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reclaiming the legacy – afro naturism as cultural heritage

This second in the 2018 black history series reclaiming the legacy. In this series I attempt to examine the role members of the African diaspora have to play in re-establishing the social and cultural legacy of afro naturism. It is my contention that the clothes free living of afro-naturism is part of the cultural heritage of many Africans and by descent the people of the African diaspora like African-Americans. Modern day naturists and nudists often say “we were born naked”. In pre-colonial African society many of those humans born naked, also stayed  naked. Extensive covering of the whole body was not endemic to the culture or environment.

As I shared in the first of this series I recently watched and enjoyed the movie Black Panther. The movie has broken all kinds of box office records, and become a source of cultural pride for Africans and the African diaspora. The movie envisions a world in which one part Africa was not colonized and not subject to the destructive impact of colonization. The cultural heritage of many different tribes and people of Africa were powerfully depicted. People of African descent (reminder Africa in a continent with many countries, tribes and people groups) were able to see glimpse of themselves in the cultural expression on screen.

One of the most devastating impacts of colonization was the diminishing and sometimes outright destruction of African cultural heritage. From the removal of given names as depicted in the movie Roots, to making the cultural and ceremonial clothes  worn inappropriate and inadequate, to branding clothes free bodies barbaric, dirty or profane; the culture of Africa people was stripped away. These ideas and cultural world view are embedded in the heart of western culture.

I call out to the African diaspora to reclaim our cultural heritage of clothes free living. Just as Black Panther can help us to reconnect with our roots through a view of afro-futurism that defies colonial impact so afro-nudism may help us reconnect with our cultural heritage. I am not suggesting that we never wear clothes again. What I am suggesting is we accept our unclothed bodies as positive in all their varied shapes and sizes. I am suggesting that we out Gh the not be bound by western cultural standards that clothed is good and naked is bad regardless of circumstance and situation. Rather, I suggest that we embrace the practice of clothes free living as a significant part of our cultural heritage and begin to proudly express it in our lives.

Under colonialism, few things belonged to us, not even our bodies. Under the prism of white supremacy, black bodies are simultaneously hypervisible and invisible. Perceptions based in prejudice often render us agentless in the ways society interacts with black bodies. For centuries, despite nudity in its various forms being a prominent and accepted part of daily life and culture for many Africans, enslavement, colonial rule, influences from Islam and Christianity, and patriarchal systems violently upheld systems and social standards that constrained the agency and autonomy of black people through clothing and nudity. Civilizing missions sought to enlighten so-called savages, ironically employing savage methods to do so. Dynamic Africa 


Fortunately there are people in Africa who are actively reclaiming the place of the clothes free African body in cultural heritage of Africans and people of African descent.

African-Americans and others in the African diaspora can find inspiration in Africans who are calling our western cultural emperialism and while reclaiming their cultural heritage of dress or undress.

“I, as a South African, want to celebrate my culture. Having my photos labelled as inappropriate or regarded as porn, I take that as a direct attack on my cultural heritage. I take it as a sign of ignorance. If I’m posing in a sexually suggestive manner that is one thing, but if I’m posting pictures of me standing there in my traditional attire, that is a completely different context” Hey Google, our breasts aren’t sexual’

Now it is our turn. We can join in solidarity with sisters and brothers to show the world that clothes free life like life itself has its roots in Africa. Clothes free living is part of our heritage as people of African descent. A cultural heritage and legacy that is our to reclaim.

Though this series is meant to speak directly to my brothers and sisters in the African diaspora I must take a moment to speak to Europeans who share the ideals and practice of naturist and clothes free living. Allow us the opportunity to explore our heritage and cultural roots in clothes free living and naturism without…

  • Making us feel like we are somehow being racist because we value the culture and heritage that was taken from us.
  • Understand we don’t need you to convince us you are being racism and you like black people and everyone is equal in naturism. Life has taught us that people are people. Some are racists, some not whether they are nudists, naturists or not.
  • Appropriating the civil rights movement born out of slavery and segregation to promote the nudist/naturist cause. It is painful for this person of African descent to see this because it simplifies and trivializes the struggle for which many gave their lives.

In upcoming parts of this series I will share some actions that can be taken to reclaim the legacy of our ancestors and cultural heritage. Share your thoughts on the post and series in the comments section below.

About the author: Earl D
Founder, editor in chief, news curator

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