britain. Eight-year-old Jessamy in Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl is unaware that she was born a twin, but on travelling to Nigeria she encounters TillyTilly, a troublesome girl she seems unable to shake off. Georgia and Bessi in Evans’s 26a are identical twins who share all their experiences until a visit to their mother’s homeland of Nigeria opens a breach in their perfect union. Both novels were published in 2005 and display certain commonalities of plot, characterisation, location and stylistic choice. Oyeyemi and Evans both explore Yoruba beliefs surrounding the special nature of twins—half way between the world of humans and gods. If one twin dies, parents commission a carving called ‘ibeji‘ to honour the deceased and to provide a location for their soul. The specialness attributed to twins by the Yoruba is compounded in both novels by the fact that they are mixed-race and by the diverging locations, cultures and languages of their parents. Thus, this article addresses how the two writers deploy Yoruba beliefs in order to raise questions about the cultural grounding of their characters’ identities, and how being twins becomes a metaphor for the ‘double consciousness’ of being black and British.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Posted in Autobiography, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Novels, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2009-12-19 18:40Z by Steven


Bloodaxe Books
192 pages
Paperback ISBN: 1 85224 831 9

Bernardine Evaristo

Lara is a powerful semi-autobiographical novel-in-verse based on Bernardine Evaristo’s own childhood and family history. The eponymous Lara is a mixed-race girl raised in Woolwich, a white suburb of London, during the 60s and 70s. Her father, Taiwo, is Nigerian, and her mother, Ellen, is white British. They marry in the 1950s, in spite of fierce opposition from Ellen’s family, and quickly produce eight children in ten years. Lara is their fourth child and we follow her journey from restricted childhood to conflicted early adulthood, and then from London to Nigeria to Brazil as she seeks to understand herself and her ancestry.

The novel travels back over 150 years, seven generations and three continents of Lara’s ancestry. It is the story of Irish Catholics leaving generations of rural hardship behind and ascending to a rigid middle class in England; of German immigrants escaping poverty and seeking to build a new life in 19th century London; and of proud Yorubas enslaved in Brazil, free in colonial Nigeria and hopeful in post-war London. Lara explores the lives of those who leave one country in search of a better life elsewhere, but who end up struggling to be accepted even as they lay the foundations for their children and future generations.

This is a new edition of Bernardine Evaristo’s first novel Lara, rewritten and expanded by a third since its first publication in 1997.

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