Long or Short, Straight or Curl? Hair is Personal!

The duel between Team Natural Hair and Team Artificial Hair has been raging for quite some time and it looks like the battle is in no danger of ending anytime soon. Cue in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s comment to UK’s Channel 4 that “hair is political”, what with the entire internet buzz it has generated and it is easy to see why.

Given the media’s propensity to generate news out of Obama’s greying temples and Berlusconi’s alleged implants, perhaps hair is political. But then the same media delights in analyzing Justin Bieber’s haircuts and Rihanna’s ever-changing hair colour so in that vein, we can also posit that hair is entertaining.

If anything, hair is inspirational. Adichie’s latest novel, Americanah – marketed as a story about ‘romance, race and hair’ – lends credence to this theory. In addition to her book, other literature – articles, blogs and magazines – and indeed, other art on the subject have been and are still being produced. Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair and India Arie’s hit single, I Am Not My Hair come to mind here.

As an industry, hair is of economical benefit; just ask the scores of weave and wig-makers, professional hairstylists, salon owners and numerous others involved in the hair-care business who are smiling their way to the bank. Why, the English-language vocabulary too, has been enriched; thanks to curly and straight-haired people the world over who covet each other’s hair texture, the word ‘ironing’ is no longer restricted to clothes.

But just as hair inspires the positive, so also does it, rather unfortunately, encourage the negative. Luckily, some of us have been spared addiction to TV shows like Jerseylicious, L.A. Hair et al but most of us have come into contact with that young woman who is running herself into debt on account of her weave habit or her close relative, the campus babe who spends more time in the salon than she does in the lecture hall. Cause for concern is the alarming fact that sodium hydroxide is being applied to barely two-year old scalps. Add to this, increasing reports of hair-related human trafficking, and there is definitely need for debate and discussion about the importance we attach to and the investment we make in what is essentially dead cells.

However, such discourse need not be an excuse for hair bullying – picking on people whose hairdressing preferences differ from ours.

Arising from the misguided notion that one way is best, hair bullying occurs when the afro-wearing Jambite is labelled a ‘bush woman’ or ‘Mary-Amaka’; when the teenager is subjected to homophobic slurs because he is sporting a Mohawk. Taken to the extreme, hair bullying is the young man denied Holy Communion for committing the ‘sin’ of wearing dreadlocks and the chorister defrocked because of the presence of chemicals in her hair.

By all means, let’s talk about hair if we want to but can we please do so without coming off as hypercritical of one another? Throughout history, men and women have sought out various ways to augment their physical appearance; from tattoos to piercings, nail prosthetics to dental fillings. Yet none of these, it seems, is as controversial as the topic of hair. Why?

At the end of the day, we all have our individual hair stories, distinctive reasons why we choose to wear our hair the way we do and we should be encouraged to share them. However, we should not be too quick to judge others for theirs or extrapolate ours. Admittedly, hair is many things but most of all, it is personal.

Photo Credit: madamenoire.com
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Akumbu Uche is a freelance journalist. A member of the Abuja Literary Society, she also copy-edits Saraba Magazine. She blogs at www.akumbuwrites.wordpress.com

70 Comments on Long or Short, Straight or Curl? Hair is Personal!
  • genesis April 18, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Gbam! I totally agree with d writer. Nice write up.

  • Stella Kashmoney April 18, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Beautiful article. Hair is very personal.

    • Sexxie April 18, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Kudos! I love ur blog and d fashion posts, pretty interesting. But I can’t say much of ur personal style. Pls no offence but as a fashion and style police blogger, u need to revamp ur personal style asap. Cheers!

      • madam April 29, 2013 at 7:21 pm

        I agree , it’s all expensive clothing but not really stylist or well put together

  • Damie April 18, 2013 at 8:58 am

    I love this. Hair is indeed personal. Slight correction though, it is not a battle between natural and artificial hair. It is between natural and relaxed hair. Most of the naturalistas I know still use weaves and extensions i.e. braids. And yes, if we make hair political, then we should make language, dressing etc political too.

  • Sexxie April 18, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Cc Aunty Chimamanda. Hair is both personal & circumstantial. For d ones who live under favourable climatic conditions, y’all can afford to groom & rock ur natural hair but that’s a herculean task for some of us in d sub saharan Africa.

    • 5'5 April 18, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Growing hair in hot weather is easier than cold. Cold requires extra mositurizing, hot requires the barest minimum. Grooming is what is harder in hot weather as there is constant moisture in the hair which doesnt let it hold some styles.

  • Sexxie April 18, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Erm BN pls not to sound ungrateful but pls change my color display to a more sassy pattern. Those cubes ain’t working for me lol!. Gracias

    • Bea April 18, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Loooooool

    • Partyrider April 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      Lmao

    • Wendy April 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      hahahahaha!!! You want your display to be as sexxie as you abi??

