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Curly Nikki

African vs. African- American Hair Practices II

By January 27th, 202115 Comments
African vs. African- American Hair Practices IIMy mom did it all, relaxer and plucked eyebrows lol. I LOVE her though!

by Christabel Mintah of Chy’s Curlz

The African vs African American Hair Practices post I shared with the CurlyNikki.com community, engendered a lot of response beyond my expectations. I really wrote it from a special place in my heart because it was an experience I lived without really understanding the implications of the practice. There were varied responses – from those who made it a “we” vs. “them” thing and those who were the litmus test as to who had more “cultural baggage” than the other. It wasn’t intended as any of that but I do understand that there are as many perspectives as there are individuals.

I still thought I should clarify that it wasn’t meant to be divisive in the least neither was it meant to speak for the whole A or AA people. I couldn’t do that, after all, my viewpoints are only shaped by MY experiences and that of those around me. So, my experiences were:

  • my hair was actually relaxed throughout primary school (picture above) until the secondary school (Junior high/HS) mandate to cut it off,
  • in majority of schools (especially public schools), girls from Primary school onwards had to cut their hair and wear a TWA or else you were punished or your hair shaved in school,
  • this practice was not enforced on those who were biracial,
  • I did not become aware (as it were) of any problems with the aforementioned practice until I traveled to other countries, and
  • we all have some “cultural baggage” in one way or another. Yes, even those who might be considered exempt i.e. white or biracial people. Side note: In Daniel Silva’s (my favorite writer of all time!) book The Rembrandt Affair, there is a character who is plagued by his father’s activities during the Nazi regime. He could never live it down because everyone judged him by his father’s actions. This is to say we all have things we have to contend with either out of choice or forced upon us.

This having been said, it is by having discussions like these are we able to delve into our differing experiences to determine that which unites us. If it is our new found/ renewed love for our hair in it’s natural state, then by all means let’s celebrate that!

15 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    If anything, more A women need to be honest with themselves about their hair issues.

    When I visited Ghana and Nigeria most of the A women wore weaves, really bad weaves and many of them did not know how to care for their hair. Whenever I would mention the use of shea butter in my hair, I received blank stares.

    Many AA people are not aware of how westerized some African countries are.

  • Anonymous says:

    People, let’s be honest w/ourselves. We act like this whole natural products use is not a new phenom. How can we sit here and bash our fellow people in the A for using sulfate-laced products or not knowing how to care for their hair when the whole not using sulfate/cone products is something new that we (white/black/asian/etc) are all just learning is bad. As for the latter, not knowing how to care for hair, ever think that braid outs/twist outs/afros/bantuknot outs are styles that blacks in US favor and may not necessarily be a reflection of how A’s view/prefer to wear their hair? Afterall, this won’t be the first time we see non-A blacks having inaccurate images of what A’s are. E.g. wearing dashiki, celebrating kwanza and now styling of hair. Maybe if we, all blacks A + AA, sit back and think about the culture and lifestyle of A women then we would be like..“ok hmm maybe it’s not that As have disdain for their hair or don’t know how to care for it, hence why they don’t wear more styles like fros or braid out but instead their culture is one where hair is braided/corn rowed and not left out. I mean, in btw fetching water, tying gele (head tie), cooking with firewood, raining season (from Apr to Oct!), harmattan (extremely dry winds – nov to apr) pls when is an A woman supposed to let hair out in the aforementioned styles? Let us just accept that our image of an A may be incorrect instead of self imposing what we believe ought to be her image. We should just embrace her for what she is – a braids/twists/cornrows/threadstyles/bantuknots wearing diva who likes to decorate hair w/ cowries or cover it underneath a gele or hijabi or a modern weaved up diva that always returns to her roots via Senegalese, micros, kinky twists, corn rows etc. However way we choose to style our hair does not make us any less A/AA and we shouldn’t use it to define us.

    Last note, as for some people who say A women don’t know how to care for their hair – I think seeing as their hair is usually in some protective style and rarely ever out like a fro, there is less need to focus on moisturizing as much bc again doing hair in Africa is soo cheap that most people change their styles weekly, biweekly max. I mean where did the [African] black soap, shea butter come from? is it not Africa? so how can we then speculate that the makers don’t know how to use their own product. Even henna can be found abundantly, it just depends on what your people (ethnicity) practice. You’d be surprised how it varies drastically even w/in countries. Sorry for the long post! Just passionate about this lol

  • Anonymous says:

    Loved your article and I only wish there were more from all the beautiful sisters of the diaspora. I want to know as much about the cultural mores and values from around the world and not just from America.
    Thank you for your contribution.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for telling your story and exposing a part of the african hair story that is usually not told.

