2014 Photoshoot examines contrary social representations of the black male body

PORTRAITS CHALLENGE REPRESENTATIONS OF THE BLACK MALE BODY (NSFW)

You write that the black male body is “the most hated body in popular American culture and/or society.” Could you elaborate on the roots and consequences of this prejudice?
“Pathology is something that many people feel is too over-talked to discuss—there is so much stigma around it (even in 2014!), but pathology is real because it is what many people navigate the world through. I think an excellent example comes from bell hooks’s essay “Eating The Other.” She talks about the pathology of the black male body and its relationship to primitiveness, slavery, labor and pain. She also links pathology to commercialism and how blackness is fetishized and hyper-eroticized in mainstream media. This creates a false idea of otherness; of black bodies being hypersexual, hyperviolent and hyperaggressive (she links hypersexuality to violence and primitiveness). There are many layers, and pathology’s relationship to athleticism and sports culture is a fascinating one.

“As far as consequences go, there are too many. I think the reaction to Ferguson is a very, very clear example. Black men are exterminated all around this world. Women, as well, of all backgrounds, classes and ethnic groups are victimized because of binary power dynamics. Representation is very important and can have much personal and political resonance.”

Source: Feature Shoot

Black to the future:Naturism,nudism, and clothes free living African Americans and the clothes free community

“Being a naturist, I chose to experience my nudity outdoors in natural environments and indoors within communities of diverse people in non sexual environments. For me, it’s a choice to openly and intimately experience myself in every season. I openly and intimately embrace all of the elements: air, fire, water, earth. And I commit to maintaining practices of self-love and self-acceptance through all the seasons of my life. I chose to have my first naturist experience during a time in my life when I was consciously seeking and exploring personal, spiritual and tangible liberation and freedom.” Jasmine Burems – Honey & Gold – The Goddess Lifestyle

So where do we stand? What is the current state of the relationship between African-Americans and the clothes free community? Is the clothes free community and the practice of clothes free living an inherently a white European practice? I wish I could say the state of the union was strong. However, despite the previously unknown to be rich historical connection between people of African descent and naturism/clothes free living, the best I can say from my research and experience is, it is tenuous but reclaimable.

Here are some sticky issues that must be addressed if the participation of black folks in the modern clothes free community is to  increase. First, it is the opinion of this writer that all the limiting factors that existed in the past continue today. We need to acknowledge that. The perseverance of the sexualization of the body in western society and persistent stereotype of black people as sexual savages; the distinction between the pursuit of social nudity and nude recreation apart from naturist clothes free living; the lingering presence of racial prejudices; and deep-seated cultural values about nudity all impact the presence of African-Americans in the clothes free community today. Consider these images which continue to promote the great objectification of the African-American male as the ultimate sexual taboo. The comment on the image, taken from Instagram, shows how much the sexually objectified black body is a part of the social psyche.

image

Run cause black guys has no mercy

Are we so victimized by objectification and sexualization that we have internalized this to be modest about our bodies even when we are in a relatively safe space away from that level of scrutiny? Spa nudity: Are we just that modest, ashamed of our body, or is it something else?

The European hyper-sexualization of the human body and the added characterization of the unclad black body as animalistic or barbaric is deeply embedded into the collective unconscious of our society. This shapes not only how European cultures view the black body, but how we of African decent see ourselves. All too often the unconscious messages we internalize is, our bodies are abnormal by European beauty standards, and is only meant to be uncovered to be gawked at or in sexual situations.

Based on my experiences, it seems that Caucasian women tend to be more comfortable with being naked while women of color, particularly African-American women, are not. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every Caucasian woman walks around as free as the day they were born or conversely every woman of color spends their spa time covered up like a complete shrewd. Spa nudity: Are we just that modest, ashamed of our body, or is it something else?

The disconnect between natural cultural native African nudity and clothes free or top free living and Western European sensibilities about the clothes free body continues to this day. The African body is constrained while sexualized western bodies are commercially promoted.

