Exposed Boobs: nudity or culture

SHARE   |   Sunday, 22 March 2015   |   By Keitebe Kgosikebatho
One of Ngoni's paintings One of Ngoni's paintings

“Worshipping the shadows of breasts” is the name Wilson Ngoni has given to his painting of a bare breasted san maiden. The painting so vividly depicts the girl, in her traditional animal hide  regalia, breasts fully exposed. She exudes confidence and natural beauty, all in all she seems to be at peace with herself.
The painting was exhibited alongside  others  at the just ended  art exhibition in Maun dubbed the ‘wild brush’. According to Ngoni this painting is influenced by the lifestyle and people of the North western region; Ngamiland. In his view, breasts are among the many body parts that are integral to a woman’s beauty, their greatness and power given to them to nurture life. In his view a women’s breasts should not be covered.
Now before you think, this article is about Wilson Ngoni’s  artistic prowess and  one of his many wonderful pieces of art, it isn’t really. This article is  about women’s breasts and their connection to sexuality. While in ancient traditional African culture it was not uncommon to see young maidens walking with their breasts exposed especially during special cultural celebrations, with the advent of western civilisation, women started covering, or maybe instructed to cover up their breasts. Women’s breasts have been sexualized so much that  some people consider exposing one’s breasts even if it is for cultural reasons, nudity and offensive.
A breastfeeding mother cannot peacefully feed her baby in a public space such as a busy mall or at the park without attracting nasty looks and remarks of disapproval.  Small rooms where they can uncover their breast solely to feed their infants have been created in the far dark corners  in some malls far from the public eye. In the worst case scenarios the society do not approve even when a woman has covered up but  is  not wearing a bra. 
 The very human body part that was once considered a marvel to the eyes by suitors and the pride of young maidens (well at least in traditional African Culture)  is now shunned upon and considered offensive. On the contrary however the society do not see anything wrong with men who go topless in public.
Just recently, Pictures of topless young Swati girls taken at the just ended intervarsity games at the University of Botswana caused quiet an uproar mainly on social media. Those who were strongly against the young ladies traditional regalia felt that it was indecent and exposing the public to offensive nudity. There were even rumors that the games were stopped because   authorities allegedly felt the games  were marred by ill behaviour. The topless pictures for some was a clear sign that all was not well. One comment on facebook read “ Good thing the games were stopped, look at this shameless girls, walking half naked”.
When did our society,  develop such habits, one may ask. According to Ngoni, in his artistic view life was considerate to provide newly born babies  with a body part that was specifically made to provide them with food. “ Nature intended  for every child born  out of a woman to  suckle on  a woman’s breasts for milk” said Ngoni.  In his view people must have only respect and appreciation for this special beautiful human body part.
It would seem it is not only local women who are affected by this issue.  In the United States of America there is now a campaign called   Free the Nipple whose main focus is to make it socially acceptable and legal for women to be topless in public just as men can, and to therefore equalise the law.
The campaign was started  by Scout Willis (Bruce Willis’ daughter) when she  went topless in New York after her Instagram account was suspended for posting topless photos. She insists that “I am not afraid of who I am. For women to be able to reveal an equal amount to men in public, whether by choice or for breastfeeding, without being cat-called or embarrassed is what the Free The Nipple Campaign aims for – women to be able to feed her children wherever she wants to without feeling indecent.”
Be that as it may, exposing one’s breasts continues to  draw negative reactions nationwide. Women get arrested occasionally for exposing their breasts in public. In Botswana it is considered public indecency. In some countries the law clearly states that exposing one’s breast in public even for breastfeeding purposes is unlawful.
 



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