Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

Altered Surfaces: Cloth and Skin Bleaching in Yvonne Vera’s Without a Name & Butterfly Burning

“Altered Surfaces: Cloth and Skin Bleaching in Yvonne Vera’s Without a Name and Butterfly Burning” was presented at the Versions and Subversions Conference on African Literatures, Berlin, Germany (2002) and published in Body, Sexuality, and Gender: Versions and Subversions in African Literatures 1 (2005). This writing represents another early effort on my part at a transdisciplinary reading of Yvonne Vera’s fiction through textile scholarship. Structured around key steps from the technical book Color and Fiber (Schiffer: 1986), I attempt to read Vera’s writing of skin bleaching through the language of cloth and dye techniques. I focus on Vera’s Without a Name and Butterfly Burning, which both depict the use of skin-bleaching creams and refer to the Ambi generation, as Without a Name coins it, the licensed trademark for the commercial brand of skin care Ambi, which contain chemicals to lighten the colour of one’s skin. But ambi- as a prefix means ‘both’ or ‘on both sides’ (OED) and in this writing I attempt to communicate the brutality of actually eliding skin with cloth.

Hemmings, J. “Altered Surfaces: Cloth and Skin Bleaching in Yvonne Vera’s Without a Name and Butterfly Burning” in Body, Sexuality, and Gender: Versions and Subversions in African Literatures 1 (eds. Flora Veit-Wild & Dirk Naguschewski) New York: Rodopi Publishers (2005) pp.173-186.