Mursi tribe, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia| Photo By joeyl photographer

I’m from a village where ‘freedom of exposure’ is respected, whether old or young. A culture where our skin is our Orijin Fashion, our Gucci, our PRADA, or whatever name brand that is out there. As a matter of fact, we are our own designer brands, and we wear ourselves with expensive handmade jewelries which we manufacture with our own sweat and blood–body arts and body ornaments, showing our confidence and pride for our skin and culture. MY AFRICAN CULTURE FACEBOOK TABOOS BUT KIM KADARSHIAN’S NUDITY OKAY Photographer Ken Herman

In spite of what some would think, I believe we have many issues to acknowledge and solutions to tackle before we can say:

In the end I think White nudists have done all they can to welcome and encourage the Black community with open arms into Nudism. It’s Black America that has the hang up about the naked body, and the fault of Black racism when it comes to joining the Nudist community. Blacks must set aside their fear, arrogance, and assumptive racism in order to become a part of the Nudist community. I hope this post clears up any preconceived notions about Blacks and Naturism.- Why do Blacks view Naturism as ‘so white’.

Before we can make a statement like that, I think there has to be an acknowledgement of the current realities of African-Americans in US society. On every level economically, emotionally, educationally, and physically “black folks are feeling vulnerable. Our bodies and our lives seem to not matter to many from the dominant European culture. So the added vulnerability of social nudity may be a significant hurdle to overcome. The Naked Black Justice campaign by photographer James C Lewis  from Noire 3000 studios captures the sense of raw vulnerability in the images of written messages on the bodies of clothes free African-Americans.

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This photography campaign was designed to bring attention to the issues of racism, prejudice and overall ignorance that has been impressed upon Black Americans. This is no longer just a statement…it has become a MOVEMENT to get others to understand that the world would be such a better place if we could just ERASE THE HATE!! Nudity was implemented to demonstrate the RAW REALITY of these issues…so if it causes you to become uncomfortable while viewing this…GOOD…maybe it will challenge you and others to take a stand against these injustices  -James C Lewis Noire 3000

The current reality of African-Americans cannot be ignored in the effort to reach into that community to invite participation in clothes free living. Income inequality, wealth loss and high unemployment have a disproportionate impact on African Americans. The economics of the day make it more likely for African Americans to hang out clothes free at home or visit a clothing optional beach than a clothing optional resort. American nudism is built around the premise of paying for the ability to spend time being clothes free. Nudist resorts, nude cruises and naturist clubs all require a substantial financial outlay. If one is trying keep food on the table, a roof over your head and your kids and family alive and unincarcerated, spending money to be clothes free comes way down on the priority list.  From a socio-economic standpoint this may well be a limiting factor for increasing African-American participation as only those African-American with means can regularly visit resorts or purchase club memberships and so on.

Some of these type of people also may rather be nude around their home and near home rather than participate in nude recreation. Some may also feel awkward going to a resort or campground being the only one from their ethnic race. “Why is nudism portrayed as being so white?” | The Naturist Page

Those are the current sticking points as I see it. The rest of my time will be spent exploring some possible paths forward.

If the naturist/clothes free community is to grow in its diversity with regards to African-Americans, it has to come to grips with the reality that, in the US at least, while “majority” population is decreasing, so called “minority” groups are increasing in number. The African-American or “black” population continues to increase despite conventional wisdom with the influx of people of African descent from around the world. Outreach to the African-American community needs to occur in ways new and different from those used to invite those from the current “majority.”  The “We have always done it that way” attitude and approach won’t work. The historical experience of African-Americans has to be taken into account. The current realities of African-Americans as it relates income inequality and socio-economic decline must be honestly confronted, before it is said that every effort has been made. African-American people can be encouraged to reclaim a natural historical/ancestral connection to naturism and clothes free living. Just as organizations like British Naturism and the American Association for Nude Recreation have developed targeted campaigns to increase the number of women in their ranks so targeted campaign can be developed to reach out to African-Americans taking the distinctive so far the community into account. More could be done to express the spiritual and ancestral components of the naturist and clothes free life as it relates to people of African descent.

