I first became aware of skin lightening when searching for hair-care products in my local cosmetics shop. Sandwiched amongst jars of coconut oil and tubs of hair relaxer, “skin-whitening”, “skin-brightening” and “skin-toning” products gleamed at me from neatly-stacked shelves; plastered with the faces of “fair-skinned” black and Asian women. Whether it be in Paks hair shop in Dalston, or Sheba’s hair shop in Peckham, wherever women of colour frequent for their beauty buys, skin-lightening products seem to follow. The skin lightening series was borne out of this realisation and the increasing protestations from other women of colour about the skin lightening industry that simply couldn’t be ignored.
“The poem developed from the fact that when I was younger I never really saw black women celebrating themselves”, Eno told me at the time, “I remember growing up and seeing my aunties getting lighter and lighter and then my mum just casually telling me that they lightened their skin. Me and my cousins and my friends – we didn’t realise the effect it was having on us until we got older. I really did not like the way I looked.”