I have often maintained that the increasing rise of African women now wearing their hair in it’s natural state is not a movement. No matter how much you hashtag naturalista, naturalhairjourney or naturalhairgang, it’s not that serious. At the end of the day, it is just hair. So, that someone else wants to wear her naturally curly hair bone straight or wavy with the help of a relaxer or weave unlike you is not a crime. After all, I recall that back in the day, Deeper life church sisters (in Nigeria) begged us to leave our hair as God made it, you all said no and called them spirikoko. So what changed?
It is a good thing that African women are discovering ways to wear their hair beautifully and while there is a truth in the narrative that African women are now embracing and accepting their own kind of beauty rather than the standard that the media has been known to lay out, it is outrageous to assume that those who insist on relaxed hair and weaves are somehow not in touch with their Africaness or for some reason still backward or (politically) incorrect for preferring their hair to look like the sleek ones in shampoo ads.
I was 13 or 14 when I first put relaxer to my hair, and I know that the reason why my mother allowed was not because I cried while she combed and styled my kinky hair. As a matter of fact, my hair was soft even in its natural state. I do not have those evil ear-pulling, face-tightly squeezed when combing experiences from growing up, but applying relaxer was the thing to do after coming of a certain age. Plus it allowed me the luxury of just combing it into one pony tail for school.
That first perm was the door to a beautiful phase in my life. I spent all the Sunday’s there after with my mom in the salon and they are forever engrained in my memory. Washing and setting as it was then called was our Sunday – Sunday ritual. It was a thing for us. No matter how horrible the previous week had been, it was our tonic to feel better. We would both go to the salon after lunch, seat under a hair drier after a delicate wash with pink and orange rollers neatly arranged on our heads, and semi dirty foam pads over our ears that stayed in place by tying a cloth rope from the forehead to the back while we flipped eagerly through the pages of Ebony and Ovation magazine, choosing next fancy hair styles and dress styles from it, adjusting often in our seats to hear flying gist about a woman who showed her husband “pepper” by putting something in his soup or the woman whose househelp “snatched” her husband. All the while complaining more than ten times how hot the drier is or how fake the lotta body smells, or calling for the stylist to come get the rollers out, dry or not dry. On many occasions we would be delayed by my mom deciding last minute to get a pedicure. It was fine by me. A few more hours to swoon at dresses and position my ears for gist. In the end we would hold a plastic shield to our faces while the stylist sprayed a very generous amount of oil sheen to our hair. We later walked out with unrepentantly greasy hair that shone beneath the evening setting sun.
When I decided however to grow back my natural hair, it was a decision based solely on comfort. While I was able to keep up with the Sunday-Sunday hair treatment with my mom, I was never able to seat for braids or anything that took longer than one hour, I did not have my first braids until my University matriculation. It was the style to last for a long time because well, University students were meant to be studying hard not styling hair. LOL, so I went with it. I cannot say specifically how I lost interest in hair shenanigans but since University, salon’s have remained bottom on my favourite places to be in. It alternates with Banks ever so often but they both remain bottom. I am terrible at styling hair. Terrible. Where people can style using everything from pins and clips to scarves, I can hardly pack my hair into a donut nicely. It is the same with makeup. Till this day I know nothing about contouring and highlighting. I remember the basics of how makeup was done when I was in university; eye liner, eye brows arched and lip stick. But it seems there’s a whole lot more to it now and rather than look like something the cat dragged in with my old knowledge I don’t bother to wear makeup anymore. So my decision to have my hair the way it is is because I realised that all it takes for it to return to curly glam no matter what is two bowls of water, conditioner and oil. Easy peesy. Infact sometimes when I travel, you can remove conditioner from the mix. My hair returns to bounce just by spraying water to it. I am not drawn to big hair or fancy hair so my hair in an unkempt looking afro or bun works just ok for me.
Now, the truth is many people do not have that luxury, of having curls spiral down just by spraying water and no matter how many girls seat behind their computers to blog about managing 4C and 3B and 5A hair (Wait how did you people decide whose hair is what?) with jojoba oil and avocado, there are people whose hair texture have no place on the chart. And even with people who have the luxury, shaming them into becoming “naturalistas” is saying they are not allowed to try other things that they actually like with their hair because of their Africaness. Yes, anything can be properly managed no matter how different or “bad” which is why all the many hair tutorials on Youtube are welcome, but that some people would rather wear weaves or relaxers in their hair should not result to them being shamed or mean they are trying to escape from their root or that western media/culture has sunk in deep into their thought process. I find this narrative so ignorant and full of bile. It is why I stay away from hair chroniclers also known as bloggers. It feels as though one sister is trying to out do the other with as much fancy hair treatment they can come up with, talking about flax seed oil and tea tree oil and sunflower seed that no one knows where they grow just so this naturalista thing can be somehow validated. It is not a struggle. You do not get to shout “we naturalistas” as though you are a special breed because you spend a lot on impotent oils that are better off being prayed on in MFM to use as anointing against enemies. So no you do not deserve a trophy from TY Bello for wearing your hair in it’s kinky glory. It’s your choice. Find products on instagram, follow people on twitter so you can know their hair regimen, do what you must for your hair but enough with sectionalising hair. We all have it, worn the way we like with extensions or without or not even worn at all. It is honestly not that serious. It’s just hair.