Beauty and the Norm Sketches: A Conversation on a Performative Response

  • Syowia Kyambi
  • Anisha H. Soff
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Globalization and Embodiment book series (PSGE)


In this conversation with Anisha H. Soff, Nairobi-based artist Syowia Kyambi reflects on her performance, ‘Working Title: Beauty and the Norm Sketches.’ In this work, Kyambi approaches the topic of beauty norms from the perspective of identity, memory and the self in relation to the wider society. Recounting her own experiences of racism and of struggling with gendered and racialised beauty norms, Kyambi talks about the frustrations and feelings of ‘insufficiency’ imposed on one within a competitive labour market or when confronted with the beauty and cosmetic industry’s marketing campaigns. Finally, the authors discuss a flux in the relationship between beauty as a personal assessment and hegemonic norms that people struggle with.


  1. Craig, Maxine L. 2006. “Race, Beauty, and the Tangled Knot of Guilty Pleasure.” Feminist Theory 7 (2): 159–77.Google Scholar
  2. Elias, Ana Sofia, Rosalind Gill, and Christina Scharff, eds. 2016. Aesthetic Labour: Rethinking Beauty Politics in Neoliberalism. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  3. Wolf, Naomi. 1991. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. New York: William Morrow.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Syowia Kyambi
    • 1
  • Anisha H. Soff
    • 2
  1. 1.Independent ArtistNairobiKenya
  2. 2.Goethe Institute KenyaNairobiKenya

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