NAIROBI, Kenya — A columnist in South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper has written a great little piece about the importance, and meaning, of the African Big Man's big belly.
From the bribe-seeking police officer to the political or business heavyweight a large potbelly is far from a sign of laziness or weakness.
Instead, it is a proud symbol of success and power.
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In "That's how we roll" writer Milisuthando Bongela says Khulubuse Zuma, nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma, "has the biggest one."
The writer further explains:
"In this part of the world an umkhaba, boep or potbelly has long been associated with power and wealth. When I think of my father and other elders hailing from my hometown, an unspoken prerequisite for being respected by your peers, women and the youth was a large stomach.
"Similarly, in a traditional context, a woman's wellness was measured by her weight. A thin African woman was an unhappy woman. It may sound like something out of a fable, but it is certainly true of an older generation."
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Looking around Nairobi the generational divide is clear, but not complete, as Bongela points out in an anecdote about an old school friend who set about growing a potbelly so that older colleagues would take him seriously.
"I cannot say that I favor the act of growing a belly as a sign of healthy economic ambition, but I do understand the trajectory on which the idea is based. It is the behavior of a generation that has won the freedom to decide how it uses the past in the present."