Black Skin What Masks|
A Description of Insanity|
Dambudzo Marechera writes of the insanity he feels as a result of his own desperate racial confusion and accompanying self hatred in Black Skin What Masks. In this story Marechera begins by placing the overall notion of discomfort that accompanies one’s skin being black on the same level as an unnamed friend. The description of the friend points very clearly to different levels of insanity while simultaneously, the reader’s attention is constantly being brought back to the point at hand, the issue of race. Ultimately, the main character’s (author’s) discomfort regarding his racial identity and his efforts to change that are displayed as a completely separate persona from himself. In the end, the split in psyche proves to be debilitating and Marechera’s “friend” is no longer in the picture and he remains as he always was, a black man. The primary assessment of Marechera’s friend is a direct comparison to his own skin, deeming them both to be, “moody, assertive, possessive, [and] callous” (page 230) all of which indicate unpleasantness in themselves, more so all together. When further describing the friend, the author makes it clear that his mental capacity is in question, describing his obsessive bathing and grooming rituals “he did not so much was as scrub himself until he bled” (page 230), manic money spending, promiscuity and rampant alcoholism. It is clear from the very beginning of the story that the lunacy Marechera is describing exists within his own mind. The friend buys closets and closets of clothing and yet the narrator is the one without money, the friend accuses him of drinking too much but is the one to lose consciousness where he sits and above all, no one ever speaks to both of them; only one or the other. On page 231, a confrontation is described between the friend, the author and a tramp, “A black tramp accost him one night as we walked to the University Literary Society”. With...