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We are not our hair

TUMIE MODISE
Until recently, I had no idea that black kinky hair was a political statement. Just when you thought things could not get any crazier than painted blue, black and white cactus plants and pit latrines, a debate about hair erupts!

A bizarre debate is brewing over what ‘natural’ hair actually is and whether hair enhancements like wigs, weaves, and extensions play a misleading role in how we define beauty these days.  I recall my early schooling days, here in Africa back at my place of origin and birth.  The issue of hair at school was a serious one even back then, one which could earn you a few good lashes topped with a very public and painful combing session in front of your classmates.

Luckily, I have never experienced this but what fun it was to watch because nothing beat seeing the class bully’s date with the metal school made afrocomb.  Nothing was more fulfilling than seeing that followed by two lanes of warm tears from their eyes.  The icing on the cake was seeing their legs go up each time the comb sliced through their kinky hair leaving white straight lines on their foreheads! I always looked forward to those episodes and wondered whether teachers still do that.  It is only now I am learning that what happened back then may amount to ‘racial discrimination’ that the act may in fact be against the ‘African agenda’.  There is a school of thought that argues that black women should embrace this political element and reject European standards of beauty.  Furthermore, proponents of this line of reasoning argue that the constant refrain of the current natural hair movement is self-acceptance, freedom, health, and spiritual growth.  Up until now I thought we were done with most of these backward dos and don’ts.  For lack of a better word, this debate about hair is boring and primitive.  It is one thing to preserve ones culture and identity and what have you but to use hair, just a waste of brain cells.

Just writing about this makes me sound stupid.  As I recall, we were all born naked. No one was born with a long or short dress, skinny or loose jeans.  We all make our own choices as we go along, as long as one is decent.  My point; it really should not matter whether you choose to keep your hair long or short, kinky or straight, fake or real.  The only problem, I concede,

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is when those who choose fake hair constantly refer to it as ‘my hair’.  That is a problem.  It’s awkward, yes.

Frankly, I don’t think anyone should be judged for something as trivial as hair.  If someone wants to enhance their hair or cover it up, LET THEM!  It is enough that people get judged on their skin pigmentation, their grades, their bank balances and even their body height and weight.  Texture of hair?  What silliness is that?  It shouldn’t matter and if you ever find yourself treating and perceiving people based on the way they wear their hair then something is wrong with you.  It goes without saying that often people judge others out of their own insecurities, they do that just to breathe a little.  My own hair isn’t exactly kinky and hard, it is somewhere between kinky and soft, if that classification even exists.  My hair literally grows overnight, I have never had to plait it to make it longer and in fact, plaiting breaks it and its unkind to my fragile hairline.

Different strokes for different folks.  While I still have not found the need to wear weaves and wigs, I do not rule that out completely, but that is just my choice.  My honest take on the subject is that some sectors of the society and self-appointed judges and members of the jury are now becoming obsessed with the myth that somehow wearing ‘natural’ hair magically makes a black woman more authentically black! It’s so ridiculous!  Natural kinky hair does not make one a better person, same way eating a banana doesn’t make one a monkey.

Similarly rocking a weave doesn’t symbolise ‘less than’.  But are we not the only culture that hangs all of our existence, our contributions on simple aesthetics?  My other take on this useless debate is that it has nothing to do with anything but men, yes males.  Until they came along with their ‘I hate weaves’ cry, no one really cared whether you were bald or had a beehive on your head.  After all, the confused brigade has done it with our weight before and now they are doing it again with our hair.  Can men makeup their minds already?



Tumy on Monday

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