AFRICAN THOUGHT | OUR HAIR

Ovambo traditional hairstyle, Namibia

Ovambo traditional hairstyle, Namibia
Our hair
By Isidore Noel

Life usually proceeds in its normal ways and accordingly it did so again this morning. I got to work and my white colleague walks in with a bunch of hair in their plastic wrapping, talking about she is selling hair. I had a what the heck moment. My fellow black women were exuberant and luckily for them since it was just two days after payday, they could happily buy the hair. In the midst of my what the heck moment, I realized how normal this is. I should not have been surprised. White people have been selling us stuff and dreams since they met us and we have been eagerly gobbling it up since.
Capitalism was sold to us in exchange for our socialist ways of which we still praise Ubuntu as a great African philosophy that we betray daily as we sell of our resources to the highest bidding foreigner at the expense of the people of our soil. These are the same resources that consequently allow European nations to befit their people with socialist benefits like decent State healthcare, child-rearing care, and unemployment benefits while we, the people, remain here fighting with our leaders over the miniscule crumbs that are left from the pie.
We have been sold religion in exchange for our spirituality. Our gods and ancestors have been largely removed from our daily lives and our natural surroundings. We used to find God in rain, in sunshine, in a child’s laughter, in an old person’s wisdom. Now we go to find God weekly in buildings that can easily collapse and crumble without the prior knowledge of “prophets” that we are enriching to prophesize these things to us. Ideally the prediction should come before the event happens, but if suspicious aircrafts flown by terrorists make that impossible we will also accept “visionary” answers on Television afterwards, of course.
The list of things we have been sold is endless. But as much as some members of the Naturalista hair movement tried to associate weaves and the likes to be an extension of our African inferiority complex, history and archeology show that weaves have been around for at least 2000 years in Africa. Ancient Egyptian woman were discovered to have been buried with them. Ovahimba women of Namibia who still live in their traditional settings add extensions to their hair, unaware of what is going on in Western markets. In addition, Caucasian women, especially celebrities also use weaves or hair extensions. However, credit can go to the Naturalista hair movement in emphasizing that beauty is seen through the Eurocentric lens. Caucasian women extent their hair whereas African women in addition to that effect also often imitate the European hair texture.

ovahimba hair
Bottom line is weaves and all other hair extension types are here to stay. The fact also remains that they are being sold to us. The black woman is the most appreciating target market. If we have watched Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” and if after all the education in the film it does not turn us off other people’s hair and toxic chemicals in disgust, then can we at least start seeing the potential economic niches? We are the top consumer when it comes to fake hair, natural or synthetic, and yet we struggle to get into the supplier position? Why are we as African women not the main supplier and advisor on hair that caters almost exclusively to us? Why do we not have the patent for all that hair we use? Why do we have white people selling us stuff that they hardly use themselves? Why do we not pursue to find methods that are friendlier to apply to our scalps and hairlines? Why are we always on the receiving end?
congo hair
I say, the hair we use should at least be economically our hair. I am not a fan of a weave and I have seen the crazy prices for which Brazilian and Indian hair is sold on the motherland. But when we talk of black economic emancipation, these are the niches that offer us the best reasons to buy black for black. It would only make sense that we at least have economic dominance in the areas in which we are the main consumers. Hopefully, we will also incorporate a healthy aspect to this business as we are the guinea pigs that know firsthand of the damages that can be caused with all we have been offered.

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