Reflections on the Concept of Nudity

By Chiogor Constance Ikokwu

Dateline: Barceloneta, Barcelona, Spain

Would you dare to walk down the street stark naked or strip within the confines of a location? You’re probably wondering where this question emanates from. Well, keep reading!!

Last summer, my Kenyan friend Angel informed me that her younger sister was visiting from London. She had everything planned. They were going to have a wonderful time in Barcelona – restaurants, museums, shopping, dancing, etc.

On the beach day, I was invited to join the joyful holiday train, which I gladly accepted. We board the bus to Barceloneta beach, not too far from town. It’s crammed with people. Barcelona is eventful during summer. The city is chock-full of visitors from everywhere. A combination of beaches, mountains, excellent food, whimsical nightlife and amazing architecture makes it irresistible.

We stroll out of the house without giving a thought to what Europeans would term appropriate clothing (bikinis) for the occasion. Angel and her sister are dressed in jeans and top. I’m wearing shorts and t-shirt – standard attire during this time of year.

We alight from the bus and start walking leisurely – ice cream, cold drinks, finger food, pictures with hands thrown in the air, idle talk, gossip, we are having a blast. We decide to take a stroll along the seashore. The cool breeze is incredible under the scorching sun. We tumble into the water, clash with the roaring waves, play with it and watch as it retreats with less intensity.

Take Me as I am

We’re still having fun. Then boom, we start noticing naked people. We stare at each other, speak with our eyes and keep walking. There’s more nudity and more, and more, and more. It’s men, women, old, young, oh gosh. We’re not sure what to do as we break out in giggles. I particularly remember one hunk standing, hands on his waist with an amazing six-pack and his privates on full display. I’m thinking, is this a contest for Tarzan or what? 

Clearly, we are the odd ones out here. Angel suggests we beat a retreat. By now, we are laughing uncontrollably, with a tinge of embarrassment. Passing by the shower, we see a woman nude in her full glory with no care in the world. She’s having a bath as if she’s in her home. When I narrated the experience to friends, they told me we strayed from Barceloneta into the nudist beach called La Mar bella. I had no idea.

On a serious note, why is nakedness unsettling, particularly in regards to people we’re not intimate with? Is there a psychological or theological explanation to it? Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve scrambled for leaves to conceal their genitals once they ate the forbidden fruit and suddenly realized they were uncovered.

I spoke to Neus Flores – a culture expert and indigene of Barcelona about this unforgettable day. Neus tells me that the birth of the nudism movement gave rise to nudist public spaces such as at the beach. Nudism, a political and cultural movement that promotes nudity is common in Europe especially in the Northern parts. The adherents believe humans should as much as possible live in their natural state. Typically, loads of nudists converge here during the beach season around the beginning of May, peaking in August. Plus, it’s a popular spot for gay sunbathers.

I remind Neus that when Europeans arrived Africa centuries back, they told the Africans “living in the natural state” to put on some clothes. Now, the Europeans want to run around naked like the Africans. She collapsed into unrestrained laughter. “That’s an interesting turn of events,” she whispered, after gaining composure. We laughed about it.

It’s an intriguing concept and it was fascinating having this conversation with different Europeans. I wonder for instance, how parents feel uncovered in front of their children or siblings of the opposite sex in front of one another. This must take courage, plus strong convictions.

To the best of my knowledge, being naked in public is a big deal in today’s Africa. I stand to be corrected but public nudity is not socially and widely accepted. You’d be hard pressed to find a nudist inclined group. I think that the culture attaches a lot of significance to decency. Even at the beach, people are generally cautious about exposing their bodies. At the same time, some women these days are scantily clad on the streets. It’s a fashion habit that I think, partly emanates from watching Western television programs.

As a little girl, my mum ceaselessly tried to cultivate prim and proper behavior in us, as do many Nigerian families. The admonition flowed freely: sit down properly; put your legs together; that skirt is too short; cover yourself; pull your dress down; walk properly; comport yourself, etc. My proper African mother will most probably be thunderstruck if I ever brought her to Mar Bella. She won’t last five minutes.

Dear visitor to Barcelona, be aware there’s a designated nudist area next to Barceloneta. Don’t go strolling into these parts except you want to join the naked family. Finally, Neus has invited me to a nudist beach. She assures that I’ll get used to it after the first time. Thanks Neus but emmmmm, I’m not confident enough to pull that off. I’ll keep it within the precinct of my room.

What about you? What are your thoughts on nudism? Enjoy!

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  1. Public nudism is disgusting! It is anti religion, irresponsible and certainly a root to evil. Even people that dress almost naked are repugnant… At least not in a society where they is decency and the fear of God. I stand against in totality!

    1. It’s a mind game or some choice, if you prefer that. I am African and nudism is in that Barcelona beach context is out. But as a liberal thinker, I got not quarrel with that. But a a very pretty nude lass can be very unsettling.
      Hello nudists

  2. Hmmm, Geoffrey, you’re courting trouble. I’m not showing you the place if you’re not ready to strip. It’s for people who actually believe in that way of life. I trust my Naija people, they just want to see.

  3. The only person who is comfortable walking about publicly in his birth suit is a mad man, they should check their sanity… my thoughts. Isn’t public nudity illegal in most climes?

