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"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Friday, 7 February 2014

Soul Food Friday: Hair Ninjas and Afrolicious Samurais

L-R Samba Yonga, Mwanabibi Sikamo, Me, Alice Kabwe,
Masuka Mutenda, Chiteu Muyoya-Mudia, Mwaba, Chisenga
Muyoya, Irene Banda Mutalima, and Mukuka Mayuka after
TEDx Lusaka last year.
© Chosa Mweemba of Fiahlink Photography

Natural Afro hair is a big deal.  It shouldn't be but it is.  The politics, angst and/ or liberation tied to it cannot be overstressed.  When I went natural in 2007, I did it for personal reasons.  I did not do it for for grander causes: to be more authentic or to be true to my roots.  The decision to relax my hair at 11 was due to the fact that I went to boarding school in Bristol, England at 11 and they would not let me braid my hair (they did the next term after my hair fell out responding to the sheer cold and the trauma my hair suffered from chemicals straightening and thus weakening my hair).  After that I spent the next half my life miserable every time I relaxed and always got scabs from the process and my hair never was as thick or as long as it was natural as a child.  I could feel the undergrowth, lovely soft virgin hair that was then destroyed every 3 to 6 months with each retouch.  I just wanted to feel that 24/7 and I wanted to know if natural hair was really harder to take care of.  It wasn't, it is easier and it fits my personality and lifestyle a lot better.  I also wanted to be able to wear a halo fro.  Unfortunately through education I have found out that Afro hair is much more diverse than the coarse and dry that is assumed to grow out of every black person's scalp.  My hair is too soft and too floppy to fro once it is longer than 4 inches so I cannot rock the 10 inch fro that was my original goal.  But I can do so many creative things with it that I had never imagined and so now I don't care and I can pseudo fro with twist outs :).

When it comes to beauty I am the easy-breezy lazy type.  And my afro hair fits in with that.  Last week as I mentioned I spoke on a panel after the screening of the documentary Kicking it with the Kinks.  During the discussion we talked about how even if your choice is not political, because of the current environment in Zambia it can be. You can be labeled the afrocentric, political and/ or militant type.  I am not pushing any agenda. I am astute and aware enough to acknowledge that black and African hair choice can be loaded, and while I do believe you should make an informed choice about how you wear your hair that is not based on the stereotype of all afro hair is kinky, coarse, dry, unmanageable and doesn't grow, but through exploration and understanding of the limits and the possibilities of the way your hair natural grows and curls out of your head, I do not begrudge anyone who decides to alter their hair texture, colour or chooses to add hair through extensions: weaves and braids. I do however take umbrage with the assumption that allowing my hair to grow out the way God intended is radical, and is political.  It's hair for bleeps sake really! It really should not be that deep.  Yes, yes, there are colonial and global media hegemonic forces that have contributed to the self-hate that many afro-haired women have internalised and it should be addressed, but as was pointed out in the discussion, it also is not that deep to people as well.  Each individual has their own hair journey.  And these issues come out in different ways with other races from straight and blonde being the ideal for example.

However I also acknowledge that my choice has impact and that I can be an ambassador for education and exploration and can even be inspiration.  I have always had people ask me how my hair is so soft and if I am wearing a wig and recently how I have been able to grow my hair especially when I have blowdried my hair straight.  Last year, the few months I was on Zambian television had a real impact.  I still hear stories of people who loved seeing me rock natural hair.  The most recent account was from a lady and her friends who used to hold viewing parties with their daughters and she expressed how much the young girls loved that I was able to present an articulate, educated and beautiful image with natural hair and chitenge clothing.  I made the choice to dress and style my hair that fit with who I am and honestly what was easiest as I had to do everything myself, I had no glamour team travelling with me.  I did not realise at the time that my innocuous and selfish, practical choice would touch people as profoundly has it has and still does.  I have vowed to honour that in the future.  I am truly blessed: it is a humbling priviledge to bring people happiness purely from the way I live my life.  

Tomorrow: Saturday 9th February, in Lusaka is a Natural Hair Workshop hosted by Masuka Mutenda and Mwanabibi Sikamo (who are in the picture above) of ZedHair.  It is a Q & A session about all things natural.  I hope to see you there if you can make it :)

Also look out for my post on TEDx Lusaka as videos are to be posted in the coming weeks...

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