We should avoid the simplistic notion that saying naturists accept all kinds of people actually makes it so.

Furthermore, the clothes free community as a whole should acknowledge the continued presence of racism and racial bias in the nudist/naturist community as it is in the society at large. Admitting that there are people in the nudist/naturist community who in the past and most likely the present would rather not be around African-Americans will go a long way to having an honest conversation about engaging African-Americans in the practice and welcoming them in the community. Human nature suggests that when we are most vulnerable we prefer to be so around people most like us. Acknowledging that is important part of creating dialog. We should avoid the simplistic notion that saying naturists accept all kinds of people actually makes it so. Clubs, communities, groups and organizations that believe Black Lives Matter should say so in their marketing and promotion and let African-Americans know that the effort will be made to make them feel safe and welcome.

There is work for members of the African-American community as well. As other did before us we should play an an active part in creating our own destiny as members of the clothes free community. We should resist the fetishizing of our own bodies. The distinctive features of people of African descent, the size and shape of our lips and parts of our genitalia, our visible curves and nappy hair are our genetic heritage not fetish objects. I am not suggesting that black folks should be asexual or deny our sexual side. Rather I am saying we should not let our sexual expression or our bodies be defined by a distorted view of our bodies created, cultivated and maintained by colonialist European ideals. We should educate ourselves, become more conscious as some are wont to say, examine the roots of our struggle with social nudity and dedicate ourselves to discovering ways to reclaim our ancestral connection to the naturist/clothes free life. WE WERE NATURISTS FIRST!

African-Americans can also is seek out and support each other in and out of the clothes free community. Sponsor or host gatherings where other African-Americans can safely explore the clothes free life. If we see each other at resorts reach out, better yet African-Americans with experience in the clothes free community should invite others to join them at resorts and events. Last summer an African-American friend (who i invited to join me at a resort event) and I encountered an African-American couple while visiting a resort. I was intentional without being pushy to reach out connect and encourage them as they explored next steps into clothes free living for their family (including their children) .

Finally, A few years ago when I was exploring pondering my own place in the clothes free community I came across this post. Nudism: Black folks don’t do that, but I do… The author recounted her first experience with social nudism/naturism in a non sexual clothes free setting. She shares the transformation that arises from this experience and the adoption of the clothes free life.

As a woman who is an outspoken sex positive activist, this experience was appealing to me in many ways. First, it was non-sexual. When I’m nude in the company of other’s, my mind immediately goes to sex and having it repeatedly until we decide to put clothes on. This time it was different: my mind and spirit were in a space of needing to be supported and nurtured in a way that brought me closer to being more honest with myself and my body. When you’re naked, you have absolutely nothing to hide and neither do the people with whom you are nude in community. It’s an honest and safe community space and, for me, deeply spiritual…

I am now a proud bonafide nudist and plan to fully participate in the Naturist community. I have been transformed through this experience and will continue to learn and grow in this intimacy that I share with myself in the community of others who desire to grow and expand in this very short life that we all have. I am born again… –Nudism: Black folks don’t do that, but I do…

Reading this opened up a new perspective on nudism, naturism and clothes free living to me. It was a perspective that wasn’t purely European. I discovered I wasn’t the only one exploring this way of life. It validated my experience in a positive way and countered some of the negative encounters I had in the clothes free community. I began a journey that in some ways takes on a new focus with this series. I am reminded of two things. First, there is hope, African-American people are not a lost cause to clothes free life. Second, we need to be approached differently; there is more work to be done, but that work ought not look like previous efforts to reach new people and invite them to find the joy of clothes free living.

To be sure, not everyone shares my view on this subject and that is OK. I think we should have a vigorous conversation about this issue. I believe that if we do, others will discover, as I did, that there is a varied, complex and mainly untold connection between African-Americans and the clothes free community. If you are a person of African descent or African we would like to hear what you think about our take on the state of the connection between the African-American and clothes free communities.

