I had just returned from a three week visit to Nigeria, spending most of my time in Umuahia, and the rest in Lagos, Nigeria and had a chance to meet a few naturals at an event in Victoria Island, sponsored by The Kinky Apothecary. It wasn’t my first time in Nigeria since I’d stopped relaxing my hair, but my hair was now significantly longer than the mini fro it had previously been; which could have (and was) more or less dismissed as a grown out version of the low cut that many Nigerian girls wear to school. In fact, it was so large – partly due to length, my preferred styling and to the humidity – that my hair stood out among the sea of braids, weaves and straight hairstyles adorned by my fellow countrywomen.
After the event and visiting Bellanaija.com, I was surprised that they had few articles specifically related to natural hair. But what surprised me even more was that the commentary on some of the articles were all quite negative.
Here’s a quick summary of one of the comments;
“Btw dis #TeamNatural tag is foolish. This term natural hair annoys me. This whole “going natural” movement gets really annoying when its forced down people’s throats. The so called sister movement can stop! I don’t get the natural nazi’s at all.”
Ah ah?! How is natural hair being forced down your throat? How is the #TeamNatural any different than any other hashtag, such as #TeamOrobo, #TeamD’banj, or #TeamEgusi? How is the proliferation of articles on natural hair in recent years any different from the increased number of articles on reality TV or the African brain drain? What makes you automatically assume that women with natural hair do not wear weaves and go out their way to preach against relaxers like church vans equipped with megaphones at 4AM? More importantly, how can the mere existence of the maximum 10% of adult women who wear their kinky hair while parading the streets in Nigeria now be vexing you? Abeg, my relaxed and weaved sisters, who is oppressing you? Does your grandmother tell you that your hairstyle – which you spent a lot of time to do – makes you look like an onye ara (a mad person)? Does the woman who you are paying 3,000 Naira to braid or fix your hair ask you every 10 minutes why you’ve chosen to wear your hair the way you do? When you go to the market, can you feel curious eyes on your back as you pass by the stands? Do you have to mix things up in your kitchen because you cannot find hair products that work for your hair? Are you reminded by concerned aunts, cousins, and “friends” that men like long, straight hair, and that you are blocking God’s blessing of a husband for you?
I think not.
The #TeamNatural conversation is necessary in Nigeria because there is little space outside of the internet for women who choose to wear their hair in its kinky state to feel comfortable. Yes, at the present it is a movement because it is so new, but it is not a fad, and some of us have made this a lifestyle choice. We are often scrutinized by our families, our “friends”, our places of work, and most of all the standards of Nigerian society for our hair choices. Thus, we have to turn to each other for information, advice and support, and the internet is the best, if not only option that we currently have. Don’t try to take that away from us.
If the “anti-natural” argument was that there is now increased attention to educating women on natural hair care, without equal information on proper relaxed or weave hair care, then yes I agree, you should feel left out of the party. But instead of attacking us in the only space where we can speak without judgment, please direct your energy elsewhere – maybe by writing your own article on how to moisturize your hair underneath your weave and throwing in a #TeamFabulousWeave. I’d actually like to know, since I’m planning on getting one in a few months.
Now, before you discredit me as being unable to comment on the state of natural hair in Nigeria, simply because I’m an “Americanah”, let me assure you that I am very much a Naija babe. I was born in Port Harcourt, I speak and understand Igbo, and I can make eba and soup. More importantly, I am qualified to talk about natural hair in Nigeria as an “outsider” specifically for that reason – I’ve seen the different ways natural hair is discussed, viewed and accepted in the United States. Conversations about the “divisiveness” of natural vs. relaxed hair are very few and far between. In fact, the willingness of those with relaxed hair to read natural hair articles with an open mind have led to some women opting to use more “natural-hair friendly” products on their relaxed hair, such as coconut oil, which has led to overall healthier hair for all parties involved. Likewise, there is a growing excitement about the rise of weaves that resemble kinkier hair textures, so the idea that naturals are anti-weave is unfounded. We can all learn from each other.
I have been a proud member of #TeamNatural for almost 4 years. I also straighten my hair once a year. I’ve worn wigs and gotten waist length braids, and I color it whenever my heart desires. Most of us naturals – even hair bloggers like myself – could care less what anyone chooses to do with their hair. I don’t attack or even question your freedom to express yourself through your hair; so please don’t attack mine.
Ijeoma Eboh is the Founder and Editor of www.Klassy-Kinks.com. She is on a mission to change the perceptions of kinky textured hair around the world. You can find her on social media: Twitter: @klassykinks | Instagram: @klassykinks | Youtube: ije1023