      • Sexxie April 18, 2013 at 6:56 pm

        Kai! Wendy u r a correct babe… u know what’s up! *wink*. BN abeg na, make una change my display fa.

  • 5'5 April 18, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Dorothy Koomson, a Ghanian-British author, is as proud of her heritage as Adichie is but she doesnt throw it in our faces. Chimamanda is not as objective as she’ll like us to believe. I used to like her.. but after that statement, I just dont know.

    • Truth April 18, 2013 at 10:59 am

      When did she tell you she was objective? She has her views as you have yours, so you liking her or not based on her views, is inconsequential!

  • Abby April 18, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Agreed how u choose to wear you hair is personal and there isnt any duel btw natural and straight hair/weaves, but the fact is we have been made to believe black natural is unmanageable and not as beautiful as straight hair which is why we all had our hair relaxed at a young age, now i see no wrong in someone challenging that and highlighting the dangers inherent in such thinking especially now that i see girl as young 3 having weaves on in this hot weather of ours complaining of heat and itching scalp i feel sorry for our generation cos as an adult i know how annoying it can be when u have to hit ut hair cos you can get ur fiingers underneath ur scalp when its itching . I once met a caucasian who was suprised on how and easy it was to change my hairstyle so often (a naive one), but suddenly she asked o how often i get to wash my scalp/hair, i couldnt answer because the only time i get to is when i get it relaxed…smh when i read an article about our scalp been likened to facial skin. Its high time we wear out natural hair whether natural or relaxed more often

    • Ready April 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      Agreed. The issue for me is that many people have just dismissed natural hair as not beautiful or it won’t grow so they should just use weaves, or it’s not glamorous because it’s what they’ve been told. I’ve had my hair natural and relaxed, and I know I really learned how to treat my hair when it was natural. Many Black women haven’t given their God-given texture a chance because of the myths that they’ve been told.

  • #Wow April 18, 2013 at 9:44 am

    some of ya all take this hair thing too serious abi na personal sef i don’t know, hia! just wear ur hair the way you like it and the way you believe suits u best finish!!

    • Karen D April 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      True. But your natural hair. Your God given hair will always look better than anything else. We cannot run away from that no matter what

  • chisco April 18, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Why is this even an issue? Its not important. Now, Chimamanda’s lecture on “the danger of a single story” was extremely important, but “hair”?… Natural, Relaxed, Artificial… its all irrelevant unless its irrelevant

    • chisco April 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      *it’s all irrelevant unless it’s illegal

  • Mz Socially Awkward... April 18, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Hair is fiercely political for me when I’m among white people. Maybe that’s just overly sensitive of me but I try and celebrate my African-ness as much as possible by rocking my natural locks and keeping them guessing with the different braiding styles I keep turning up to work with 

    I also like to get a cropped and closed weave done now and then, so I’m not entirely against the use of weaves in themselves, unless it once upon a time used to grow from someone else’s head – that just gives me the serious heebie jeebies. However, I love the dexterity that comes from being an African woman who’s able to switch it up and do so many different things with my hair. It makes me realise I’m different in a good way and points out to me the beauty of being black. Yes, all races are beautiful in themselves and being black is its own kind of fabulous. The oyibo chicks I work with are always raving about how great it is that I can just change up my hair to whatever I feel like and I like the fact that I’m showing them one of the many great pluses to being African.

    So my hair statement is fiercely political and I’m definitely always very conscious of the social and personal message I’m passing across with my locks.

    • Mz Socially Awkward... April 18, 2013 at 11:24 am

      BN, why did you change my smiley into a square box? I’m not pleased with this your new site format, oh :-(

    • Knut April 18, 2013 at 9:01 pm

      This is what I struggle with….why do you feel a need to prove anything (‘celebrate’ you say) around oyibo people? Correct me if i’m wrong, but it sounds like you might have had a different hair style if you were working in a setting full of African people….

  • Drama April 18, 2013 at 11:31 am

    A truer article on this subject has not been written. kudos!

  • 'Mide April 18, 2013 at 11:47 am

    In America, and many capitals of the western world, hair is political. It explains the hair Tracy Chapman wore .It explains the hair India Arie sports. Yet, Naija women’s love of hair is a bit more complicated. It is more of a fashion trend than argument that seems more valid in America and in other capitals of the western world. Adichie has to slow this s**t a little bit, haba!!

    • Karen D April 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      I don’t think it is solely for fashion statement in Nigeria? Why do people call you kunta kinte, slave, bush woman when your hair is natural etc. It is ignorance to me. The same ignorance that will allow the chincos, indians/ lebanese/ whites come to our country and treat us like sh*t. Or accept foreigners restricting us from entering certain places.. Yes, these things happen. We are ignorant when it comes to our history with colonization. This colonization that caused ethnic conflicts because the whites favored a certain group of people by giving them power. I think that’s our problem. Ignorance! How can we understand ourselves if we are clueless of our history. The Europeans have succeeded in doing that and that is why they can get away with anything in Nigeria.

