A few years ago a pregnant woman baring it all would have been a spectacle of sorts. This is because in many cultures it was considered a taboo for a woman carrying a child to expose, let alone, celebrate her body.
Therefore, maternity frocks that covered a pregnant woman from the neck to the edges of her feet were the rule rather than the exception. Today, a pregnant woman is more confident and some are taking it a step further by taking nude photos of their protruding bellies.
Some of the celebrities who have taken bare-it-all photos of their baby bumps include DJ Pierra Makena, TV personality Janet Mbugua, Machachari actress Sofia, Homeboyz radio presenter Mwalimu Rachael, actress Janet Kirina Nariki, songstresses Wahu Kagwe and Laika Kenya, fashion designer Anita Gaitho and hilarious comedian of the Papa Shirandula TV show Jacky Vike aka Awinja.
These celebrities are challenging the notion that a woman is supposed to be ashamed of her body, especially when she is pregnant and her otherwise ‘perfect’ shape has been distorted by the life growing inside her. Jacky who gave birth a few months ago took semi-nude photos of her protruding belly and posted them on her instagram page.
She says there is nothing wrong with a pregnant woman celebrating her body. “Carrying a pregnancy is only a once in a lifetime experience, and choosing to take nude photos during my pregnancy was a great decision for me.
I felt gorgeous. Besides, the world has changed and we can’t keep sticking onto our traditional cocoons. Most important of all, it made me happy. That is all that matters,” says the actress. The trend, started by an American photojournalist Annie Leibovitz with her portrait of a pregnant nude actress Demi Moore in the 90s, is now a well-established art form.
Foreign celebrities in their numbers picked up the trend , the most recent being tennis player, Serena Williams. For Jacky taking pregnant photos is not simply about aping the west. “It is a celebration.
For me, I was so excited about my baby’s imminent birth and it was wonderful to capture elegant and graceful images that I can treasure forever. I am a public person, everyone follows my life, and I had no problem sharing my journey and experiences with them,” she offers.
“I even took complete nude photos of the pregnancy, but those are just for me and my husband to see,” she chuckles. While some people argue that maternity photography is meant to immortalise their pregnancy memories and embrace the changed body, there are questions on whether the practice is acceptable in the African setting.
“It is an abomination. In the Maasai culture, we treat pregnancy as sacred and not to be discussed openly in public. Most times you will find a pregnant woman staying at home or indoors,” says 35-year-old Cecilia Ng’atuny.
She says pregnant women are not even referred to as pregnant, but they use a tag phrase etoijoieye enkojongani, meaning ‘she has swallowed a fly’.
A pregnant woman is required to cover herself up and stay away from the company of men. “Such stringent measures around pregnancy makes it a secret affair and, therefore, it would be taboo to share one’s bare belly with the public,” says Ng’atuny.
Joyce Chelang’at also agrees that a strict veil of secrecy was and is still drawn around pregnancy. Most of the time it is because of respect of privacy and also to prevent those with an evil eye from bewitching them. Married to a Luhya, she says the secrecy is still maintained there too.
“First, it is a taboo for women to discuss sexual matters, including pregnancy and childbirth. Many people believe in witchcraft. Expectant mothers fear that if they speak openly about their pregnancies, someone might put a spell on their unborn children.” she says.