On Life, love and Politics

"Random musings about Life, love and Politics. Just my open diary on the events going on in the world as I see it."

The African woman and hairstyle palaver March 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — kikenileda @ 11:36 AM


There is a "pandemic" in our midst and it exists by virtue of the glut of "conk" hairstyles that are continually invading our daughters’, sisters', mothers', wives\girlfriends', and grandmothers' head-tops. 

Many a time, the sight of these mop hairstyles are painfully distracting, expectedly solemn, and flagrantly pathetic, an effect quite opposite from the attempt by many to arrive at something appealing. 

The trip to this morbid state of affairs starts early and stays the course once the baldness, patchiness, and thinning sets in. These after-effects of abuse are omnipresent, and, not surprisingly, often disguised. 

This "pandemic" of conked hairstyles now extends all the way down to elementary-aged girls. Often enough, one can spot pre-teen females with their hair pressed, stretched out, and contorted into garish "beauty" statements that smack of impending doom. 

At times, these young girls skip, perhaps wisely, though still distressingly enough, the maltreatment of their hair by simply donning the tasteless, out-of-place hairpieces that appear stapled to their scalps. Either method of disguising one's natural hair (conked-out or wigged-out) has the appearance of being a brutal and stinging ritual that speaks more to the notion of sacrifice, rather than to the successful quest for beauty. 

On the other end of the spectrum, elderly ladies sloppily sport their obvious wigs so as to conceal the manifestations of their hair’s hard life. The never ending days of hot combs, perms, "relaxing" products, uber-tight braids, jheri-curls, and any other such expressions of over-stressed hair make it such that the average African woman hardly ever allows us, or herself, to see her hair in its natural state. 

The beautiful curly, God for¬bid woolly hair that was proudly sported in the 1970s and that was required of school-attending girls of years' past is dying or dead. 

The Afro is nearly extinct and the simple and elegant plaited hair borne of natural hair has gone by the wayside. Today when braids are done, one's hair is suffocated with artificial hair; a female's natural hair is bullied and rendered invisible by strands of synthetic hair. 

The adage that one should use what God gave you has been lost on the "Nubian." One's natural hair is totally out of the equation-the object has been to hide the damn thing, conceal it, suppress it, contort it, and disguise it. 

Conk hairstyles, many argue, speak of sophistication and professionalism. An employee must walk into a professional setting with nothing other than relaxed hair, it is implicitly said. In fact, as I have been told, braids are not considered appropriate enough for many a professional circle. Natural hairstyles are considered too "native", being only appropriate for small girls (even that). 

Seemingly only a "bush" girl, a peasant, a small girl would dare wear her natural hair. Her "ignorance" predisposes her to wear a hairstyle so gauche. 

Real hair is extinct; it has long since been endangered. Does this state of affairs serve as a macabre statement about race, rather than a benign one about beauty management? Those with straighter or soft hair are considered ever so blessed. 

Racially or aesthetically, depending on how you see it, that certain someone was spared the rod. They were excused from being beaten over the head by nappy hair, when in fact it is the one with "coiffed" hair who has literally been walloped over the head by a hair ¬raising cocktail of chemicals and synthetic products. 

The average hair aficionado (and there are plenty of "us") would summarily write off the aforementioned as hogwash; the issue is manageability, not any larger socio-anthropological problem(s), they'd probably think. 

"Some of us have tough, belligerent, nappy, woolly, kinky, non-so-soft hair that is resistant to any form of cajoling or primping. So in the interest of practicality, any time-saving methods for hair management are most welcome." 

One's hair, most might subsequently argue, can be sorted and shifted into place without much effort with the help of "supplementary" hair products. 

Consider the alternative, they'd further state: "dry the behemoth of hair after having washed it; wrestle it with a comb, with much accompanying pain, lubricants hardly being of assistance; and then proceed to shape it, fully expecting that it would need continuous sculpting throughout the day. 

In summary, the amount of attention and care that is needed to maintain a kinky head of hair is insurmountable and not worth the trouble, racial political considerations be-damned. 

"Besides, even when one plaits the God-forsaken thing, one has to worry about the hair weeds that sprout up; one's head thus resembles an unkempt garden!" 

Therefore, in this age of efficiency, manageability is the mantra of hair grooming, so ardent subscribers of "relaxed" hair (to use a euphemism) would emphatically state. The everyday kinky-haired person is simply doing what they want all in, or especially in-the name of practicality. 

But is this winning argument of manageability that benign a point? Or is the deep seated, often overlooked, though glaring, issue of internalised racial subjugation pertinent here? Simply put, is conking one's hair akin to skin bleaching? 

As an aside to the above question, consider the following: Once a simultaneously acerbic and playful argument happened between a black man and a white woman somewhere, at an undisclosed location in Ghana, an interesting encounter to which I was a spectator. Said black man went on, provocatively stating how a man should have his woman at his beck and call, somewhat contrary to his real life situation, I gathered, as far as I knew the sort of man that he was. A woman is his this-that-and-the-other, he carried on.

Quite naturally, the emancipated woman in his presence did not take too kindly to (what he'd probably term) his playful jabs. Unrepentant and ever so insensitively, he marched on, delivering his diatribe of kindly delivered insults. 

Having had enough of it all, she interestingly and ever so diplomatically countered his insensitivity with the inferiority argument(s) that others do make about him as a black person, you know: and-so-forth-and-so-on. Surprisingly, he matter-of-factly stated that we as black people have indeed validated those arguments that others (and we ourselves) perpetuate about us. 

His irrefutable evidence; the one thing he honed in on: the conk hairstyles that our women sport! 

Some will undoubtedly discount this messenger; but is what he states not as poignant as a Jesse B. Semple statement? 

Stepping back and getting beyond the muck that permeates the above "simple" statement, can it not be argued that the profound act of straightening one's hair has become so benign an action that we no longer want to or are able to see the sort of statement that we are making by it? 

Like it or not, isn't (your) denial of this action as implausible as Mr Jackson's refutation that he possesses an innate desire to be a white person. Doesn't our collective acquiescence to this practice of hair-care reek of the sort of ignorance, denial, fallacy and stupefaction that Mr Jackson's continuing denial does? 

This racial-political angle is lost on many of us, and discounted or ignored by an equal number. Thus, prompting me to ask: How is the practice of hair straightening benign? What makes this act simply, a mindless and, yet also, a very conscious choice to beautify one's self? What makes it simply an expedient solution that allows one to cope with the hectic pace of our modern lifestyles? What is more, as it is as much a part of our mores as a black people that to veer from it engenders disregard and prejudice from those within the conformist class, must we then just simply accept it as a mere fact of our lives? Straightening one's hair, after all, has become a rite-of-passage; it serves as a debutante act for many a
young woman. 

If this is so, it then stands to reason that a 17-year-old aspiring broadcaster making the transition from kinky hair and a senior secondary school certificate to a university residence hall and relaxed hair, and armed with an intent to (literally) dispense with her natural follicles, can best propound on the prevalent perspective that states that one should relax on the hair issue and take it for what it is: a simple matter of vanity, or, better yet, grooming management. 

I think the African woman, however, close to or far removed she is from her roots, has allowed herself a certain basic ignorance of her race, a certain inherent contempt for her nature, and a certain lack of confidence in her beauty.



One Response to “The African woman and hairstyle palaver”

  1. Ekem Amonoo Lartson Says:

    Looks like my article originally published in the Daily Graphic if Ghana and posted thereafter on myjoyfmonline (both times credited to me) has been pirated by the likes of wordpress??!! CEASE & DESIST!!

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