      • 'Mide April 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm

        @Karen D, maybe we mean the same thing sha o. But I buy your argument on ignorance a bit more than the way you represented my argument. I still think it is “more of” not “solely” a fashion statement .

      • Karen D April 18, 2013 at 7:32 pm

        A fashion trend that the white man has dictated for us.

      • Karen D April 19, 2013 at 1:18 am

        I wish this essay of yours made any sense. What I got from this is that you exalt the white man for “opening your eyes” to civilization and you are taking the most simple argument to the extreme. Why so defensive?
        Embracing your natural beauty doesn’t mean going out like you just woke up. It means not altering your look and appearing to be something you are not e.g the 29 inch brazilian weave/ drag queen makeup I see my Nigerian women wear. Less is more..

        Do you think Nigerians were using their saliva and pee to wash their “plates” and hair before the Europeans invaded our country? We also had our own tattoes, or makeup. When you watch nollywood movies channeling the past, don’t you see their costumes, body art, and their traditional makeup? Are those by the white people? No! We had our own way of beauty and living. I doubt your forefathers were complaining about that. We have only adopted what the lifestyle of these people.

        Please come up with a better argument and leave your feelings out of this.

    • Karen D April 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      A fashion trend championed by the white man.

      The white man promote his standard of beauty on us and we look nothing like these people. Even when they are black.=, they are meant to have some of the European features. That is the kind of beauty Nigerians have accepted and a Nigerian will have the nerve to insult you for embracing your natural beauty. Ignorance.

      • Asi April 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm

        I hope you don’t wear makeup. I hope the day you decided to go natural, you have not worn any makeup since then, because that just negates accepting your natural beauty. Because it is the white man that introduced makeup to us. They championed the fashion trend for makeup too, telling us that we need it to look more beautiful. I hope as I speak there is no lip gloss, lip stick or powder in your hand bag. I hope you also don’t apply any processed beauty products, because i’m sure if you go to your village, you will find plenty natural products for keeping your skin moisturised. When I hear the natural hair argument, they mention many many many products that are processed and chemically altered, and I try not to laugh my head off. Yes relaxer may be harsher and all but if you are going to stay on one side of the fence, stay there completely. Free of chemicals, free of this. Have you read the contents of that bottle of conditioner you are applying? Do you use hair removing creams for your armpit? The soap or body wash you use, I hope it is dudu osun directly from your village? Your deodorant and your perfume, all chemicals? Please stick two fingers up to the white man and tell him you will walk around Lagos heat with your bare armpits, you won’t let him dictate to you. Scrape leaves on your armpit instead after taking a shower. Don’t you dare use powder as a substitute, it was created by the white man and it has chemicals in it. Your dish washing liquid, your detergent or bar soap for washing your clothes, all that make your life easier introduced by the white man, your shameless ass is using it without complaining. You no thank the white man for that one, but you are quick to point fingers at them for dictating the standard of beauty you must follow.

      • Asi April 18, 2013 at 9:03 pm

        I hope you don’t shave your armpits, because if you do you are conforming to the white man’s standard of beauty. Grow your armpit hair into a forest and feel free to wear your sleeveless top and wave your arms around. Go au naturale. You are refusing to conform, afterall na oyinbo tell us say make we dey shave armpit. They were the one’s that championed the trend. They told us that armpit hair is ugly and disgusting, and unkempt, so we must have clean shaven armpits to conform. Abi, isn’t that the argument you girls have for natural hair? Please don’t tweeze or shapen your eyebrows because that means you are conforming too. It was the oyinbo man that invented the perfectly arched eyebrows, which you can never achieve naturally without alteration. We have even taken it further and we paint inverted Nike ticks on our forehead. You see where I am going with your argument about conforming to the white man’s beauty regime? You are guilty of it in many ways but your hair, yet you have the mouth to be sneering your nose down on people who don’t do like you do. You guys have turned hair into political debate. I hope you also don’t wear nail polish, that’s un African too and an oyinbo man’s standard of beauty. I hope you don’t trim your nails or pubic hair. Let it grow wild and free, you are a child of Mama Africa. Let’s see how your boyfriend or husband agrees to that.

      • Karen D April 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm

        @Asi-

        I wish this essay of yours made any sense. What I got from this is that you exalt the white man for “opening your eyes” to civilization and you are taking the most simple argument to the extreme. Why so defensive?
        Embracing your natural beauty doesn’t mean going out like you just woke up. It means not altering your look and appearing to be something you are not e.g the 29 inch brazilian weave/ drag queen makeup I see my Nigerian women wear. Less is more..

