If you are well read, you probably have heard of and dismissed the Greek myth of Pygmalion, a great sculptor who carved a beautiful statue of a lady and fell in love with it.
He so loved the statue that he prayed that it becomes human. His prayer was answered and it turned into a real, lovely woman who married him and bore him a child.
If you have no time for such fantasy, it is probably because your generation hasn’t consumed as much science fiction as the current one, that sits up all night watching fantasy series. And the results are beginning to show.
I would never have heard of agalmatophilia — which is the sexual attraction to statues or mannequins — had it in not been for the growing display of naked mannequins outside clothes shops in Kampala and its environs.
But thanks to traders who are always ahead of the game, and figure out society’s changing tastes. They may not know the academic terminologies, but they sense social change even before the rest of us workers are onto the trend. An average clothes seller in Kampala has definitely never heard the word agalmatophilia, but they certainly know that people are increasingly attracted to naked mannequins.
But how then do you sell clothes if you are using the naked mannequins to attract buyers?
Nation TV did a survey recently and talked to several shopkeepers who display mannequins, both clothed and naked. The traders said that people are first attracted to the naked ones, even touch them before turning to the clothed ones to compare with the naked ones and then they go ahead and select the clothes to buy.
The traders were categorical that they are in no way flouting the country’s codes of ethics, now that there is a vigilant minister for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo.
They criticised those who want Mr Lokodo to probe them, saying that dolls have always been part of life, whether made of plastic and imported from China or made of banana fibres by village kids.
The Ugandan government has in the past run into trouble with the international community for its attempts to criminalise certain sexual orientations which it deems morally against its cultures. In fact, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga had a heated discussion a couple of years back with her Commonwealth colleagues at a meeting in Canada over issues of subjective morality.
But it is now unlikely that the government will interest itself in the matter of naked mannequins. This is because the issue touches on imported clothes, which is a huge source of tax revenue in a country that no longer manufactures its own clothes.
A common joke in Kampala intellectual circles today says that if you asked everybody at a public national function to remove all pieces of clothing not made in Uganda, everyone, from the president to the youngest child would strip naked. The undressed mannequins therefore tell a deeper national story.
Today, the government earns good import tax from artificial body enhancers used by women to “improve” their looks, ranging from weaves, eyelashes, push-up bras to detachable hips and buttocks, used by poor women who cannot afford plastic surgery.
Many women now have artificial looks, thanks to the things being made in Chinese factories employing Ugandans. So you might not hear from Mr Lokodo on this one very soon. Otherwise there would be no space in our jails for the few million Ugandan Pygmalions if agalmatophilia was criminalised.