Review of Ngozi Onwurah’s “The Body Beautiful”

…Onwurah’s ending is not, however, Utopian; neither her own objectification and labeling by discourse nor her mother’s stigmatization is miraculously resolved. Onwurah’s comment on “a world that sees only in black and white” is both fitting and predictive, since viewers and critics continue to lean towards that very essentialism (if existing scholarship on the film is any indication). But on a fundamental level, Onwurah’s The Body Beautiful remains an unusual example of a film directed by a woman of white-black racial heritage, which centralizes the consciousness of the mixed-race identity. The film delivers a rare message by encouraging viewers to challenge ethnic absolutism and essentialist codes of gender. To borrow an appropriate quotation from Françoise Lionnet, The Body Beautiful effectively “subverts] all binary modes of thought by privileging (more or less explicitly) the intermediary spaces where boundaries become effaced and Manichean categories collapse into each other.” And it is precisely where binaries and essentialist codes of identity are subverted that the process of identification becomes constructive, rather than a site for problematic exclusion, inclusion, and marginalization.

Diana Adesola Mafe. “Misplaced Bodies: Probing Racial and Gender Signifiers in Ngozi Onwurah’s The Body Beautiful.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 2008, Volume 29, Number 1, pages 37-50.

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