What others are saying:
MY AFRICAN CULTURE FACEBOOK TABOOS BUT KIM KADARSHIAN’S NUDITY OKAY
http://www.orijinculture.com/community/beautiful-culture-facebook-hates-show/

“Why is nudism portrayed as being so white?” | The Naturist Page
“Why is nudism portrayed as being so white?” | The Naturist Page

Why do Blacks view Naturism as ‘so white’.
Why do Blacks view Naturism as ‘so white’.

Take the poll

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Naked Black Justice Videos

There are negros among us – Naturism, nudism and clothes free living African Americans and the clothes free community

NATURISM IS FOR “every body,” as the saying goes, and its offer of freedom, health, and social equality are inherently available to any and all. Yet naturism in North America remains blindingly white. – Mark Storey Nude & Natural 25.3

imageDescribed as the golden age of nudism by some the post World War II era of nudism wasn’t so golden for African-Americans in the U.S.  The African-American experience in the clothes free community reflected very much what was happening in the rest of society. The racial prejudice and segregation present in the broader society was present in the U.S. naturist/nudist subculture. Perhaps inspired by the experiences of “negro” GIs returning from WWII in Europe or buoyed by the ideals of emerging civil rights movement, the African-Americans actively sought to take part in naturist/nudist/ communities, clubs and camps. This interest was significant enough to permit a report on the phenomenon by the prestigious African-American magazine Ebony.

This influx of African-Americans seeking to participate in the practice by joining the increasing number of nudist club, camps and “colonies” as they were called, became The Negro Problem in American Nudism. In his piece in N magazine, What is the Answer, Mark Story looks at the historical record of the naturist/nudist community to address this issue. It seems from this well written investigative piece that there were several streams of responses to issues of African-Americans’ place in American nudism. All the racial polarities endemic to the time period were present in the nudist community. First, there were white nudists who thought blacks didn’t belong in white nudist communities and would be better served to start their own nudist clubs, association and organizations. It would seem that plain racism was the primary driver behind this view.

Why had some nudist clubs barred blacks from membership and why were some clubs still doing so? Straightforward racism was the answer in many cases. The toxin permeated North America and nudists were not immune to it.

In this 1966 issue of Sunshine & Health, Hal Collins lamented the lack of outreach to blacks and encouraged nudist leaders to “lead the way to greater understanding and play an active role in making true brotherhood a living reality.”

Another stream of thought expressed by white nudists was the perspective that making room for African-Americans was the progressive thing to do. One blogger  natethreepoint0 has done this writer and the clothes free community a great service and  transcribed the record of one nudist club’s effort to discuss the interest of “negroes” in becoming members of their club. You can see the reproduced issue of the MARS club newsletter chronicling the clubs actions and discussion here. The account rehearses the discussion among club members as to the wisdom and morality of accepting a  “negro” family that applied for membership. The conversation includes the oft heard reasons why the family should not be accepted. For example, they were the “right” kind of people for the club and the common fear that accepting one such family would lead to a flood of many more which, alongside the loss of white members, would lead to the club being overrun by the “negroes”.  In the end, the members of the club decided the right choice was to accept the family or any “negro” family of the same caliber should they apply.

 

“I’m sure,” he said, “all right-thinking people are glad that our colored friends should desire to be nudists. Also that they should desire to have their own groups where they may enjoy the fellow-ship of their own race.”

Opinions on how to address the “negro” problem in American nudism were varied for black folks as they were for their white counterparts. Many blacks took up the challenge to start their own clubs almost as soon as it  was offered, reflecting the sentiments expressed by white nudist Steve Brenton.

One such black nudist referring to himself as Oscar HM wrote to the predecessor of the American Association for Nude Recreation, the ASA, asking for help getting a national negro nudist organization started under it auspices. This echoed the call of Brenton for a National Negro Sunbathing Association. As early as 1949 black folks formed non-landed clubs like the Brownies of Kansas City which had a majority of black members though they still welcomed whites who became members.

