Some battles are truly unforgettable. In biblical times there was David and Goliath. In the 1800s, there was the Union and the Confederacy. In film, there was Batman and Bane. For the African American woman, the greatest battle of them all is the battle between “good hair” and “bad hair.”
Good hair is understood to be hair that is straighter, longer, flowing, and more manageable. Bad hair is traditionally considered to be coarser, shorter, and kinkier. It is at a young age that African American girls are exposed to the battle between the two. I can still recall when I was in the second grade and sang what I thought at the time was an innocent childhood rhyme.
“Bald headed hood rat, your hair can’t touch your back. Perm it. Weave it. You know you need it. I’m so happy. My hair ain’t nappy. It used to be nappy. I was so unhappy.”
An ode to the Afro is an ode to one of the most recognized symbols of power and strength. It is an ode to our natural texture that has been shaped and picked, moisturized and sheened. It is an ode to our true selves, unaltered by chemicals and the poisons of a controlling society.
An ode to the Afro is an ode to Africa. The Afro was not always a sign of strength. In fact, in pre-colonial Africa, the Afro was a sign of lower status. Hairstyles represented identity, social status, religion, and even marital status. Those of higher status wore elaborate hairstyles that took hours or even days to complete. Unlike these unique styles, an Afro was a sign of mourning, dirtiness, and even mental illness. It wasn’t until much later that the Afro gained the popularity and uniqueness that it is known for today. Continue Exploring
I’m sure many would agree that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. For many Nigerian women, it is the head wrap, not the hair, that is an integral part of her identity and presence. Since the early 1700s the head wrap has been a sign of prosperity and spirituality. Commonly referred to as “gele” in Yoruba or “ichafu” in Ibo, West African women have donned these elaborate and colorful headpieces at events, parties, and other significant gatherings. The rich history of the ornate headdress has been preserved throughout the years but has also transformed and been incorporated into the natural hair culture. All women, regardless of status or spiritual background can access the head wrap now. Although it is still most common amongst African women, many natural women have found ways to incorporate the piece into their daily hairstyles. Accessorizing with similar colorful fabrics has become common for many natural women and is used to spruce up a style and add an additional touch of elegance. Whether it is worn traditionally or used to enhance a natural hairstyle, I think that it is a true embrace of African culture and origin. That’s all I have to say so I guess that’s a wrap!
My Spin on the African Head Wrap Photo taken by C. Hall
For the black queen, there has been one thing that has bonded us to our fellow sisters throughout the years— hair. Dreads, braids, twists, Brazilian blowouts, or the good ol’ fashioned fro have been redefined as the years have gone by and a natural hair culture has emerged. For many women outside of this hair community, the topic of hair may seem trivial, simple, or perhaps even irrelevant. But for the hundreds of thousands of women who have embraced their natural God given hair, they know that the time, money, blood, sweat, and tears is far from trivial. Nor is it simple. In fact, it is extremely relevant. This blog aims to unveil the importance, history, and African origin that is rooted deep in the natural hair culture.
Natural hair is a challenge not for the weak willed woman. It is a true test of a woman’s self-esteem and ability to defy society’s standards of traditional beauty. Natural hair is an embrace of the true African experience. The roots on our natural heads bring us closer to the roots of our natural environment − Africa. It was here that we had no chemicals, perms, or the countless straightening products available on every shelf. We only had our hands and the hands of the women around us. We had our grandmothers, our mothers, our aunts, our sisters, and our friends. Inherently, we had ourselves.