Celebrating Natural Hair And All oF Its Glory
Could you imagine growing up without knowing how to care for your own hair? Or not actually knowing what your natural hair looks like?
I’m a child of the apartheid, who was lucky enough to have spent most growing years outside of the socio-political mess that was created by the Afrikaner National Party. My parents on the other hand, were brought up during the height of the Apartheid regime and how it impacted them overflowed into psyche.
Babies were classified into racial groupings at birth. A birth certificate labeling one as “coloured” for example, would mean restrictions in all areas of life. According to the Populations Registration Act, you could determine coloureds from whites by skin colour, facial features and by the characteristics of the hair on their head among other superficial criteria.
This lead to generations of coloured women opting to chemically straighten and use heat on their hair to broaden their opportunities. Simply put, having a European enough appearance could grant you access to better schooling and better jobs.
Slowly but surely, female coloureds began to lose touch with their natural hair regimen and learnt only to care for their straightened tresses. Many women even shied away from swimming and other activities that could make their hair “go home” - in other words appear curly.
As I grew, my hair grew thicker and coarser. My Mother had no idea what to do with it! My older sister apparently won the “good hair” genetic lottery so styling and maintenance was quite straight forward (pun intended). So, to make life easier Mum bought some chemical straightener from a South African import shop and started to apply it to my hair generously around the age of 8. This was done out of the tenderness of her heart, to help me, her baby girl learn how to take care of myself. Once a week I would wash my hair and then apply heat to it. Thus enabling styling for school. A chemical straightener would be applied every three months. In my teens I became well acquainted with blow-dryers, straightening irons and the latest miracle hair serums.
I was 17 when I applied my last chemical straightener. At that point I was entering a philosophical rebellion slash existential crisis. I realised that I didn’t even know why I hated the hair that grew out of my head! I began to push myself to appreciate what millions of years of genetic code has given me.
When I began my natural hair journey, I was isolated from the natural hair world. Apartheid had severed any ties to elders who could pass on their knowledge. There were no bloggers or vloggers to guide me. I had to independently research and use trial and error to find out what would work on my hair. Not long after I applied my last straightener I underwent the big chop and got reacquainted with the natural texture of my hair for the first time post puberty.
Mum thought I’d finally seen the end of my natural hair “phase” when I graduated from university. “How will you find a job with that hair?!” she asked.
Mum was concerned that I’d throw all those years of study away by having a natural appearance. At that point I no longer applied heat to my hair and she thought wearing my hair in its natural texture would hinder my chances of getting a job. As a result of Apartheid’s conditioning, Mum was terrified that my natural hair would prevent progression in my professional pathway.
I decided to trust my instincts and told myself that if straight hair was a requirement of getting the position, then that environment was definitely not ready or worthy of my talents.
Today it fills me with great joy to see the natural hair movement being pushed into new spaces, online and in the physical market. Natural hair is deeper than a fashion trend or a big hair fad; it is a journey inward, allowing women around the world to access their well of self-love. The positive effects of this social movement are starting to be seen. Little curly girls are growing up with higher self-esteem knowing that they are wonderful just the way they are.
If you’ve been watching the naturalistas gain momentum and have been wondering if your natural hair would suit your lifestyle, definitely get on board. Just be ready to embrace a new understanding and appreciation of your own being for years to come.
Join me and 6000 + members at 3c Naturally Curly on Facebook for natural hair journey support. And AfroPunk on Instagram for inspiration.
Our friend and musician Natalya Moosa has been pioneering the natural hair movement. Thank you Nat for sharing your story. We love you xx