A fellow youtuber and blogger, AuCurls Naturelle (who I have featured here) brought up a very interesting dialogue about the perceptions of natural hair, growing up in Africa. You can read her post about it here.
Image: YouTube Vlogger & Blogger AuCurls Naturelle
Being that I have had similar experiences, I thought it would be a great idea to share my own experiences on this topic. I have talked a little about my experiences in my natural hair journey stories part1 childhood memories & part 2 teenage years. However, she talked about it through a different perspective and I thought I should add my 2 cents.
I know these experiences can vary greatly depending on where exactly in Africa you lived in, not only from country to country but it can actually vary depending on the cities and towns you lived in.
I do know that people in the West, usually think that people in Africa are more in touch with the natural way of doing things. That Africans, embrace their Natural Hair. Something which is in fact the opposite. We actually look to the West as our role models and we tend to emulate their culture, fashion and way of living.
The city I lived in Dar-Es-Salaam, is the biggest city in Tanzania. A metropolitan city, where the large part of the population moves to, in search of a better life. This is where the educated, middle class and higher class live.
From what I remember, at the city we lived at the time, there was only one private school. This school, was very expensive and local families could not afford to get their children to attend this school. Therefore, mostly kids of expatriates, ambassadors and foreigners; who came into the country attended this school. Most of these kids were Caucasian, Arabic and Indian. In this school girls were allowed to do anything to their hair. However, the majority of the population attended government public schools. In these schools, girls were required to either wear their hair in cornrows or to cut their hair in TWA’s (Teeny Weeny Afros).
As I grew older, our country was moving from a socialist to a more capitalist economy. During this time, more private schools were opened and they became accessible to the middle class. In these schools, girls were allowed to do pretty much anything to their hair, as long as it was neat and presentable. But in public government schools, the requirements remained, you were only allowed to cornrow or cut your hair.
There were also catholic boarding schools, and most of these schools required that the girls cut their hair. The reason given by the school administration for this, was that they wanted the girls to concentrate on their studies rather than wasting their time on vanity. At the time we didn’t think much of this, we took this as a practical reason and accepted it.
What I do know is, in our country or at least in the cities or parts of my country that I lived, even to this day, having natural hair is not embraced by the society. If you are educated and have “money” you have to perm or relax your hair or wear your hair in weaves, in order to keep up with appearances and look “presentable”. This is one of the ways, people showed their social status.
In my opinion, this way of thinking was brought about because of the colonization that our country went through. We believed that the ways of the west were best and therefore we emulated everything including the ways we wore our hair. Our media often showed content that was shown abroad. Growing up as a young girl we watched the same artists, actresses and models that were popular in the West. In our minds that was the definition of beauty. Therefore, we lost our knowledge about hair care. Often hair stylists were not properly trained in the method of proper hair care. A vast majority of women under went hair damage, burnt scalps and stunted hair growth due to relaxers and extensions.
As far as dreads and locs goes, there was this perception in the society, that people who wore their hair in this state were either mentally unstable or smocked weed. They were seen by the society as outcasts or rebels.
What are some of your hair experiences growing up? I would love to hear them, leave your stories in the comment section below.
Below, you can watch a video of me talking about this topic:
Thank you so much for stopping by,
Much love and Stay Blessed,