Thursday, December 22, 2011

On Beauty

I'm very clean and dress appropriately in village and all that, but I haven't really made many concessions to the Pular ideals of feminine beauty. I don't wear earrings often, and I never wear giant shiny dangling earrings. I don't braid my hair into interesting designs, I don't wear lots of bracelets or colorful skirts or have my gums tattooed black. My host family is really nice about this, and even though they're obviously thrilled when I dress up Senewgalese-style for holidays they've never pushed me to wear dresses or anything like that. 

So, partly because I knew they'd be super into it and partly because I'm totally curious about how it works, I said I wanted to do the henna-type thing that my host sisters like so much. They call it foudin or poudin, depending on who's doing it, and it turns out that the leaves it's made from grow all around my compound. 

First, we picked leaves and spread them out to dry int the sun for an afternoon. 

Once they were dry we pounded them in a big wooden mortal and pestle and then sifted the powder, re-pounding the bigger bits until we had a smooth, green, talcum-like dust.

Then we cut up some limes, which also grow nearby, and mixed in lime juice and water until we had a nice paste.

Then we got out the tape. I did my own taping and my host sisters were very impressed, so then I had to do their taping, too. The little baggies on the left are filled with mangiac, which looks like dirty rock salt and can be used to turn the orange of the foudin into a dark inky black.

After my designs were all taped in place Mariama Kesso helped my smear the paste on.

Then, once I was all covered in leaf paste they put plastic bags over my feet and told me not to walk around for a few hours.

Once the color had set I peeled and scraped the goo and tape off and let my prune-y orange feet dry out before rinsing them off with cool water. 

Everyone was happy. My host sisters were super pleased that I'd let them help me with something, we were all fascinated with how ridiculously orange the foudin looks on my pale, pale skin, and people liked that I was looking a (very) little bit more Senegalese.

Every single time I have gone outside someone stops me to tell me how pretty my feet look. people have been way nicer than usual (they're nice usually, but even nicer now) and a fruit seller lady in the market gave me a lime for free.

On the other hand, I can't shake the constant feeling that I'm wearing little nylon socklets, which is weird. 


  1. Honestly I'm kind of bummed that you didn't let them tattoo your gums black.


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