From Jet magazine November 21 1968;

Not all the black nudists saw the above approach of creating separate but equal clubs as the right one. While the civil rights movement was emerging in the broader post world war society a similar struggle for equal rights and acceptance was going on in the American nudist community. It seems the movement had its own leader akin to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the person of E.J. Samuels. Samuels challenged the conventional thinking of white and black nudists who proposed the separate organization approach. Samuels pointed to economic sustainability as one of several reasons why he thought the approach was flawed. Samuels and his family became ambassadors of the black nudists to white nudist community visiting many nudist clubs and camps, breaking the race barrier at many of those clubs in true Jackie Robinson fashion. Samuels spoke honestly about the issues facing the black community exploring nudism.

The dearth of Negro applicants to nudism is in part due to the fact that Negroes felt sure of a stinging rebuff they didn’t even try for a place in the sun

..management found the negroes suspicious of nudist motives convinced that nudist liberties meant sexual license  some Negro women were willing to pose as nude models but could not accept the idea of becoming nudists.

“If anyone resents their presence, it is certainly not apparent.” Herbert Nipson, Editor, Ebony magazine

Samuels was invited to speak to the Western Conference of the ASA to share his views. He and his wife became members of the DeAnza Club. Samuels and his wife went on to be the first black delegates to the ASA convention. He was shadowed by Herbert Nipson who wrote about the Samuels family in an article on Nudism and Negroes for Ebony magazine. (For those who may not be familiar, the monthly Ebony magazine was, at the time and still is to some degree, one of the most prestigious and well read publications in the black community.

When all is said and done, history paints a different picture of African-Americans in American nudism than one would expect. One should note that despite the current dearth of African-Americans participating in social nudism, African-Americans were involved in the American nudism movement. The involvement was not monolithic nor was it simple passive participation. African-Americans took responsibility for their desire to participate in the clothes free lifestyle. They were intentional in pursuing what seems today to be unusual practice for people of African decent. This writer wishes more of this aspect of the connection between African-Americans and naturism, nudism and clothes free living were more well known. As a side note, I wish more of the archives of the naturist organizations magazines were digitized. I would have gratefully delved into their depths to learn more of this untold story of African-Americans, naturists, nudists and clothes free.


Mark story Race__3

Further Reading

Story, Mark | Nude & Natural 25.3

Blandburg, Dorine Supples and Vic Blandburg,“Soul Barers Naturists,” N 11.2 (1992): 98-99.

Brenton, Steve,“A Plan for Colored Nudists,” Sunshine & Health 14.6 (June 1945): 7.

Brown,Warren,“A Camp Owner Speaks Out on Integration,” Nude World No. 14 (Summer 1966): 50, 52-53.

Cinder, Cec,“The Negro Problem in American Nudism,” Eden No. 16 (1966): 48-53.

Collins, Hal,“Nudism and the Negro,” Sunshine & Health 33.2 (March-June 1966): 26-31.

Hartman, William E., Marilyn Fithian and Donald Johnson, Nudist Society: The Controversial Study of the Clothes-Free Naturist Movement in America, rev. by Iris Bancroft (Los Angeles: Elysium Growth Press, 1991), pp. 43, 54-57, 146, 198, 274, 433-435, 438, 441-442.

H. R., Oscar,“In Behalf of Colored Groups,” letter to the editor in Sunshine & Health 13.10 (September 1944): 6.

Indira,“Nudism in Hongkong,” American Nudist Leader 3.28 (1952): 18-19.

Linke, Uli, German Bodies: Race and Representation After Hitler (New York: Routledge, 1999).

Nipson, Herbert,“Nudism and Negroes,” Ebony 6.10 (August 1951): 93-94, 96-101.

Payne, Robert M.,“Beyond the Pale: Nudism, Race, and Resistance in The Unashamed,” Film Quarterly 54.2 (Winter 2001-02): 27-40.

Ross, Chad, Naked Germany: Health, Race and the Nation (Oxford: Berg, 2005).

Samuels, E. J.,“Light Out of Darkness,” Sunshine & Health 13.11 (November 1944): 19-20.

