What Is “White”? Identifying the Meaning and Contexts of Colour – Guardian Nigeria

A woman wearing a white lace gown
The meaning of the colour white depends on either the person or the tradition in question. Either way, our lives are infused with the significance of white. It is the symbol of purity without blemish. White represents the crisp cotton of just-washed linens and spring cleaning. The colour white is a representation of purity, unadulterated truth. White can both literally and figuratively expose the social flaws of society and be blinding to those used to the dark. The perfect foil is white, which creates a contrast that makes all other colours appear more vivid.
In most religions, white represents purity and sacrifice. The head of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, apparently views the colour white as a symbol of sacrifice and purity; this is why Popes have adorned themselves in white since 1566. Also, the Islamists affirmed the colour as standing for purity and sacrifice. No wonder the pilgrims of the religion often wear white while going to Mecca.
Also, for that big day, brides are traditionally, customarily, and culturally known to put on that immaculate white wedding gown to be adorned with their beauty significantly, representing her purity and innocence. This custom most likely originated during the Roman Republic (509 B.C.–27 B.C.), when brides wore white tunics, and this practice has been going on for more than 2,000 years. White decidedly became the symbolic hue of purity, signifying a woman’s chastity as well as her transformation into a married Roman matron.
Hence, this culture has been fostered with time. However, it is said that in the 1700-the 1800s, white was not the colour of choice for brides because the colour (white) now associated with the purity of a bride used to be, and still is in some cultures, associated with mourning. Consequently, at this time, the customary colour worn by brides was red.
For instance, in some parts of Asia and even India, the hue of white, this same white that represents everything good, also symbolises grief, mourning and loss. Nigeria is not left out of this because individuals are dropping the initial colour of black and now putting on white during their period of grief.
In the religious and spiritual sense, white is a colour that resonates much in all shades of religion, be it the African Traditional Religion, Islam, Christianity, and the like.
The colour white is significant in culture, society, as well as psychology.
What does psychology have to say about the colour white? White is a colour that connotes authority. Giving off different shades alluded to it, white in the office space speaks cooperation in look and has an aura of authority. In design and fashion, it is classy and shows style. This colour for its taste also influences the cost of these items.
Perhaps in worldview understanding drawing from religion and even the ancient Roman and Greek eras, gods of these times were depicted as being clad in white. Thus, such depictions of authority by the gods are passed on to the colour.
Again, in colour psychology, colours speak a different language compared to words when it comes to religion. Colour psychology, the study of how colours influence perceptions and behaviour, is also used in marketing and branding as a psychological tool to get into the minds of consumers.
Just like in branding, where colours are used to influence the working decisions of the mind, the white colour still works to the same effect when it comes to spirituality, religion, and customs.
A bride shopping for a wedding dress
Like many aspects of life that have two sides, white comes in another shade of being symbolic of sterility, emptiness, and isolation. This perhaps could be because white is achromatic, which is the absence of colour. Since it shows emptiness, Asian cultures use this to represent the loss they feel.
Not looking too far off, the emblematic green and white green of the Nigerian flag has white taking the middle position to represent ‘peace and unity” as chanted in the national anthem.
Mundane as colours may seem, they sway our daily lives in unprecedented ways. Additionally, this is evident in the way that certain institutions choose their colours, and again, demographics and culture come into play.
In Nigeria, the forces have significant colours like black, blue, white, and green attributed to them. And even without mentioning the institutions in question, you have identified and placed them yourselves.
There is the notion that through the colours you wear, the energies that these colours emit are directed at you. According to astrology, white is one of the choicest colours to reach out for when looking to attract good luck and success your way.
From indications, white is not all rosy as it has a dark side. Even though white is primarily that colour synonymous with divinity, purity, and holiness, it blows hot and cold.
Colours in our lives play a non-verbal communication role. Colours like white evoke certain moods, and demeanours and influence decisions. Accordingly, as the traditional idea of wearing white on one’s wedding day is not universal, that same way the perceptions of white are nurtured in understanding from one culture to another. Various colours come in handy, but white might just be the fairest of them all.

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