When you were in your 20s in Ghana, what were some ideas of beauty?
When I was younger in my 20s, beauty was defined to me more by appearance – if you were not too fat, neither were you too thin. But just the right size and were nicely shaped. You had hips…like a small waist and then your hips came out nicely. That was a form of beauty to me then. And how you used make-up to suit your facial features, how you kept your hair, and how you spoke. Those were some indications of beauty to me then.
It was always thought (important) to be shaped nicely, like the Coca-cola bottle. We would joke about it. If you were shaped like a Coca-cola bottle, then you were truly beautiful. And not outrageous make-up – say you are black and you put something red – no, something that matches nicely with your color. Women would usually do the eye-shadow, the usual lipstick and the black pencil for their eyelids and lipliner. That was the basic make-up.
By the time you get to your 20s, you start using the relaxer for your hair. So it was part of the beauty for us then. So if you kept your hair natural, it was considered too archaic, outdated. So to look beautiful, you had to use the relaxer and you would go to the salon to have the rollers put in, so it was curled nicely. Women would usually wear curl, although they would occassionally have these kind of braids I have on.
You usually wore beautiful clothes. In those days, women didn’t really wear pants or trousers, so (beautiful clothes meant) anything that looked nice on you. It depended on how you looked. Some people looked good in colorful clothes, some people looked better in plain clothes. If it fit your body, it was considered beautiful. When we were in high school, we were taught that good grooming is the art of hiding the bad features and showing the good ones. So it’s relative. If your legs don’t look too nice, you don’t wear short clothes, so you could hide your legs. So that was a concept of beauty we all grew up with.
Do you have different ideas of beauty now?
Now I think beauty is more from within than what is on the outside. What is the point if you look good on the outside but you are so mean and so wicked on the inside? So to me now, beauty is how you are in your heart. What is in your heart is what comes out on the outside. If you are kind, gentle, loving, I consider that more beautiful than if you are nicely dressed or with make-up. So my concept of beauty has changed drastically.
Why do you think your concept of beauty has changed?
It’s changed because with experience in life, I have come to appreciate that beauty is not what I see on the outside. There’s a lot going on in the world. People are hurting all the time. So what is the point of looking beautiful and then you are so mean? It’s a hurting world where people are in so much pain. I find it more beautiful if you have a heart full of goodness, kindness, nice thoughts about people and acts of kindness. That is what I think should be considered beautiful.
Dela, (much) younger than 50
Dela works with Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights, a NGO which works to provide good reproductive health care for all women, including education to prevent women dying in childbirth. She writes, “ We are currently implementing two major projects in various rural communities in Ghana. The projects basically seek to empower community members to demand for improved reproductive/maternal health services especially for more (midwives, health care centres, better roads to get to the health centres, if any at all and for availability of family planning services) from our health policy makers.”
Check it out at… http://arhr.org.gh/