“On Negro Nudism,” Sunshine & Health 14.8 (August 1945): 21-22.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 4

I’m living Clothes Free and here’s why

I have always had a hate relationship with clothes and I think it stems from being self-conscious about my body when I was younger. I always thought I was fat even though I wasn’t. When I got to high school and joined the dance team, I lost a lot of weight, but I still was not comfortable. I grew up where what you wore defined who you were as a person. Everything had to be name brand, matched and the latest style. I felt like no matter what I wore, I never fit in.

In my first year of college, I wore as little clothing as possible not because I wanted to be clothes free, but because I was seeking a certain type of male attention. I later found out that no matter what I wore, I would get the same attention. My college years involved a lot of soul-searching and self-discovery that did not reveal itself until a couple of years ago.

I have always hated standing in my closet searching for something to wear and figuring out if I would get praised or ridiculed. High school was rough when it came to that and when I started working, it became more of a struggle, especially if I was trying to impress a male coworker or show up a female one. When I started working in retail in 2011, I lost interest in what I wore. I was around clothes for two and a half years and I couldn’t stand the sig hr of them. Why do people care so much more about what they put on their body instead of their real body? People spent endless amounts of money on clothes and I was so confused.

imageSomething I have always done was sleep clothes free. Sleeping in clothes is the most uncomfortable thing ever and I don’t see how people can do it. That is probably why I can’t take cat naps in my car, at work or sleep when the kids are at music, computer or PE. I sleep  much better with no clothes and I feel like my body rejuvenates better.

Because I live with my mom, I can’t be clothes free outside of my room and the den where I practice my yoga. Given that I came out of her vagina, I feel that there should be no barriers. I mean it gets no more personal than that, but seeing how many African Americans have been Europeanized and grown accustom to certain things, she doesn’t see it as acceptable. I don’t even know how to bring it up to her. We haven’t always had the best or closest relationship, but I think until I move out, I’ll keep it to those two places.

This is more for the ladies, but I hate wearing bras. I always have and it’s mainly because I have large breasts. Every few months I used to get fitted for a bra and it was always something different. Finally, I went to a store in the Houston Galleria and it was a European lingerie store. I got fitted and found a bra that fit perfectly. The only problem was, it was a few hundred dollars for one bra. I was floored. I felt it was ridiculous to pay so much for something that I would only wear a few hours out of the day. Then there was the underwear.

imageI used to be an addict to Victoria’s Secret underwear, more specifically their Pink brand. My issues with that were the sizes were geared more towards the body of a Caucasian woman. An extra-large did not fit like an extra-large should. I settled with underwear from Walmart but no matter what kind of material, underwear have always given me irritated skin, among other issues. About a year and half ago I stopped wearing them all together. Only time I wear them is that time of the month.

So, why clothes free now?

Well, over the past couple of years, I have grown to love my body and the skin I’m in. I love my curves, love handles, and stretch marks, along with every other imperfection. My flaws show where I’ve been and how far I have come. When I practice yoga in clothes, I feel like I am not aware of my body or my position and posture. Wearing clothes 24/7 is draining and makes me feel depressed. Yes, clothes make me feel depressed because I am a very open person, and clothes make me feel like I’m hiding a part of me, the most beautiful part of me; my body.

image

Growing up looking in magazines at models and actresses being skinny and fit, it made me feel self-conscious. Now, with all of these full-figured women, curvy and beautiful and accepted, it has made me realize that I am beautiful and so is my body. People will still judge me, no matter what I wear. I will always be curvy and full-figured and I’m okay with that. I’m healthy, happy and grateful for all of my experiences and how they have made me who I am.

Last thing, being clothes free and blogging, has been the reason I have produced so much new, great content. I have seen an increase in post views and am driving more traffic. I believe that because I have a new-found confidence in myself, it shows through my writing.

Xoxo,

Simply Moniqua

recent conversations with women in my life

 The more I talk with women in my world about clothes free life, the more I learn that many of them already spend much of their time clothes free, if anything at home.

These conversations made me think that when we talk about causes and movements and so forth, we can’t just say that only people who openly shout about their naturist or clothes free lives count. I have seen that nature of commentary quite often, and it is wonderful if that is true to a person and works for them and others in their environment.