  • Anonymous says:

    Our hair is a lightning rod often used to convey broader issues or agendas some people have. That's what I think happened in your first post, because imo your story was clearly defined as how you were raised and as a Black American I thought it was interesting. I'm sorry your words were used to divide and your post here is also educational and knowledgeable of global history. I've seen photos of African schoolgirls of various nationaities. It would also be cool to read a similiar story from an East African perspective, and not just Somalian or Ethiopian 😉

  • Anonymous says:

    I read and really enjoyed your first piece! In no way did I see it as a African vs Africa-American things. I saw it to be culturally informative, and I learned alot. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  • Funmilola says:

    Hi dear,
    I absolutely loved your article and the responses were amazing!!!! I never knew there were so many Naija/African babes repping the continent on curly nikki!! I just want to say a little (lenghty though) something. lol..

    There are a lot of deep seated issues when it comes to hair and i believe it doesn't have to be that way.. I also believe it is a matter of choice how one decides to wear their hair.

    I am a Nigerian, lived in Nigeria all my life, went to a Govt Girls College when i had my first big chop in my first year. Why?, it was just plain difficult for a 9 year old in JSS1 to manage thick kinky hair all by herself.

    I had my hair natural all through high school in a TWA just because it was easier to manage being in boarding house and all.

    One thing i can say for sure based on my experience growing up till date is that at home here, we do not treat our hair the way it is meant to be treated be it relaxed, texturized or natural.

    No one knew about co-washing, no-poo routines, retaining moisture, protective styling, no heat or minimal heat styling, sleeping with a satin scarf/pillow. OMG….. I could go on and on.

    So it was the sulphate laden shampoos
    'and the vigorously scrubbing and re-washing till the hair was squeaky clean with dazzling white soap sups' with or without conditioners and then rub vigorously with the towel to dry.. Hello fritz, hello dry hair!!!! and what on earth is wet detangling? Get the comb and yank out those knots!!!!! In a hurry, put the dryer setting on high please. I need to get back home to watch the soap on TV.

    So end results of hair washing was hair in the sink, hair on the comb.. Extremely dry hair even with all the grease and breakage, breakage, breakage… Sounds familiar anybody?

    When i BC'd I did i at a renowned salon in Lagos and when i told the lady i wanted my hair cut while it was wet, washed with only conditioner (i had my own cone free, sulphate free condish) she looked at me like i was from another planet. "NO shampoo, how does that work?" I was only too glad to spread the message..

    Unrefined Coconut oil (Adin Agbo) and Unrefined Shea butter (Ori) were used by old women like my grand ma. (Now that's exactly what i use now on my hair and my body too!!!!)

    Hence UNMANAGEABLE HAIR!!!! It was not because it was African Hair. Noooooooooooo but put all these hair practices together, it amazing any of us achieve any hair growth at all…

    My point is that there is a wealth of information available now on a better way to take care of natural hair and i think that is something to be happy about.

    At least for me because…
    I have a 2year old with extremely wiry, kinky and tightly coiled hair. Her hair just coils upon itself and since she was 6months, i'd had to cut her hair every 3months because it grew so fast but even with all the baby oil and no tears shampoo it was still so so dry, brittle and was just so painful trying to comb it.

    When i BC'd 2 months ago armed with all the information i have now, my daughter's hair of flourishing (Organic shea butter, olive oil, cocnut oil, sulphate free shampoo, minimal handling routine). Dry hair and breakage and tears are a thing of the past and i don't have have to chase her round the house to her hair done.

    If as an adult, she decides to relax her hair, wear a weave, locs, whatever, it's her choice.

    That's the word "Choice".
    How we wear our hair should not define who we are, what we are or where we are from because at the end of the day, i believe we all want healthy hair be it natural or permed.

  • ChysCurlz says:

    Thanks ladies for your kind words of support.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you – I learned so much from the various points-of-view.

    Please ignore the negative comments – the point of the article was to open up a healthy dialogue. And trolls aside, I believe you accomplished your goal.

    Thanks again!

  • Anonymous says:

    I enjoyed your story just as it was. The ensuing discussion was equally interesting. Yeah, there were a few opinions which took me by surprise. But i came away thinking, " yeah, we need to do this more often."

  • Sonya says:

    I thought your story was beautiful. I appreciated it for its testimonial value and its ability to transform the reader. I was touched by your honesty and enlightened by your global perspective. Keep sharing these stories. They are invaluable. Good writing needs no explanation.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am so glad you wrote this. I am AA and when I read your first piece, I loved it. I got that it was from your prospective and I enjoyed it because of that. When I read some of the responses, I immediately felt bad that your words were being twisted. Keep expressing yourself and your observations. Your musings are appreciated.

    –MrsDjRass

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree, very well stated and I don't think you really needed to explain yourself at all.

  • 12tnob says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience.. I enjoyed reading it..

  • Anonymous says:

    Very well stated! I enjoyed your first piece and the comments!

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