The politics of natural hair (en)
Whether we like it or not, black African hair is political. Mugethi Gitau, a Kenyan woman who is obsessed with natural hair discusses various aspects of navigating the politics of black African hair.
- Mugethi Gitau
It is ironic that in the world we live in today, wearing your hair the way it grows as an African person is considered a statement. For generations, majority of urban Africans have been wearing their hair straight, and this has become thet accepted standard for hair. It is not uncommon to hear comments of natural African hair being called unproffessional in the work environment, or untidy in the school environment. Last year, a 13 year old South African girl led a succesful protest against her school, Pretoria High School's racist rule that the black students were required to straighten their hair , while girls of other races could wear their hair natural. This is common in schools all over Africa.
Chimamanda Adichie, a bestselling author is quoted as saying that if Michelle Obama had natural hair, Barrack Obama would not have won the presidency. This is perhaps, the ultimate illustration of the politics of natural African hair.
In addition, there is little knowledge on how to take care of natural hair by hair stylists, and most products that are readily available, are made for straight hair.In Kenya natural haired women have formed online communities to encourage each other to wear their hair natural despite the stereotypes and perceptions, as well as sharing hair care and styling information and tips.This happens on Facebook groups like Tricia's Naturals (68,000 members). Hashtags like #teamnatural #naturalhair #nappyhead are used internationally on social media to have discussions on social media, share hairstyles and hair care information with the aim of taking black natural hair mainstream.
Mugethi is on a mission to break cultural stereotypes on hair, change perceptions and encourage people to wear their hair natural. On her Youtube channel, NappyheadsKE, she discusses the various issues like perceptions that sorround natural hair.