        Do you think Nigerians were using their saliva and pee to wash their “plates” and hair before the Europeans invaded our country? We also had our own tattoes, or makeup. When you watch nollywood movies channeling the past, don’t you see their costumes, body art, and their traditional makeup? Are those by the white people? No! We had our own way of beauty and living. I doubt your forefathers were complaining about that. We have only adopted what the lifestyle of these people.

        Please come up with a better argument and leave your feelings out of this.

  • Xan Signature April 18, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Nice write up. Contact 081-1111-5551 for all your Affirm, Kera Care and Argan oil hair treatment.

  • Nnenna April 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    This hair war in Nigeria is nothing short of hilarious to me. We have a tendency to give attention to the most trivial of things! My only problem with constantly wearing weaves is most of the time, the girls don’t take care of the hair underneath and you see young girls walking around with “Patience Ozokwor hairline”! It’s tragic! Whether natural or relaxed, just take care of your “crowning glory”! Natural nazis and Relaxed nazis can have several _/ _/_/_/ #lol

    • Moi April 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      lol @ “Patience Ozokwor hairline”

  • AW April 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I personally have no problem with how people wear their hair. Where I have issues is when people feel they have the right to impose their choice on the whole world and judge you for choosing a different path. Nobody has the perfect answer, what you have is; the perfect answer for you. In so saying and for the sake of “World hair peace”, why can’t we just get along?

  • Clara April 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I find that hair (African hair in particular) is more than just political, entertainment or personal for that matter. While it is your personal choice to do what you will with it. the world will always find something to say about it political or not. My hair is a celebration of my genes, my DNA and my creator. I do not judge people who choose to have it chemically straightened because I’ve been there done that. For some reason I always kept wild hair even when it was relaxed, somehow slick didn’t do it for me, so i went back to natural and I love it!!
    Hair like everything else on your body does not define you (inner you/ personality? character/ whatever) but it certainly does speak to your origins, it identifies your ancestors even better than your skin colour.

  • Enigma April 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Even in the comments, people forcing other people to buy their beliefs *sigh*

  • Ore April 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Nice write up however, it irks me when people use only Christian examples to allude to seemingly “religious” aspect of things. There are other religions in the world or in Nigeria, if you can’t research that far, that have excesses from some of their members too.

    • Naija talk April 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm

      This was not a research paper/dissertation that would mandate research. It’s an opinion piece and these types of articles are usually informed by the writer’s experiences, environment, observations. In essence, it is the writer’s opinion. You get worked up, you’re doing yourself only a disservice. Pray tell, what are the christian examples that are so irksome? If the write has never witnessed unbecoming conduct/bias towards another fellow in a mosque/hindu temple because of hair how then can that be included in the article. Sometimes it is good to be fair and balanced whilst being critical.

  • lollipop April 18, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Yet none of these, it seems, is as controversial as the topic of hair. Why? Well, the other physical augmentations you mentioned are not attempts to look like another race. With black history and with the way blacks have been subjugated and considered inferior to whites, hair is a big deal. We have been constantly told that the standard of beauty is Caucasian and when we try to make our hair look like theirs, we are agreeing with them and supporting the notion that black is indeed inferior. If you saw a white person with an afro weave,wouldnt you think they were crazy, the same way we look stupid when we have layers of Caucasian hair on our heads!

  • comment waiting moderation! April 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    @Sexxie,your comment made my day…Laughing my skinny ass off! Is this hair stuff,seriously an issue? Oh pls go to the hospital and see how people suffer from an unknown ailment,may be you will have more thought to an important issues!

  • Tokunbo April 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    HAIR IS A PERSONS BUSINESS…Ok so i decided after a bad color job by some twins in Ikeja to cut my hair and start again. After much conviction, i went for the BIG CHOP and loving my look. Yesterday my MD and her antiquated views walks up to me and says why would a girl under 35 cut her hair, am i broke can i not afford a weave? after asking her barrage of daft questions and me forming my fake laugh throughout i told her calmly that it was my choice and that its actually NOT cheap to maintain( i soak my hair in conditioner almost daily to make it manageable, sulfate free co- wash conditioner is 7500). I went on to inform her that it was in vogue to go natural and that women around the world had started embracing their natural roots long before us. I wish people would just mind their business and not judge people based on hair. Like India Arie said I AM NOT MY HAIR…

    • Aponbepore April 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      hahaha….abeg wetin concern agbero with overload?? Na wah for naija bosses!! lols.
      But I have a different view from India Arie though. I am African and my hair is kinky….I am african and my skin is black….I am my hair and my skin. No masquerading, straightening or bleaching. I accept it for what it is.
      Now with that being said, being black with curly hair has no bearing whatsoever on my intelligence or personality (which is what I think India was going for…)

    • Aponbepore April 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      p.s. My main point is that saying we are not our hair and skin has some sort of inferiority undertone to it. or when would you ever hear woman of other races declare that she’s not her hair or skin??

