What is Colourism? Lupita Nyong’o Addresses it in Sulwe

What is Colourism? Lupita Nyong’o Addresses it in Sulwe

Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o displaying her Sulwe book cover I Courtesy

Sulwe is a Dhuluo word meaning “Star.”

Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o  has said her debut children’s book ‘Sulwe’ arrives October 15. “This book is my dream come true for kids like her today,” says the Oscar award-winning actress in her Instagram post. ‘Sulwe’ aims to serve as a mirror for dark-skinned girls to see characters that look like them and to tackle colourism.

Sharing a photo of her 5-year-old self, she said that the book reflects on her feelings when she read books but couldn’t see black characters that looked like her. She wrote: 

“This is 5-year-old me. I reflected on this little girl’s feelings and fantasies when I decided to write my children’s book, #Sulwe. With this book, I wanted to hold up a mirror for her. Here’s why:

As a little girl reading, I had all of these windows into the lives of people who looked nothing like me, chances to look into their worlds, but I didn’t have any mirrors. While windows help us develop empathy and an understanding of the wider world, mirrors help us develop our sense of self, and our understanding of our own world. They ground us in our body and our experiences.

#Sulwe holds up a mirror for dark-skinned children especially, to see themselves reflected immediately, and it is a window for all the others to cherish peering into.

Colourism, society’s preference for lighter skin, is alive and well. It’s not just a prejudice reserved for places with a largely white population. Throughout the world, even in Kenya, even today, there is a popular sentiment that lighter is brighter.

I imagined what it would have been like for this little girl to turn the pages of her picture books and see more dark skin in a beautiful light. This book is my dream come true for kids like her today. #Sulwearrives October 15. ? Link in bio to pre-order.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

This is 5-year-old me. I reflected on this little girl’s feelings and fantasies when I decided to write my children’s book, #Sulwe. With this book, I wanted to hold up a mirror for her. Here’s why: As a little girl reading, I had all of these windows into the lives of people who looked nothing like me, chances to look into their worlds, but I didn’t have any mirrors. While windows help us develop empathy and an understanding of the wider world, mirrors help us develop our sense of self, and our understanding of our own world. They ground us in our body and our experiences. #Sulwe holds up a mirror for dark-skinned children especially, to see themselves reflected immediately, and it is a window for all the others to cherish peering into. Colorism, society’s preference for lighter skin, is alive and well. It’s not just a prejudice reserved for places with a largely white population. Throughout the world, even in Kenya, even today, there is a popular sentiment that lighter is brighter. I imagined what it would have been like for this little girl to turn the pages of her picture books and see more dark skin in a beautiful light. This book is my dream come true for kids like her today. #Sulwe arrives October 15. ✨ Link in bio to pre-order. #NationalBookMonth #BrightnessIsJustWhoYouAre

A post shared by Lupita Nyong’o (@lupitanyongo) on

The book’s cover illustration has been done by Vashti Harrison, an artist and filmmaker from Onley, Virginia.