…but who is still fully dressed in this country?

Before the people (s) who invented clothes invented clothes, humans were strutting their things in the full glare of the sun – without care, without shame.

Then we were struck by the evolution lightning and suddenly our Lacomi was not big enough to cover our loins anymore and no piece of cloth could wrap our breasts well enough. We needed dresses, gomesis, trousers and all manner of attire to keep our privates out of public eye.

For most women, the longer the outfit and the more skin you covered up, the more claps you got – for being morally upright, self-respecting, a real ‘mother’ etc. A woman who wears a mini skirt or bares her skin beyond ‘acceptable proportions’ earns herself the title of Apoli, Malaya or a cheap, desperate seductress and many more.   

Among my people, a woman could only reveal her nakedness when she is really angry…like when her son starts behaving like an asshole and ignores all advise, his mother will wag her breasts at the son, invoking a curse; or if the woman feels wronged, she’ll strip before her kinsmen – to express her frustration and helplessness. Nudity thus became a weapon, a trumpet that once sounded couldn’t be unsounded. But that too is now frowned upon by many.

That’s why when in April 2015, women in Apaa, Amuru District stripped  before ministers, government officials and investors in protest against the grabbing of their land, the nudity weapon had been taken out of the granary; only that many didn’t feel amused by the action – it was an outdated practice, uncalled for.

I won’t go to neighbouring Kenya where in 1992, environmental activist Wangari Maathai led a group of women who protested nude against the detention of political detainees by the Moi regime, or the 1992 police station invasion by a group of women led by Muthoni Nyanjiru in protest of the jailing of Harry Thuku.

It’s important to note that behind most (if not all) nude protests by a woman, there is a man. Which begs the point that while has society fashioned women as the weaker sex, nudity makes them slap back the cheek of their male tormentor, it strips their aggressor of their power (at least in many cases).

So when I woke up to a video of Dr Stella Nyanzi protesting naked against her eviction from office at Makerere University, I was not very shocked, mainly because I know Stella is not one to be caged. Her only option is to die fighting, it doesn’t matter how.

The commentary that have followed Stella’s nude protest is what has amused me.

  1. Many have said striping was not Stella’s last resort, that she has a pen, a brain (a PhD for god’s sake!) and many other ‘civil’ and less shameful avenues through which she could have sorted out her employment problem. So the point is, a PhD-holding woman is over qualified to protest nude. Leave it for the Amuru women whose butts hardly touched desks in school.
  2. Then there are those claiming temporary blindness because of Stella’s breasts – the breasts have ‘fallen’ and should not have been exposed to the public, they say. Actually a friend of mine says if those were his breasts, he would bathe with clothes on. Another is utterly disgusted at the professor for spoiling his week with her unpalatable breasts! In other words, if you want to protest nude, make sure you have pointed breasts, firmer than adolescent oranges. But there’s no guarantee you will pass this test with ‘saluting’ breasts though. Some may find them too small, too big or just not their type. See, even Anita Fabiola hardly passed the boob test when her nudes leaked!
  3. And of course most people will think the strings in your brain have been eaten by weevils, or that you are a pathetic attention-seeking loser, a disgrace to womanhood. So don’t console yourself that maybe some of those condemning your nudity during day have the quickest hands to tear off clothes behind closed doors. And in this era of nude pictures and Rihana-style outfits, don’t imagine that just like most people bow to nudes in the comfort of their phones, they will bow to your day-time nudes.

Anyway, when all is seen and said, no one, especially in this our republic, should pretend they are not naked. When an MP votes to have their pay exempted from tax, they take off your blouse; when the ruling party holds a billion-shilling celebratory party while you try to touch the bottom of your pocket, they take off your pants; when you go visit your sick mother in hospital and there’s no blood for transfusion, no machine to scan their aching bones, or no radiotherapy machine to burn cancerous cells from their body; they take off your undies; when you wake up to headlines that your taxes have been eaten by termites or that it’s become a debris in a shoddily built dam or road, they leave you bare to the stare of a government that doesn’t care…

Unlike Nyanzi and the Amuru women who have the luxury of taking off their clothes, ours is an involuntary by a government blind to our nudities. And even those eating from the table with the emperor, may not realize they are naked, but when god comes to their Garden of Eden one day, their eyes will open to their nakedness.

The act of stripping is always deeper than what we see on the outside.

While you cringe over nudity by the Stellas of this world, have the clear-headedness to realize yours too is an Adam suit, just in another colour maybe!

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About Anena

Harriet Anena is a poet and fiction writer, journalist and many things, some of which she's not aware of. She's the author of A Nation in Labour, a poetry collection and has published several short stories. She's in the kitchen, figuring out the ingredients for her second book.
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15 Responses to …but who is still fully dressed in this country?

  1. Pingback: Of minis & tight pants: Let’s know when to shut up | Jotspot

  2. MyRoots says:

    ‘ Actually a friend of mine says if those were his breasts, he would bathe with clothes on.’ Haha. That made my ɗay.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. isabella says:

    lovely, and worth a share

    Like

  4. Ouch! This is incredibly nice. Just exactly what I was thinking about. Why are they crucifying Stella and yet the Amuru women did not cause much buzz. Do I see double standards here? Thank you, Anena!

    Like

  5. Ollama Claire says:

    I totally agree……..the actions of this doctor are nothing if they nust be compared to the rot in government systems and institutions for which MISR is not exempt. If systems were functional, this shouldn’t have happened. Well written piece of work i must say.

    Like

  6. Hawa Kimbugwe says:

    I wish everyone had your selective eye!# @Anena#

    Like

  7. Kinyera says:

    Thanks sis. Well articulated. We are all nude, of sorts!

    Like

  8. Estar K says:

    Such a good read; an apt description of the times we live in.

    Like

  9. Reblogged this on Listen With Me and commented:
    Thanks to you Serubiri Moses and Rebecca Rwakabukoza for the Body Pedagogy workshop during Eroticism and Intimacy Exhibition. I can clearly articulate that the body and NUDITY IS A WEAPON. On Stella Nyanzi’s protest, this is not nudity to certify any ones sexual fantasies(like many have contextualised it). In Body pedagogy, as a body grows from childhood to adulthood, it assumes new social status. The body of an older woman(mostly mothers) and in this case a twin mother can be a strong weapon. A weapon that many Africans would rather give you what you need than “kubakumamira” or insult their sensibilities.

    Like

  10. richard says:

    This is amazing Anena.

    Like

  11. Ciryan says:

    While you cringe over nudity by the
    Stellas of this world, have the clear-
    headedness to realize yours too is
    an Adam suit, just in another colour
    maybe!

    Let’s just say I love this.

    Like

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