At the same time, that is not necessarily how all people engage their lives generally (not just with regard to clothes freedom). What I am actually finding, particularly in my connections with the women in my life, is that it is less about shouting anything from the rooftops to the infinite public, and more about opening up in intimate one-on-one conversations. 

Recently I opened up to a new friend about my clothes free life. As I shared with her in the conversation, she opened up and told me that she spends as much time as possible naked at home. She does have a family, and random people from her life come over a lot, in which case she chooses to be clothed. But, when all of the drama of the day is done, she relaxes clothes free. She also told me that she learned this from her grandmother, who, for as long as she has known her, has always stripped down to be in the comfort of her own body the minute she’d arrive home. The more she and I talk, the more excitement she exudes (you should see her face light up, my goodness) regarding her choice to be clothes free for the sake of being comfortable and “at home.”

I mention this, because, when I first started my clothes free life back in 2014, so many people kept pushing the idea that “you gotta shout it out loud and tell everyone and be naked all the time and not care what anyone says or thinks or any possible repercussions.” Again, that is wonderful if it works for a particular person, given their personality and situation. However, for some, aside from any work or cultural / political / religious / family factors that might exist, that kind of “out there to the random public” is actually not organic to how they engage anything in life. They’re just not the kind of shout it from the rooftop kind of folks. They don’t live on Twitter. They don’t use Wordpress. They might not really be active on Facebook. But when talking one on one, that’s when they open up and share. Their “social” expression is in a very small environment of trust.

I want to be clear that this is not meant to apply to or speak for all women nor is it something unique to women (or those who choose to identify as such). I know men who have similar tendencies. Indeed, we are all unique human beings with a variety of personalities, situations, histories, tendencies and so forth that are constantly in flux. But, given that the question of “how to get women more involved in naturism” comes up often, this reflection on my recent interactions with women in my life arose, and I wanted to add it to the conversation. It has been these one-on-one dynamics that have facilitated them opening up and sharing their clothes free lives with me and, in the process, cultivating what appears to be a deeper appreciation and enthusiasm for their own clothes free life as a result of talking about it in a one-on-one conversation.

The African Continent Naturism, Nudism and clothes free living – African Americans and the clothes free community

“Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter” – African Proverb

This is the first in a four-part series of posts about the presence of African-Americans and people of African descent in the clothes free community for Black History Month. This series will look at a brief history of naturism, nudism, and clothes free living in connection with  African-Americans and their participation in the clothes free community. Hopefully, this series will accomplish two things; deepen the awareness of the African American community about the historical practice naturism among people of African ancestry. Also to encourage dialogue between the African-American community and the clothes free community about the lingering limiting factors that impact their participation.

The history

In order to understand the current state of African-Americans and naturism, nudism and clothes free living, we have to look back at the history of naturism, nudity and clothes free life among people from the African continent. With few exceptions most examinations of the history of naturism in the clothes free community start with the Greek culture and its penchant for naked athletic events and recreation. However, if one resists the temptation to see the world through a purely Eurocentric lens, one could make the case that naturism existed on the African continent. For no more complex reasons than geography and climate the African continent was more inclined to have people who were nude, naked or clothes free in daily life.

“Anything from complete nakedness to casual body covering was a lifestyle component from prehistoric times through the Greco-Roman civilizations and into part of the Middle Ages.” Aileen Goodson’s Therapy, Nudity & Joy

According to the XIV Congress of the International Naturist Federation (Agde, France, 1974), naturism is: a way of life in harmony with nature characterised by the practice of communal nudity with the intention of encouraging self-respect, respect for others and for the environment.

While I do not want to suggest that naturism and clothes free living was universally practiced on the African continent, if one uses the definition of naturism from the International Naturist Federation it is fair say that naturism was widely practiced among pre-colonial Africans. Experts in the field, suggest that the start of organized nudism can be traced back to Africa in the practice of sun worship in Egypt. Archeological evidence to that effect goes back as far as 1383 B.C. Modern day home nudists should note the experts say that under the rule of Pharoah Ahken-Aton nudity or wearing the lightest and most transparent clothing was a regular practice in the royal palace.

