By Anna Cocks, Julia Mukosi, Sedinam Simpson and Ama Adu
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 8 of VARSITY News.
The Natural Hair Movement is about women, especially women of colour, embracing their natural hair, curls, afros etc. It’s about no longer conforming to a euro-centric convention of beauty. It’s about embracing one’s culture and identity. The movement has been around for almost two decades now, starting in the US and moving throughout the world. South Africa has especially embraced this movement in schools as can be seen from the Pretoria Girls’ Protests of 2016. This country is still in a transformation-stage of embracing this movement and so I wanted to give a moment, a space, for women to express what their hair and what this movement means to them.
What does your hair and this movement mean to you?
Julia Mukosi (Natural Hair Activist):
“I LOVE MY HAIR”. Word’s that I’ve only recently started saying with my chest. I’ve been natural since 2014, back when we had 3 natural hair products on the shelves (we have a whole aisle now), the lack of representation made me think that the grass is greener on the other side. But through years of learning to love my hair, I’ve realized that the grass is greener where you water it, literally and figuratively.
From one natural to other current & future naturals, that’s that on that, PERIOD!
Sedinam Simpson (Natural Hair Follower):
My earliest memory of childhood salon visits is of my scalp painfully and slowly burning. Time and time again I would subject myself to that chemical that would straighten my hair, that chemical that would make me beautiful.
It was not until the natural hair movement began that I realized that I was whitewashing my looks. I began to see people of colour embracing their curls and their afros. 12 years of chemically destroying my hair quickly came to an end when I began to realize that I am beautiful with my natural hair and I attribute that fully to the natural hair movement. So, in matric, I ditched the chemicals and damaged hair, did the “big chop” and have been on the journey ever since. It’s a learning process – to take care of my hair, to try new hairstyles and to fully embrace it (since my idea of beauty was distorted for so long). But, what I now know is that my hair is a large part of who I am. To me, my hair means beauty, it means power, it means strength.
Ama Adu (Natural Hair Activist):
If I’m being honest I hated my natural hair. It required way too much upkeep and was quite painful to style. And keeping it felt like a chore I’d forced onto myself all in the name of what others thought was beautiful or African Queen-like and that feeling of going through all of this torture for others made me resent my hair even more. I felt like my hair was not mine to manipulate or have fun with, but an identity given to me by others.
And so I cut it, all of it, off. As a giant “fuck you” to everyone who thinks or behaves as if my hair belongs to them and as a real statement of freedom. That’s what a natural hair journey is in my eyes. It’s taking back control of your identity and how it gets expressed through your hair. Whether it be through discontinuing relaxers or fully endorsing the wig life or both or none, it doesn’t matter. What defines the rebellion is intent and control. Intent in that: is this what YOU want to do? If so, is this best for YOU and is this what you truly desire? Are you being true to YOUR ‘nature’? And control in that: are YOU deciding this? Once all your hair actions are governed by these laws, that’s freedom and that’s a true ‘natural’ hair journey.