the matte project


What Is Beauty To You? Akona Ndungane, 33

I’ve been lucky, I realise, as I think back on my three decades that I am aware of, that I’ve never struggled with body or beauty comparison issues even though my environments could have led me that way. There is a story told humorously in my family of when I was very small, probably only a few months old, and on weekends my mother and Godfather would go into town of our small city of Mthatha encouraging people to pay 50c to see an ugly baby – apparently I looked really awkward in my early days as a yellow jaundiced baby with pitch black ears and then later as the darkest member of my family.

As a toddler all the way through primary school I was mistaken for a boy and it didn’t help much that I took on a tomboy persona during this time. I think I only came to see myself as feminine and even beautiful in my late teens. Maybe it was being told I look unusually striking but also familiarly beautiful, “not pretty” as my gran would say… just that there was something interesting about my face and it was exaggerated by how animated and expressive it is.

My idea of beauty seems to have always been connected to confidence and how you choose to express yourself. I’m settled on liking myself, no matter what I look like. I make sure to use kind words when I speak to myself and have done so for a long time.