    • Q April 18, 2013 at 11:23 pm

      Jehovah,you made d mistake of going to those terrible calabar girls too?they are d cause of d downfall of my hair.In that their shabby house..mschieew

      • Ceetoo May 8, 2013 at 9:53 am

        me three and unfortunately my own did not quite recover even after going natural for years… i may need a hair transplant :(

  • Funke April 18, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Why am I still hearing about this continued Team Natural vs. Team Relaxed mess? We as women need to chill oh! haba! Hair is just hair. When you start to define yourself by your hair then there is a problem. The world divides us daily. The world seeks to fit us into convenient little labels..black, white, bi-racial, native American, other, Asian etc. We don’t need to create more labels and boxes for ourselves. You are not your hair! I’m getting off my soap box now!

  • welll to be fair na just hair sha BUT !!!!!!!!!!!! dont be ignorant about the history please.. plus black straight men are not gay now why una won kill them with fake hair?? April 18, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    hahaha una see am????????????

    the gay oyinbo man tell us our hair is shit !! and we say yes sir!!!! gimmie some of that white /asian hair !!! oyibo and asian woman will never in their life have anything to do with black hair for more than a day!!

    infact they wear afro wigs when its time for comedy abi na comic relief wetin them dey call am sef hahahahah all this na becus say one homosexual hoyinbo slave master no like our versatile hair choi!!! it is well…….. lets fuel the asian business peoples bank account while we go bald at 30 hahahahah :D

  • Mitchell April 18, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Really?! Hair is this big a deal? For me hair is just what is comfortable. My hair style has no bearing on the level of my pride for my race. I have full long hair that is almost untamable. Combing it is a workout all on its own. I cannot imagine carrying it naturally throughout my lifetime! The heat! I need relief joor. And this comes in braids and weaves and relaxing. Also setting and hot combing makes it easier to manage. I’ll just make sure I treat it to some good conditioning in between all these. So please lets not judge anybody’s hair choices. We all have a reason for doing what we do. Whether it’s beauty or comfort.

  • Asi April 18, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Natural haired girls need to take several seats, and sip a very cold drink. If I choose to relax my hair and wear weaves, whose business is that? Is it your hair, or is it your money, or is it your scalp. This natural hair talk nauseates the hell out of me. Why force your opinion on others? Those saying the white man told us to be beautiful we must look like them. I hope you don’t wear make up, because guess what, your hypocritical ass is out in the open. Who invented make up, who owns the biggest make up companies in the world? WHITE PEOPLE. So, who is deceiving who now? You wear your hair natural yet you can apply lipstick, brown powder, mascara. Isn’t that conforming to the white man’s standard of beauty. Even Chimamanda that is talking wears make up. What does hypocrisy smell like from that invisible mountain you all are living on. I see girls all chanting natural hair and proud, check their faces, makeup. Whose standard of beauty is it to wear makeup, Africans too? Why don’t you go all natural everyday, use shea butter as your foundation and dry it out into a powder and apply it. Use shea butter as your lip gloss or lipstick. On your wedding day, I must not see a single fleck of powder on your face o. Shior. Like they say, don’t judge me because you sin different from me. You people give the oyinbo man more power than he deserves. Why wont they continue feeling superior over us. The oyinbo man is responsible for our beauty decisions. You can’t make it up. You have turned hair into debate. Hair, hair, hair. The white man is just an easy target for our issues, and they can’t defend themselves so they don’t appear racist. Yet we are so quick to accept their clothing, their technology, we travel to their countries, we live there etc. The natural hair voltrons should learn to accommodate everyone’s choices and stop forcing their brand of hoo haa down everyone’s throats.

    • Aponbepore April 19, 2013 at 2:06 am

      In being ultra defensive, you have missed the point…..
      The same way the white folks discriminated and thought we were less human because of the color of our skin, they also figured since our hair is curly/coily we were less evolved as well. This lead to women straightening and changing both skin and hair to fit in. Now that’s d ancient history of it(and racism was not isolated to America, it was/is a world-wide phenomenon). To more recent times, we are now accepted as humans, only less beautiful. The other aspects of grooming that you vehemently base your arguments off of do not have their roots in racism and discrimination, white people did not invent make-up, just the more contemporary forms of it. Ancient Egyptians can be seen with make-up on their faces and I see pictures of my great-granny with tiro (even tattoos sef). Now make-up(in moderation) only accentuates your features not alter them to look like another race. But like the article points out, its a personal problem,. I don’t foist my ideologies on other people. However your argument/rant is faulty from my standpoint (and that is expected sha)

    • Flue April 19, 2013 at 3:57 am

      Coming from someone who says “Natural haired girls need to take several seats, and sip a very cold drink.”. You sound really intelligent and mature dear.

