feature: 16-year-old gaborone-based photographer towela kams shares powerful ‘colourism: shades of africa’ editorial

June 16, 2016

In her powerful, new photo series, 16-year-old Gaborone, Botswana based photographer Towela Kams sheds a bright light on colorism-based discrimination and representation in media, as well as society as a whole. If you’ve been sleep, colorism is a system of racial discrimination based on a foundation of white supremacy. Colorism favors individuals with lighter skin because of their perceived proximity to either whiteness or the “exotic”, i.e. distance from ‘plain’ blackness. It’s a really screwed up way for people of color to re-create the race-based oppression they face within their own communities. “Colourism is an epidemic in society and it’s often a topic people run away from. As a photographer, I’m going to voice it out through imagery in hopes of changing people’s misconception that beauty is solely dependent on the amount of melanin one possesses,” Kams says.

Check out the full series, over here.

By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor

Consumed by asphyxiated rage,
The Black Rose stood in silence
Reflectin on past battles about being an African child
That is looked down upon because of her dark.

The Arum-Lily with African residents stands tall,
looking to the skin in attempt to understand why her light comes to the mercy of others.
Because in a world consumed with colour and cultural differences,
The essence of an African child is so often shunned down
Because they are taught that if they ever need a helping hand,
They will not find one at the end of their own arm.

Neglected by society because she radiates a different shade of beauty,
The Black Rose stands aloof
As her brown eyes tell stories of imperfection,
Permanent and inevitable flaws,
Whilst the Arum-Lily triumphs with beauty that is not only skin deep,
But exceeds right down to the pinnacle of her bones
From the concrete, a Black Rose grew
Threatened by it’s beauty and potential to blossom without being watered,
The Arum-Lily suffocated it
So often, the youth is happy because they have the capacity to see beauty
But with truth and honest written across her face,
The Arum-Lily poised in awe
Wonders if her beauty has become a burden to bear.
But even though they stood equidistant from one another,
Gravitating on the same ground and inhaling the same air,
They were separated from cultural difference because the Arum-Lily flaunted her beauty,
Whilst the Black Rose is in illusion by the idea that clouds are cascading into her life,
Not in effort to bring colour to her sunset after the rain,
but to usher a storm
And though the sun may shine in winter, and snow may fall in summer,
The Black Rose looked back in one last effort to understand what society defines as beauty.
The Arum-Lily, so often used as an example of perfection,
Stared back in complete puzzlement.
For nature did not require an operation to be beautiful,
At just was.

Photographer: Towela Kams
Models: Bubuya Moesi and Nancy Vandensteen
Stylist: Jovem Moda

*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK’s editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at