My natural hair journey has not been the easiest.
Grab a cuppa, because this is gonna be a long one.
Growing up black
If you grew up in an African household, then maybe you know that Saturday was ushered in with the warm smell of porridge, or Jungle Oats and the sound of the Gospel of the Week. The house was already full of the scent of washing powder and detergent.
Saturdays meant washing, cleaning, cooking. Rinse. Repeat.
If family were on their way, lunch was bubbling on the stove before breakfast.
Our hair was covered in doeks (head wrap), Underneath, our hair was relaxed, bone straight and ready to be complimented. But Saturday afternoons were therapeutic. We swam, our small bodies soaking wet and dried off on hot concrete.
And then we’d sitting under the tender fingers of my hardworking mother as she’d lather blue magic onto our scalps and hum. She’d twist cotton and break it between her teeth and twist my hair into amapondo/mabhanzi/mangongo (African threading).
Crying in The Cubicle
Jump to a few years in the future, I am in my twenties and I have been slowing transitioning by braiding my hair monthly. It’s 2013 and I rush to work after a really quick wash and go. I feel boyish, I don’t feel feminine at all. I spend a few minutes in the cold, cold office bathroom on the brink of tears.
I should’ve worn a turban. I shouldn’t have… what made you think you could go out like this?
I am trying to console myself. I haven’t had my natural hair out since I was 12 when my mother cut it in my sleep (!!).
And then something magical happens, I am stunned by the compliments I receive. My hair, gorgeous, beautiful, healthy?? I didn’t feel like my hair was any of those things. I had never felt like my hair was any of those things unless it was straight after Dark and Lovely had done its thing.
After a year of transitioning through braids, whenever I’d undo my hair, feeling my curls and kinks beneath my fingers, I’d grown to love them. Love the texture, love the feeling, love that it represented thousands of years of African culture and tradition.
But it was difficult. Some days it still is.
So natural hair is about a lifelong conversation with myself that other people have been having about me, without me. And now, here I am, awake to participate and lead the conversation about my own hair and my own beauty. And I think that’s what matters most.