    • Clara April 19, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      sweetie please go back and study african cultures before you start insulting us. Make up is not w western influence. In Africa we were painting around our eyes with charcoal, painting our lips and putting brown clay on our faces long before any Easterners or Westerners set foot in Africa. What we were NOT doing however, was STRAIGHTENING our HAIR. Beacuse I am From Southern Africa i’ll tell you that the use of red clay and charcoal was very prominent, so much that i even found it still existed in my community in the 90′s.
      Make up is not a western invention, it existed across cultures all over the world and it has since been modified by technology and so forth. So next time before you get too defensive check your facts and make sure to also teach yourself about the history of relaxers in the process.

  • Knut April 18, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Really, kini big deal about how I wear my hair? Hair for me is just another accessory – like my pink or red lipstick, my pure gold or fashionable ‘kpanda’ earrings, my high heels or my comfortable flats. My hair style does not define me and is not a reflection of who I am, where I am coming from or where I am going to. It bothers me when women (Chimamanda included) make narrow-minded assertions that women who have anything but natural hair do not want to embrace their true identity. Every woman is free to define herself however she pleases. I personally would hope that it is my character and my works that define me and not how I wear my hair. Should I say that the petite babe who loves to wear heels is not embracing her height? Or that the girl who threads/ waxes her eyebrows regularly is afraid to accept the generous portions of facial hairs she’s been blessed with? I think that making polar statements about how hair should be worn often comes from a place of insecurity and an unnecessary desire to prove that one is not inferior to the white man. I am black and will always be… even if I relax my hair until it is crisp and fully fried, wear the longest Brazilian weaves, bleach my skin till it is raw, or buy me a straight nose; I could never ever be mistaken for a White or Asian person. I am black and regardless of what I do or how I act, everybody and their mother knows it. But above being black, I am ME and I chose not to go through life letting my race (or its history in America) and society imposed expectations define what I do with myself. Hair is just fashion, simple!

    • Asi April 18, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      Wait, Knut are you my twin or do we share the same brain?
      “My hair style does not define me and is not a reflection of who I am, where I am coming from or where I am going to. It bothers me when women (Chimamanda included) make narrow-minded assertions that women who have anything but natural hair do not want to embrace their true identity.” GBAM!!!! Preach Sister, PREACH. How something like hair will define your actions as a woman.
      They say the white man puts us into a box and they are locking themselves in with iron bars for that matter instead of moving on. “often comes from a place of insecurity and an unnecessary desire to prove that one is not inferior to the white man” DOUBLE GBAM!!!!! You are the first comment anytime this conversation comes up that recognises this inane need for us to be shouting that we are not inferior comes from a place of inferiority complex, if they don’t know. If you feel you have to prove it, sub consciously you are saying you are inferior. Black man mentality, always having to prove something to the white man, why we must make them the centre of of our universe, so tey we dragged them into the hair debate.
      I used to be a fan of Chimamanda, not anymore, since she brought up this topic to to further stir up controversy all in a bid to sell books. Live your life and be free. This aluta continua battle black people have with oyinbo people, I love how you ended your comment. “But above being black, I am ME and I chose not to go through life letting my race (or its history in America) ” I need to buy you and your comment a drink. Lol

  • zsa zsa April 19, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Like the writer said “dead cells”. Hair is or should be a personal thing. The important issue is understanding why you are wearing your hair the way you are wearing it! If you are wearing weaves,relaxing your hair, wearing your natural hair in order to prove a point then you missed the bus….
    DO YOU! love yourself first….yes we went through a period of brainwashing by europeans but i think we are gradually coming out of that phase. Hair is and always has been an issue for women all over the world…india, europe, brazil, america….women all over the world want beautiful hair and will do what they feel is necessary to get it. Even caucasians wear weaves these days don’t they? because they want fuller, longer hair.
    I have been natural for about 6 yrs, i stopped relaxing my hair because i damaged it by trying to do it myself when i moved to the US, the dry weather made things worse. My hair was falling off like crazy, a lady braiding my hair advised me to stop relaxing and just let it grow out. At first i thought..WHAT?!, but then i decided to try it and have been natural ever since. I did it because i wanted to grow out some healthy hair not because of some natural hair movement or embracing my africanness…i still wear weaves about 2 months in a year, i braid when i have the energy to sit down for 6 hrs. Staying natural has helped me learn how to really understand and care for my hair but it doesn’t make me feel superior to my relaxed sisters/friend, it doesn’t make me feel more african or black. I am not interested in making a statement with my hair…it’s just hair, as long as its clean and smells nice my husband loves it. My colleagues could careless what i do with my hair except when its really looking ‘fly’ lol. Life is too short to be pointing fingers at each other because of hair abeg.
    End of whine:)

