In Africa most women desire to be fat and on that continent, men prefer big, fat women. In these societies, being fat denotes wealth, good health, and prosperity and will greatly enhance a girl's prospects of getting a husband.
All the girls desire to be big and fat. Fatness shows a well and hearty body, full of life and vigour. On a continent where famine is not a stranger and times of starvation are many, to be fat shows riches and real worth.
If a woman is not fat, men avoid her. If a woman has small breasts, it is a disaster. Men will avoid her in the belief that she will not be able to breast feed.
Also a big frame and big bottom indicate a big pelvis and therefore, easy childbirth and easy deliveries. These things are very important in primitive societies where ante-natal care and obstetric care may in most instances, be rudimentary.
In Nigeria among the Warrike tribe, the girls are sent to special
"Fattening Rooms" as soon as they start to develop breasts, in order to prepare them for marriage. In the Fattening Rooms, they will be requested to eat bowl after bowl of rice, yams, plantains, beans, peas and porridge. Everything they desire is brought to them eg clothes, perfumes, creams, lotions and advice from older women about marriage and about mothering.
Among the Warrike tribe, a blacksmith will fit huge copper bracelets to the legs -- called Ikpala -- causing swelling and aching and preventing the girls from leaving the rooms or from having sex. "If a girl makes love, the Ikpala makes so much noise -- like cowbells -- that everyone will know," one woman explained.
In order to get fat in these societies, some women take drugs especially anti-histamines and steroids. These drugs are sold in western countries only on prescription but are freely available in Africa where they are sold by boys on bicycles who have trays attached to the front of their bikes.
Typically anti-histamines like Pericatin or steroids like Dexamethasone are sold. These drugs open the appetite and therefore the people will eat more food and put on more weight.
This is a poor country and the women find it cheaper to consume food supplements meant for animals eg Supravitaminol. These food supplements are of course dangerous for humans to take but some people consume them in Africa. This, of course, reminds us of the scare last year when our women where taking the "fowl pill".
Men in Africa will tell you how embarrassed they are with having a thin wife. How they are insulted and jeered for having a wife who looks thin as this is a reflection in their inability to feed her.
We must remember that in Africa, among the Muslim communities and in the native religions, men are allowed up to four wives and there is always serious competition among the wives to be the most beautiful and the most charming so that they will get their husband's attention and the best presents, etc.
Sometimes we wonder if ancestral memories persist and if that is so, perhaps this is the reason for many Jamaican men preferring big fat women and will explain why our women desire to be big and fat.
Can it be that these ancient race memories still persist, or can it be that in a country where starvation can come at any time, the people have fashioned a philosophy that ensures their survival regardless of the hard times and it might be that in Jamaica, where the majority of people are poor, we still cling to this philosophy because it will help us to survive.
Dr N Persadsingh is a dermatologist and author of the book Acne in Black Women.