By Monica Obaga, Buni.tv
Yellow Fever is an artistic, mixed-media meditation exploring the concept of skin, race and the self-image of African women in the pursuit of globalized beauty standards. Released two years ahead of the Lupita frenzy, it seems more a little more urgent now, with the commercial success of skin-lightening products persisting despite the novel majority, public allegiance to dark skinned beauty.
Yellow Fever is thematic without being didactic. It’s more meditative than instructive which works very much in its favor.
The voice of the film is singularly expressed in the narrator, also animator and director of the film, Ng’endo Mukii. She presents her perspective in a way that does not distance herself from her subject matter, adding a welcome humanity to a delicate topic. The film begins, animated, at the hair salon during Ng’endo childhood. She Ng’endo describes her hairdresser, “I see the West seeing us, and in response this woman had erased anything that marked her as truly African. Her own…skin.” She proceeds to atone for her judgement, by pointing out the irony, that the woman was braiding her hair with nylon strands from China. It is my belief however, that hair extensions were not an invention of the Western civilization, and has been a part of global history in dating back to Egypt circa 4000 BC. A meditation on African hair: a sequel to Yellow Fever perhaps?
The second act is a meditation of everyday thoughts carried through the present, set to live footage of modern dance and an archival print montage. Beautiful sound design adds to its fevered pitch.
The film closes with an actual interview with her mother and niece. A commercial runs in the background, its product promising ‘up to five shades lighter for true beauty’, and haunting accompaniment to her family’s innocent complicity.
The overall effect is an evocative, layered experience, visually and philosophically, ripe for multiple viewings!
Watch Yellow Fever on Buni+