When sophomore Rutendo Magade left Zimbabwe to finish high school in Thailand, she quickly learned that personal hygiene products like soap made promises beyond cleanliness. The majority of soaps she could buy in stores also were advertised to lighten skin.
Skin whitening and skin bleaching is so common in Thailand that it’s hard to even find normal soap in stores, just skin-whitening kind,” said Magade.
Magade wasn’t simply experiencing culture shock. She was also discovering an industry projected to be worth $24 billion by 2027, according to a recent World Health Organization report that decried use of the products because of health risks.
For Magade, the experience was revelatory, and personal.
“I just remember feeling like Black people like me are not represented or seen at all in Thailand,” she said. “It’s like a demographic that is unrecognized and ignored. Even back home in Zimbabwe and in the United States there is a clear lack of representation and appreciation for people of color. Skin whitening is more common in other parts of the world than you would think.”
Now a sophomore at Earlham, Magade is using her observations as inspiration for a new magazine to change the way people with dark skin are viewed in popular culture. The self-published quarterly magazine is called Munaku which means beautiful person in Shona, a language in her native country of Zimbabwe. Black women are featured throughout the magazine.
The latest issue, which was released online in November, is themed “Love thyself.”
“This is for Black women everywhere. It’s fitting that the articles are written by women from literally everywhere, including America, Africa and Asia.”
“This is for Black women everywhere. It’s fitting that the articles are written by women from literally everywhere, including America, Africa and Asia.” — Rutendo Magade
Does editing a magazine while being a physics and global management double major seem like it’s too much? Not in the least. Not if you’re asking Magade, who only wishes it were practical to have five majors. Earlham’s art, English and African and African American studies programs were also attractive to her.
“I chose physics because I just love it,” she said. “Global management was important to me because I wanted to know more about how to run a successful magazine company.
“I love to draw and I also wanted to pursue art as a major,” she said. “With coming to America, there’s such a different conversation around Africa and African Americans, and that was intriguing. With English, I just love to write. I just have a lot of interests.”
Still, Magade finds that Earlham’s commitment to the liberal arts gives her the academic freedom to explore virtually all of them in some way.
“I still am taking some art classes,” she said. “As for English, editing for my magazine is going to have to do.”
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