Nude, natural and beautiful – these are the words that come to mind when I think about the natural hair movement that has evolved over the past few years and continues to do so. We have celebrities embracing their curls and Afro’s – from the likes of Solange Knowles, Erykah Badu and Tracee Elis-Ross, as some examples of this momentous change.
Hair for the black woman is a representation, it is a sign of stature, importance and brilliance and for so long we hid our natural signifier. But we cannot blame ourselves for that. In the past, society has coined our Afro’s and our curls and kinks as a sign of our ‘blackness’, and now we take that as a celebration but not so long ago, it was a sign of inferiority and exclusion. Remember the term “nappy head”? I do – it was thrown around in our high school days and it certainly was carried with negative connotations, we would all immediately think of that person’s hair as being “tuff” and unruly. It was only a fair judgement to the miss-education but, the term “nappy” goes back to slavery, it was used to describe slaves with the remembrance of picking cotton. So with myths and ideologies like these it is no wonder we as black women shied away from our natural hair.
I would remember as a little girl, every Sunday sitting between either of my parents knees, and getting my hair braided with colourful clips and bobbles to decorate each cornrow - not realising this was such a powerful identity for a black girl. As I grew into my teenage years, I would look at other girls and girls of other races and see their shiny glistening hair swaying down their backs. I would often look in the mirror and just see frizz and the pain of combing it out, and always wanting to sit at the hairdressers and have my hair straightened - although I'm thankful now that my mum never let me relax my hair, but boy did I long for straight hair. It is definitely a transition I think most girls go for, society paints long, straight hair as the epitome of beauty but whilst I would strive for this, subconsciously I would refuse the acknowledgement of my own culture and its celebration. Now looking back, I can see that my curls were and still are beautiful and although they are pain - lets not discuss when it rains, they are a part of who I am and my cultural identity.
You and your curls are beautiful, remind yourself, your friends and the younger girls who battled through a societal dampening as we did.
The beauty industry gets pumped with billions of dollars each year with treatments that would relax and straighten our hair – essentially killing our ‘natural’ and breaking down our ‘beautiful’. But as we educate ourselves, fall in love with our own beauty and intelligence, there are so many that see our hair as a sign of our beautiful, our natural and our identity – our afro’s run with us, they shape us and with praise they celebrate us.
Sometimes, it comes down to shaking of the societal measures and embracing the beauty that is our curls. They are such a powerful statement for us, they highlight our strength, exonerate the ignorance and build a sisterhood around them – it is not to say that straight hair or wearing weaves and wigs is a downplay on our afros (I wear wigs just for the ease) but it is important and probably my most valuable message would be to embrace your curls when you get the chance and be confident in your natural beauty. Society today is too quick to put the black woman in the shadows, and with our fro’s so big, we can and will not disappear.
What are your thoughts? - Lets start a discussion