Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Black hair - it's a hair-raising experience
If you ever ask me what I do with Emma's hair, the answer is simple. Nothing! Emma will not let us anywhere near her hair and it shows. She has sticks and twigs in there, leaves and dry grass. When we talk about her sandy hair we don't mean the colour. There's quite literally sand in there courtesy of the sandpit at school. Soon she'll be able to smuggle a small child through customs in the mess on her head.
At a recent birthday party, a mom with an adopted little girl got chatting to me and we started discussing hair. She adopted her little blessing from the Catholic Women's Association and she was telling me about the adoption process she went through as a single mom. She mentioned that one of the questions asked was how she felt about 'ethnic' hair They asked whether she had a problem with it and how was she planning to look after it. I wasn't sure if she was adopting a child or a weave. She must have seen the confusion because she went onto explain that a few children have been returned due to 'unmanageable hair'!?!
Most months I find myself standing in front of the 'care for black hair' range just staring. Staring at the multitude of shampoos, creams and oils that whisper at the promise of beautiful shiny hair. If I ask an assistant, sans Emma, what product would work best for black hair, they look at me like I'm the mad mhlungu their ancestors warned them about. Emma in arms sees people being far more helpful. Though when they look at her hair they immediately recommend a professional salon.
I am told by friends in the know (mainly black) that Emma has gorgeous hair. It's the right texture. It's strong and it's healthy. However the same friends (and absolute strangers) regularly ask when am I going to straighten it, weave it, relax it or braid it. They want something done with it. Anything. It just mustn't be left natural. Why not I wonder?
Recently I read that black hair fuels more than a billion-dollar industry which includes products, weaves, and wigs that allow women to change up their styles at a whim.Straightened or chemically treated hair is often seen as easier to care for and more attractive. Words used to describe natural unprocessed hair include kinky, curly or even the rather derogatory nappy hair.
I love Emma's nappy hair. She's two. She's beautiful and looks like God intended. It's not a political statement on my part. I just haven't read 'Black Hair for Dummies' yet.