    • Dee April 19, 2013 at 9:54 am

      Bless you. You are one fo the FEW sensible ones. If you are wearing your hair natural to prove a point, you have missed the point. My mum says something – if you have to prove that something has no power over you, or someone doesn’t have influence over you, guess what? That thing or person does. Why are black people so hung up on race, and all this brainwashing talk? We didnt live in that era for goodness sake, are you saying the woman of today cannot think for herself. She is so stupid and an airhead, she is tailoring the white man’s standard of beauty. That is where the natural hair argument loses me. If there are some women like that, you are telling me that all of us are like that? My hair was relaxed at 11 after a bout of “salon washing” play with my bestie where we used sand as water. To deal with the lice my mother relaxed may hair, and I wish she did it earlier I swear. It would have saved both of us 11years of headache. I have gorgeous hair now, not long long, but its thick and very healthy. I relax my hair every four months and trim every 2, and during that hiatus I braid my hair, wear it in ghana weaving and wigs. Not to prove my Africanness, but that’s what I like. I have never bought brazilian hair in my life because i think it is ridiculously expensive and I don’t like the look I see on women on the street and on BN, not to prove that I am African on anti- brazilian. A lot of natural hair girls wear wigs and weaves, isn’t that being a hypocrite. Or what standard of beauty are they now confomring to. Wearing a wig or weave, ponytail etc is oyinbo, no matter how you argue it, so unless you are doing it to have a better realtionship with your hair or understand how to take care of your hair, don’t give me that BS of you are trying not to be inferior because the white man has said you are inferior. If you are confomring to their other standards of beauty like @Asi pointed out – shaving your armpits, tweezing your eyebrows, wearing deodorants, even using their makeup you are conforming. Don’t pick one side and hand yourself a medal. Contemporary makeup my foot – why don’t you use tiro pencil your great grandma used, what are you doing with oyinbo MAC powder. Whether it does or doesn’t alter who you are, if you are going to pick a side against the white man in relation to standards of beauty, stay on that side completely. They make this thing an issue of black and white, yet they are guilty of being in the grey areas, and they have the nerve to be telling another woman what to do with her hair. When are black people going to move on from this racism thing, when. I read @Tolu’s comment on the Chimamanda post days ago and I wanted to hug her. I don’t know about blacks in the US, but I didn’t grow up with racism, so far I am not affected by it. Like @Tolu said “I see myself as a person first and foremost, and not a black person”. WORD. Enough with the labelling. With all these campaigns we black people have, we are still giving the white man power over us subliminally. Reverse slavery mentality. What does my hair have to do with the white man? What. We women have invented a new war against each other. If it is not single vs married, it is light skin vs dark skin, or conservative dresser vs provocative dresser or synthetic hair vs human hair, now it is natural vs relaxed hair. We are too busy fighting each other to see that if we come together, we can rule the world. Will I relax my daughter’s hair? If she inherits my hair, Hell yeah. I wont put her through hell so that we can prove to the white man that we are not inferior. When Africa has invented a cure for Cancer that the whole world can enjoy isntead of waiting for the white man to do something for us then we follow, then we can chant that we are not inferior. Let your contribution to the world, to humanity do the speaking for you. If you are enjoying the modern comforts they have provided, get of your high horse and stop proving a stupid point. At the end of the day, it is just hair. Cancer patients who have lost their hair, will do anything to be able to join this conversation. Lets appreciate other people’s right to choose.