    Naaa… count me out of that high level insanity

  4. My first thought as a man much conditioned as you are Constance is that the majority of similarly conditioned males in the UK would first make a judgement as to the size of their penis, 😀 then their physique, before deciding on whether to throw aside their inhibitions and venture starkers on a nudist beach.
    I was once in Ukraine during a summer and there was one small nudist beach out of site of the main thoroughfare but dozens of “normal” beaches with sunbathers and loads of neck chains with crosses superficially suggesting spirituality is an influence in the lack of more nudists.
    On another occasion in one gloriously hot Summer in London I stumbled over a group of about 50 to 80 naked men, mostly older, sunbathing in a wood on Hampstead Heath. My first impressions were that it looked like a group of ancient Greeks or Romans and as a young 29 year old totally conditioned to wearing a pair of swimming trunks the surprise made me hastily flee the place, fearing that if I hung around I would be somehow sexually compromised. I have more respect for whosoever now.
    I’m a dyed-in-the wool christian so I’ll stick with Adams decision. Can’t see me opting for anyone other than an Eve.

  5. My nudity is not for public consumption. I believe that some parts on the human body are to be kept away from the eyes of others except for an intimate friend, that’s why we call them private parts.

  6. As a participant or voyeur or both Geoffrey 😅
    Fatimah it’s interesting that in the Old Testament Book of Esther (do you have it in the Koran? – I’m assuming you are a Muslim) God says about her that she was beautiful in “form and feature”; form being body shape, feature being facial looks. So I’m assuming you agree your “disgusting” is referring to nudity. My take on it is similar to the difference between a man becoming a priest to allow him to molest boys and a genuine desire to be a priest. If a man or woman wants to be a nudist for naturalistic and non-sexist reasons good luck to them. They usually know to confine it to a beach or some such probably with like-minded people. As in life in general there will be other reasons some people not so pure in mind do it. This might be described as disgusting. But essentially, it is the motive that is disgusting. Meanwhile celebrate your body for as the psalmist says in his praise….it is beautifully and wonderfully made.

  7. Thanks for mentioning me!

    To those Who still do not accept nudism: just think that It is not a movement related to sex, but to the nature of mankind.
    You are free to think differently, but you cannot judge It if you have not tried it.
    Social conventions are strong and difficult to move away from, but christianity also was laughed about in its origins.
    My advice: learn to open tour mind, and Live your life the way you want, not the way your mamma wants.
    Much love.

  8. Haha, I love that Neus has jumped into this conversation. Here you go everyone – another perspective. Ian it’s interesting the “no-sexist” intentions you mentioned. I guess this and other topics are always going to be controversial given different backgrounds. But I love the engagement. Well done all. Keep ’em coming!!

  9. I am african and currently living in Barcelona. Summer is the best time to enjoy the sun and waves but alas!… you can hardly find a spot in those umbrella packed beaches. Then I discovered that the area there was more room in the nudist joint. So, I Took my mat and guitar and found myself a spot surrounded by nature at it’s naked best. I think my neighbours loved my music too… lol.

    On another ocassion, I went to the island of Menorca( still Spain). Oh wow! That turquise clear watered beach!! It was almost like the caribean.but I did not have a swimsuit that day and It was early morning. So, just took it all off and made a wild dash for the water. That was so much fun!!.I was like a kid in a paddle on a rainy day. Fun!!well, that’s until i heard people coming- I rushed to get my clothes and was out of there!.😂

  10. Cons, as you well know such provocative behaviour is an offence in nearly every African society. And rightly so! Nudity is not good for public morality, no matter where it is practiced. Please maintain that which your “proper African mother” taught you while you were growing up. There is virtue in many African traditions the corrosive effect of Western movies and television notwithstanding.
    And I would advise as a brother, that you yield not to the invitation by Ms Neus.

  11. It’s a free world!And everything goes; the good, the bad and the ugly. We’re in the age where things must get to the extremes, things that were hitterto obscene and repugnant are now very much accepted.

    Watching the CNN few days ago, was the story of victims that were sexually abused by some Catholic priests which the Vatican decided to investigate after years of denials. One of the victims said she would have preferred losing one her limbs to being violated by a priest that should be a reflection of the Lord. I was truly touched by the agony and regrets that enveloped the lady.

    Religion, as we discussed last time has lost its moral force while the moral fiber of the society is completely shattered. Those ethos, mores and injunctions that act as restraints to certain human behavior and conduct such as nudity and other social vices have been eroded. And we aren’t seen nothing yet!

  12. I’ll be speaking on this subject primarily from Afrocentric and Religious perspectives. Much of what is handed to us from the West is viewed as modernity. Africanisation is embedded with the precept of retaining the true African culture of decency, respect for elders, etc. So, Afrocentrism certainly however, will not give a place for nudity to thrive. Nudity as a legal form of life in some confine parts of Europe is totally theirs to accept.

    Here in Africa, we certainly find it not just disgusting, repugnant, but detasting because that’s not a cherished part of our culture.
    Afrocentrism is founded upon morals, norms and values, and not on views separate from the very foundations upon which they’re were laid.

    By religion, where so much attention is focus between man and his creator. There’s no place for public nudity that will be accepted by any religious adherrent; maybe, I might be corrected here.

    I am of the opinion that, we should be careful of a civilisation that puts too much stocks in our lives.

  13. Live and let live!
    In my family my mom walked around naked when i was a kid and it helped me to not develop complexes.
    Swimming naked and sunbathing naked are great physical sensations.

  14. Wow! What a world of paradoxes! Constance, kudos! This makes an interesting read. I’m particularly fascinated by your reference to the apparent role reversal between the Europeans (and the West in general) vis-à-vis Africans. Paradoxically, the same people who persuaded Africans to cover up a couple of centuries back are now baring it all and Africans are now doing the persuasion. Irrespective of the views of self-imposed modernists, nudity is repugnant to natural order, anachronistic to God’s standards, and finds no justification in God’s outlined ways of obedience to His dictates. I do not think it is decent to appear naked in any public space. If God was comfortable with nudity, there wouldn’t have been any justification for Him to clothe Adam and Eve after they violated God’s directive not to eat the forbidden fruit.

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