If the West sees a thin woman as every man’s dream, in Africa, and particularly in Ivory Coast, feminine grace is defined by the complete opposite: supersize breasts, protruding buttocks and roundness are crucial to a lady. 'Bôtchô' and 'Bobaraba', the magic creams that enlarge backsides and breasts are helping the Ivorian young women fulfilling this dream.
By Selay Marius Kouassi, Abidjan
“The idea that women in Europe spend enormous amounts of money to get rid of their curves really sets me off – I would give anything to have them.” Lydie N’Guessan has come to Dr. Zoh’s ‘practice’, overlooking the Belleville market in Abidjan, to buy a jar of ‘Bôtchô’ cream. The ointment is said to produce extraordinary enlargement of the buttocks.
“European women would never get husbands where I live – they’re so skinny nobody would even see them.” says one of the customers waiting to lay her hands on the precious cream.
Resourceful Dr Zoh
He didn’t graduate from Harvard; he didn’t even attend Cocody-Abidjan University. Nevertheless, people call him ‘Doctor,’ a nickname which the 30-something Jean Claude Zoh holds dear.
“I’m as skilled as any medical doctor, or maybe even more competent, because I succeed where most of them fail. I satisfy my customers by making up for nature’s shortcomings,” he says with pride.
“All of these products are natural, with ingredients drawn from plants and honey,” as he scans with his eyes the various products on the shelves of his tiny shop. “I mix the concoction myself, using my grandparents’ countryside ingredients. Bobaraba and Bôtchô were devised to help our sisters who want full figures. They just apply the cream twice a day to the area they wish to enlarge and it starts working right away!”
But this does not come cheap. A beautiful set of buttocks will set you back between FCFA 10,000-25,000 (EUR 15-40).
In Ivory Coast, many young women feel pressurised in their daily lives to look a certain way. And Zoh's magic Bôtchô and Bobaraba creams are said to bring solutions to many of their traumas.
“I really like big buttocks, but I just didn’t have them. I had heard about these products, so I tried them and it worked. Nowadays when I’m out walking, I can feel the stares burning into my back, and I like that.” Fanta Diabaté admits with pride. She says she feels like she is alive, and she does not have any complex anymore.
“My husband left me for a ‘Bôtchô’ (popular name for a woman with a big backside). I’m still sad about it, and I’m determined to win him back. That’s why I decided to buy the Bôtchô cream,” explains Célestine Aya. His complaints: She was too skinny.
In such a society, even the boys find themselves under pressure sometimes.
“My mother has come from the countryside to have a vacation here with me in Abidjan, and now she’s saying that she wants me to look for a woman, a real woman. She thinks that the girlfriend I have is too skinny to make me happy,” explains Arnaud Amoah.
“I’m very attached to my mother and I want to keep my girlfriend, so I decided to buy the Bôtchô cream for her. She only started using it two weeks ago. I hope it works.” says the desperate young man.
Any danger attached to these products? Dr. Ahi Hilaire, a pharmacist in the Cocody area in Abidjan, believes these ointments can be bad for one's health. "Besides the risk of having asymmetrical expansion of the backside, the creams may cause skin cancer and provoke complications in childbirth" says Hilaire.