I once heard an American student’s description on her school-based trip to a West African country. One thing that stood out to her was the fact that natural hair wasn’t as rampant as she expected it to be in Africa! Africa embodied blackness and strength to this student, and because of this, it was shocking that her image of Africa was not true. She wanted the motherland to showcase her fantasy, her representation of black beauty, but what is fantasy and what is reality?
It is true that some African countries practically worship the image of the relaxed hair. It is almost a passage way to womanhood in some cases. In some instances, a young girl’s lively afro is replaced with chemically straightened hair. Add a couple of hair weaves and an individual can see the exact image that the American student saw. So, this is the reality in many situations. Many African females, hair braiders, and stylists pull, tear, and strain hair all in the name of fashion. After years of hair torture (ok, maybe not to this extent) African women are left with little knowledge on the tender, love, and care that natural hair needs in order to be well nourished and preserved.
I have another incident of when my Cameroonian male friends and I were discussing (or perhaps they were discussing) some ethnicities that they viewed as the most beautiful of them all. Aside from the African continent, my friends ranked Indian women as very beautiful (well at least in Bollywood). If you think of many of these Bollywood actresses, they are equipped with luxurious, greek goddess-like tresses that are positioned ever-so-neatly on their shoulders. These ladies’ idealistic, fantasy butt-length hair leads me to wonder if this is a fantasy for the Contemporary African Woman? Well, yes and no. As African women, we may not all be capable (nor want to) grow hair down to our nyash, but, we can GROW our hair. It is absolutely possible for us to break the negative portrayal of strained and brittle African women’s hair stereotype one head at a time! We DO have beautiful hair. 1 Corinthians mentions the hair as her glory and glory is what it shall become!