I am not my hair!

By Tafadzwa Razemba, Zimbabwe:

I have a new obsession. It's not a fad; I've never been one for doing anything just because it was en vogue. It's a journey of self discovery and growth. I am not my hair but my hair is an extension of me. As a proud African woman, I have misgivings on putting chemicals in my hair to change its texture and putting on fake plastic or real hair on my head to cover my own; as if I was denying God's creative power in my individuality. My hair also always seemed to be crying out to let her be, the way she is meant to be. Unhealthy hair, scalp burns, receding hairline, breaking hair, you name it and all the while, here I was trying to force her just so I could be acceptably beautiful.I do not want to dictate to anyone what they should do or look like to feel beautiful. I just want to use this article to rant about why society feels it must dictate to me what I should do with my hair.

Generally people still view afro textured hair to be unprofessional and doesn't align with the standard of beauty as seen with Beyonce and Kim Kardashian who most black women in my country at least, look up to. The city I live in is an over weaved city. Whether it's done badly or looks perfect like it's whomever's own hair using a lace front wig, if you're not wearing a weave, you are constantly asked when you're getting your hair done. I can't even begin to tell you the number of people who have asked me when I'm relaxing my hair and when I say never they look at me like I have elephant dung on my head. I have had the occasional 'Oh you have soft healthy hair, it will be so long when you relax it'. Yes and it will also stop looking healthy.

If there was one group of people on this continent that loves anything western it would be most of the people in my country. We might claim we don't, our honourable President might even try offend westerners as much as possible but our society has been so intrinsically influenced by our colonisers that you see so much British culture in every home. There is a trend that rejects indigenous black African physical standards of beauty in favour of those of other communities. Here it seems everyone preaches that there is something wrong with coily hair and dark skin, and that is the message we get through the media too, that we must change that to be beautiful. The liberation of a people is not just something that is done economically and politically but it should be in the hearts and minds of that people too if not first.  Here people will look at you strangely with your natural head of curly, coily, kinky hair yet from what I've witnessed, in Europe and even with caucasians here, they are fascinated and are becoming more appreciative of African hair and features.

The ladies I have seen here with natural hair live closer to the border with South Africa, don't live here, have a white boyfriend or husband or could not live with the unhealthy head of hair anymore like myself. I must add, that strangely when you go to the more affluent areas in Harare, you see an array of beautiful ladies with beautiful natural hair in locks or without as well as relaxed and weaved. Everywhere else people look at you as if you need to be 'upgraded'. Unfortunately this need to ascribe to the Eurocentric views of beauty extends to skin in regards to skin lightening and bleaching too. Caucasian and asians have beautiful women with beautiful features, black and mixed women do too. We just have to stop looking to other ethnicities, trying so hard to be like them and find the beauty in ourselves.

I'm always amazed at the diversity you find with black people, including mixed race people. The different shades of brown skin color, the different physical features and the different hairstyles, in whatever form. With that said, it is just hair. Every woman should be able to express herself or do whatever she wants with her hair, whether relaxed, weaved, locked or natural. It is hair, it's dead and if I shave it all off it will grow back. Just allow me please to do what I want with my hair and enjoy my new found obsession with spirals, coils and kinks.

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