Agbara

Skin bleaching is still a global issue. To meet Western standards of beauty, people with darker skin – mostly women – use harsh chemicals to remove melanin from their skin. This project questions the wish for fairer skin, connected to a long history of white dominance. Inspired by West-African Manilla jewellery, once used as currency in the slave trade, Yinka Buutfeld created a set of awareness pieces.
Using various passementerie and bleaching techniques on rough shipping rope, she transforms the shackles of the past into voluminous accessories. Bearing the marks of the chemical treatment, they send out a statement to cherish all skin colours. AGBARA, meaning power in Yoruba, empowers the body’s natural beauty.

AGBARA, meaning ‘power’ in the Yoruba language, is a collection of wearable statement pieces telling the story of the phenomenon of skin bleaching. I was inspired by the bold West-African Manilla (money) or Alloy, aiming to embrace the natural beauty of the human body and skin. During the design process, I saw a correlation between the history and story of the Manillas, which was the contradiction between the perception of what is being perceived as beauty and beautiful.

The Manillas are well-known for their bold crafted characteristics and are sometimes still used as domestic decorative elements.⠀
I used to admire them as beautiful objects lying on the windowsill at home. Unfortunately, I discovered that their story is a story of grief. In the colonial past, they were used as a trading source to trade enslaved people and other goods.⠀The color range is focused on the melanin skin tone and the side effects the chemicals cause when people bleach their skin.

Especially people with darker skin are more pressured to use these products. Hydroquinone and mercury are primarily used in skin whitening products. Still, they have hazardous effects externally and internally, for example, scarring, skin thinning, speckled skin, skin burn, stretch marks, lung damage, and much more. The awareness pieces are created with the thought of embracing the delicate natural skin and the human body.

Graduation projectDesign Academy Eindhoven2021
This project was in collaboration with Textilemuseumand ceramic artist/designer Sterre ter Beek
Photography - Iris RijskampAssistent stylists Sue Jing Lim and Mayomi Basnayaka

The Manillas are well-known for their bold crafted characteristics and are sometimes still used as domestic decorative elements.⠀
I used to admire them as beautiful objects lying on the windowsill at home. Unfortunately, I discovered that their story is a story of grief. In the colonial past, they were used as a trading source to trade enslaved people and other goods.⠀The color range is focused on the melanin skin tone and the side effects the chemicals cause when people bleach their skin.

Especially people with darker skin are more pressured to use these products. Hydroquinone and mercury are primarily used in skin whitening products. Still, they have hazardous effects externally and internally, for example, scarring, skin thinning, speckled skin, skin burn, stretch marks, lung damage, and much more. The awareness pieces are created with the thought of embracing the delicate natural skin and the human body.

Graduation projectDesign Academy Eindhoven2021
This project was in collaboration with Textilemuseumand ceramic artist/designer Sterre ter Beek
Photography - Iris RijskampAssistent stylists Sue Jing Lim and Mayomi Basnayaka

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