      • Clara April 19, 2013 at 11:23 pm

        DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT JUDGING ANY RELAXER WEARING WOMAN: You are so right in so many ways! Keeping natural hair to prove a point is a waste of time, might as well just straighten it. However what i find erroneous about your comment is that we are not affected by racism. It’s almost like saying if you’re not infected with HIV then it does not affect you. Racism spans centuries, our ancestors were made to feel that they were not human because of their skin and most importantly their hair. The coilier your hair was the more inferior you were considered, so even very dark skinned indian slave had better positions than black people because of their hair.
        Now, for so many centuries black women were considered ugly and masculine because they couldn’t grow long flowing hair. Recently there was an article by some asian Dr (I couldn’t care to remember his name) published an article about why we are the least attractive group in the female species and our hair was one of the issues accompanying our description as masculine. So if you think for one second that this race issue is NOT a factor today in how we CHOOSE to be and wear our hair……..you are sadly mistaken. It has everything to do with how we choose to carry ourselves in this mordern day. In short we have gone through a metamorphosis whether we choose to believe it or not. So whether you grew up in post colonial times or not racism does affect you albeit indirectly.
        Think about it for a bit. Had white people treated us as equals, never imposing THEIR standard of beauty on us the number of people enslaved (knowingly or not) buy weaves and relaxers would be far less, maybe we could even see some races chemically altering their hair to make it kinky coily. WE did not choose to divide ourselves against each other. When you hear stereotypes of light skin being better than dark skin, where do you think they originated from. We are still dealing with the fallout/after effects of RACISM. I know a lot of people, including myself at one point, are grateful for relaxers because it makes our hair ‘manageable’. Somehow i can’t seem to imagine our ancestors, pre colonial, sitting under a tree saying “gee you’re so lucky your hair is so(insert item of envy here) mine is so kinky, so untamable” We could take care of our hair period.
        So PLEASE remid me of how white people did not screw up our self worth regarding who we are as a race.
        While we have taken a relaxer and added it as one of the choices of styling our hair, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it was designed to make our hair look more like the “Missus’s” hair. I mean THINK please. take a step back and really look where this is all coming from, you will realise that without external forces we might have never considered wearing chemicals in our hair or even wearing someone elses hair.
        Let us not prove points when it comes to how we wear our hair, each to her own. I just wanted to clarify that our hair “issues” do not come from thin air. They have a real base in racism

  • uby April 19, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    This is very much true

  • Miss Anonymous April 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    We are all guilty of some form of inferiority complex and I’ll tell you why.
    Africans, Malysians, Indians, Phillipinos etc have all been known to use some form of skin lightening cream because we have been conditioned over decades to believe the fairer you are the more beautiful you look. In secondary school I remember the mixed race girls usually got to be “mascot” or “queen” during interhouse sports competitions because we all thought they were more beautiful on account of their skin colour and hair texture.
    Fastforward several years down, a lot of us (including yours truly) have been known to occassionally use toning creams just to “regain my natural complexion”. B.S! who’s fooling who?
    A month ago I did the big chop because quite frankly i was sick to the bone of all the artifical hair in my face. It had come to a point where I almost couldn’t go out with my own hair. Not that anything was wrong with it, but I just didnt feel pretty unless I had some Peruvian thing sewn on to my scalp! These days, even the girl selling pure water in traffic is wearing some form of “human hair” and it’s not uncommom to see ridicuolous looking women going about wearing tacky, rigid looking caps all in the name of weave on! Many a time I feel like calling someone aside and asking if they own a mirror!
    For more than a year now I have refused to wear fake nails and it took serious guts to withstand several weekly calls from Jide my nail technician asking “Aunty when are you coming to do your nails?” Why did I do this? I was also beginning to think it was a mortal sin for a woman below 35 to wear her natural nails (nursing mothers were excused).
    I can only speak for Nigeria where I live, but I think the level of artificiality (appearance wise) has never been as high as it is today. You see young girls with fake hair, fake finger nails, fake lashes, fake complexion, fake eyes (a la contact lenses), man made cleavages and I now hear bum pads!
    I see nothing wrong with a little enhancement from time to time. I have a 32b bust but i almost always wear padded bras anyway so you may not tell by looking at me. My point is: one needs to draw a line somewhere! While I don’t advocate finger pointing I think it’s important to learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Hair extensions, make up etc should be seen as enhancements not things we can’t live without.

  • xoxo April 20, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Firstly, live and let live..
    you know you have over said it all from the very beginning, just letting you know. so its okay

  • Tokunbo April 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    @Aponbepore you were right in your first statement… India meant hair doesn’t define who you are. Your addendum on the other hand kinda isn’t hitting it i don’t get the part about that song having inferior undertones. Chimamanda wears her natural hair proudly and as we all know is A BRILLIANT writer. #confused

  • Tokunbo April 22, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    @Q those girls are terrible and stupidly over priced. Imagine retouching and colouring all on the same day. After damaging my hair they said i should come and buy aso-ebi for their weddings happening on the same day. The way i hissed eeen Krasiva twins my ass. They did a stupid permanent colour on my hair when after 2 years the color keep coming out i had to ask and they kept lieing that it wasn’t permanent, thanks to emeka in Surulere who just told me to cut it. When no be say i get cancer my hair kept falling. Chai…..anyway the good thing is i love my new look.

    • bumi adegoke October 4, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      dear toks i dnt really get you story.. but for the record the Krasiva Twins are one of the best hair stylist on the mainlands.. if ever you had an issue with them you shud have trashed it out there and then… for the records re-read your story nothing adds up.. i just smell beef

  • Bee April 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Sexxie’ comment – Hilarious

  • African Beauty April 29, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    nice article, i totally agree with you hair is personal.

  • onnari April 30, 2013 at 5:29 am

    This whole hair debate is enuff already!
    thatssewnaija.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/sew-along-update.html

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