By: Thato Malelu
I have always been passionate about my hair. It is a way for me to express myself. Whether it was in braids, highlighted with blonde streaks, short, long, relaxed, done up or hanging down, it is a new journey each time. The latest journey I’ve been on has been a journey of self-acceptance through my natural hair.
When and how did one’s decision to have natural hair instead of relaxed hair become a movement? As someone who recently decided to do the same, I will discuss the movement’s relevance for South Africa women and how it came about.
The natural hair movement started around 2011/12 in the United States of America and by late 2013 it had become evident that more South Africans had traded in their relaxed strands for their ‘crowns’, which is also known as their natural hair. This had become a phenomenon as the movement had a strong correlation with the Black Girl Magic movement. Going natural for some wasn’t just about releasing the magic within themselves but also defying the image of what was considered to be beautiful by society. Over the past few decades, women were perceived to be beautiful if they had straight hair or hair that could easily flow around. However, as the movement grew stronger, society’s perception of beauty began to dismantle and diversify.
This transition was not smooth sailing as the media was not as easily accepting of the diversity that came with natural hair. Most media outlets failed to equally showcase the natural hair types, instead, they gravitated towards hair that had looser coils which flowed easily. However, the hair with tighter coilers, as known as 4B/C hair, did not meet any of the former, euro-centric, standards, thus the hair type was not seen on media platforms, which is not the case now. The 4B/C hair gained exposure and appreciation when content creators (influencers) with this type of coil began to share more of their content that showcased them with their natural hair. The South African influencers who paved the way for the appreciation that for 4B/C hair has now were: Palesa Kgasane, Neema Nouse and Nomvuyo Morgan, just to name a few.
Furthermore, when these influencers started showcasing their hair in the content they created more people began sharing their journeys, which included how they maintained and cared for their hair and the reactions they would receive about their hair in public spaces. I think this was what resulted in the rapid increase, where more women starting to choose to go natural, because when these influencers’ shared journeys and stories one could possibly find them inspiring. Inspiring, in the sense that you were able to identify the self-consciousness the content creator had gained after deciding to have natural hair as opposed to relaxed hair.
I gained some self-awareness when I decided to go natural. This was when I realised that even if you may not have decided to have natural hair for the so called, ‘deep’ reasons that have been associated with deciding to have natural hair, you still have that deep experience of self-awareness. Which I think is due to the fact that when you’re forced to learn how to take care of your hair in its most natural state and you have no prior experience or knowledge of it, it can somehow feel like a rude awakening. However, it is one that encourages self-care and self-love. Throughout the process of learning how to take care of your hair, you begin to feel like you’re learning how to care more for yourself which then leads to the beginning of your self-awareness.
Ultimately, I will say that movement continues to grow stronger because of what the hair journey results in. Whether it be having hair that is larger than life or freeing the magic within yourself, both these results have a common ground which is gaining self-awareness. Also, the community will continue to grow because the people within it have become more receptive to all hair types.