Opening up the skin bleaching debate with musician and filmmaker Baloji

Using his trademark assemblage of esoteric costume and visual metaphors, Congolese-Belgian hitmaker and filmmaker Baloji explores the practice of skin lightening in black communities. Euphemistically described as ‘brightening’ or ‘toning’, skin bleaching takes many innocuous forms—such as creams, buffs and soaps—to deal with hyperpigmentation, but is more often used by women to emulate Eurocentric beauty standards.

“Never look at the sun is an expression I heard growing up,” says Baloji. “Never look at the sun and don’t play under it because you’re dark enough. It’s a way parents try to protect their children, but this has side effects.”

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