“They practiced a religion and nudist way of life that was far ahead of their time,” Aileen Goodson’s Therapy, Nudity & Joy

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The colonial cover up

One could also say with a fair degree of accuracy, pre-colonial indigenous peoples of sub-Saharan Africa practiced different levels of social nudity, top free and clothes free living. The practice varied according to tribal customs and culture, gender, and religious beliefs. It would not be overstating the facts to say pre-colonial Africans specifically those in sub-Saharan Africa wore much less clothing, and were more apt to consider nudity, normal than European colonists.

When the European colonists arrived on the continent, the call for indigenous people to cover up came with them. They brought with them European values, custom and norms, that perceived the clothes free cultures of Africa to be an indication of savagery. The practical nature of limited or no clothing was lost on the colonists, who were embarrassed by such “uncivilized and barbaric” ways of living.

Their sad experience was a familiar story of colonialism: that is, cultural genocide, including a compulsory cover-up of naked savages in the name of civilized modesty. Instilling body shame became an essential element in the conversion and control of native peoples.

…European colonial/religious authorities made wearing clothing the most visible sign of subservience to the new order. Body Acceptance: A Brief History of Social Nudity

The difference

While some today would suggest, (see video below) that social nudity is not indigenous to African culture, I think that is not an entirely correct statement. It might be more accurate to say that social nudity as practiced by modern European and western cultures, was not a part of the pre-colonial African cultural landscape. It is prudent here to make the distinction between social nudism, nude recreation and naturism. Making this distinction, once again using the definition from the International Federation, it would be a valid point to say that prior to colonialism on the African continent, social nudism or nude recreation was not necessary.

It could be said that social nudity is a First World European problem.

Naturism, living, working and functioning in community clothes free, was just a natural everyday aspect of life on the African continent, especially sub-Saharan Africa. This writer believes that the advent of colonials’ powers with their Europeans values and norms of dress initiated a shift away from the “naturist” way of life by most if not all the tribal people of Africa. It is also this writer’s opinion that the legacy of this shift continues to impact the participation of African-Americans in the clothes free community today. We will take that up in the next post in this series.


Africa’s naked tribe – not the one you think

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
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Naturism nudism and clothes free living African Americans and the clothes free community

For black history month we will be publishing a four-part series the Naturism, Nudism, and Clothes Free Living – African-Americans & the clothes free community. Each week in February we will explore a different aspects of naturism, nudity and clothes free life in the African-American context. We will start on the African continent and move to the intersection of native Africans with Europeans and Americans of european descent. Then explore the place of African-Americans in the height of the naturist/nudist and finish with a look at present day.

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This online magazine/site is one of the only naturist/clothes free sites to present the African-American perspective in the clothes free community.

Photo credits
Far right : Noire 3000 studios http://www.noire3000studios.com/

Artist uses nude images to raise consciousness about race

Woman Poses Nude in the Middle of Wall Street

Visual artist Nona Faustine, a Brooklyn native, has published a series of provocative photos to underscore New York’s role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The photo series, titled “White Shoes,” features Faustine posing nude on Wall Street, at City Hall, in a Brooklyn cemetery, and at various other New York landmarks where African slaves arrived, lived, and died in America.
A graduate of NYU’s School of Visual Arts, Faustine cites enslaved African “model” Saartjie Baartman and black American photographer Carrie Mae Weems as major influences and inspirations for her “White Shoes” project. “Through self-portraiture,” Faustine explains, “I explore issues about the black body within photography and history.

 

via nona faustine http://nonafaustine.virb.com/

 read more from Complex
see photos in the “white shoes series”

Records and Conversations

hh writing pink penSometimes I wonder to myself, “Why am I posting naked pictures of myself on the internet?” Am I some kind of exhibitionist? Do I want attention? What’s the point?” NO. I realized during a writing reflection session that I am sharing my naked soul to create a personal history and to be part of something great. Read more