South Africa News: Pot bellies are symbols of prosperity

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.

Read more on GlobalPost: Has freedom made South Africans fat?

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."

Read more on GlobalPost: Obesity: Not just a Thanksgiving problem (PHOTOS)

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."

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