Kenyan Animator Explores the Hazards of Homogenous Beauty Ideals

“I see the west seeing us and in response this woman worked hard to erase the element that marks her as truly African: her own melanin, her own skin.”

Thus speaks the narrator in filmmaker Ng’endo Mukii’s newly released short film “Yellow Fever.” The film was submitted as Mukii’s thesis project at London’s Royal College of Art and is a progressive blend of spoken word, pixilation, live-action and hand drawn animations that investigate the consequences of Eurocentric beauty ideals, particularly in the context of African women.

“Yellow Fever” centers on the oftentimes-dangerous use of the beauty creams that are known as mkorogo in Kenya. The creams are supposed to bleach dark skin and are used by darker skinned people frustrated with their complexions. Chasing a lighter skin tone, many turn to these bleaching products, often with harmful results.

“She could only afford enough beauty cream to bleach her hands and face, which are now yellow,” says the narrator as the camera zooms in on an animated hairdresser that has gotten her face and hands badly discolored.

Mukii, who is originally from Nairobi, has won several awards for “Yellow Fever,” including Best Short Film at the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards in Nigeria. The film is available for streaming on Vimeo with a runtime of just below seven minutes.

“The idea of beauty has become globalized, creating homogenous aspirations and distorting people’s self-image across the planet,” reads a statement on Mukii’s website. “In my film, I focus on African women’s self-image…using mixed media to describe this almost schizophrenic self-visualization that I and many others have grown up with.”

Yellow Fever: FULL from Ng’endo Mukii on Vimeo.

Originally from Sweden, Chris is a journalist with an extensive interest for African culture and the arts.