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Global encounters: 'Barbie' in Nigerian Agbogho-mmuo mask context

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This is a discussion of the American Barbie doll image as a representation of globalised beauty that impinges on Nigerian standards of beauty exemplified in this essay by Agbogho-mmuo mask of the Igbo ethnic group. Although Barbie is a corporate product and the mask is sacred, the difference is minimised by their mutual focus on representations of idealised beauty. The focus is on the encounter between two ideas of beauty represented by Barbie on the one hand and Agbogho-mmuo on the other. As part of the global image-making network, the Barbie image influences the dynamics of the perception of beauty in Nigeria and this adversely affects the health of women and contributes to the decline of indigenous Nigerian cosmetic usage, production and practises.  The discussion of the variety of images represented by the range of Barbie doll imagery and the female mask helps the reader appreciate the problems of Barbie's body dimensions and skin and hair colour for Nigerians with different skin colour and body expectations. This paper argues that the odds seem to be against the Nigerian 'ideal' because of the country's weakened economic base as it encounters the globally empowered Barbie doll, and is therefore in favour of a strengthening of a Nigerian cultural base.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Wichita State University, Kansas

Publication date: 01 June 2007

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