African women join the natural hair movement
Can vary from a traditional mohawk shape to a more assymetrical style by shaving one side of the head, leaving afro to grow on the other.
This simple do involves tying afro hair into small or large ‘puffs’ using elastic bands. Infinite variations from the cute to the corporate.
“It’s a very easy style to maintain so you can understand the appeal of it. Once you have dreadlocks form, there’s not much you have to do,” says blogger Nyachomba Kariuki.
By pinning up hair in various patterns and styles the ‘updo’ can range from the simple to a modern work of art.
Achieved by twisting hair into little braids before bed. In the morning, release the braids and twists, and the hair takes on the shape of the braid.
Puffs, cornrows, dreadlocks and afros: whatever the style, natural hair is enjoying a resurgence across Africa according to beauty bloggers in Nairobi and Dakar.
“Employers are now more accepting of natural hair,” says Nairobi-based natural hair blogger Nyachomba Kariuki (black girl long hair).
According to Kariuki, just a few years ago, if a woman walked into her office with natural hair “people would ask you, ‘Why haven’t you done your hair? Why is your hair like that? What are you trying to say?,'” she says.
These days, it is becoming almost as accepted in the office as it is at a club on a Saturday night.
Today she estimates that one in five people walking down Nairobi’s streets are sporting dreadlocks.
“All sorts of professionals have come out with natural hair. It’s not so much viewed as a radical thing. You can just be a normal person and have natural hair.
“You can be an accountant or an investment banker with natural hair.”
The most recent natural hair movement, which is urging women to forgo relaxers and chemicals and embrace natural and curly coifs, originated in the United States, and inspiration still flows to Kenya via African American celebrities, says Kariuki.
“I actually have quite a drastic haircut, longer at the front and shorter on the sides,” she says.
“Very, very many ladies in Nairobi are shaving the sides of their heads, and that’s also influenced by singers such as Rihanna. It translates here as well.”
On the other side of the continent, Dakar-based beauty blogger (thesim-plelifeofmg) and afro-wearing writer Marie Grace Agboton agrees that the revitalised afro movement began in the US but that many of her fellow Dakarois have started to ride the growing wave of natural hair.
“It started small,” she says of the trend, “but now we see more and more women wearing afros or who have stopped straightening their hair in the streets of Dakar.”
Agboton is a member of N’Happy Galsen, which organises the Rencontre Afro de Dakar for women who are just starting to grow out their hair.
They swap tips on natural hair care products and procedures.
At their September gathering, about two dozen women convened to celebrate and chat about their decisions to go natural.
Why straighten my hair
Maguette Geuye, a journalist, says she has always been a feminist, and she sees wearing her hair in an afro as a natural extension of that mindset.
“I am African, why straighten my hair? I keep my hair as it is. People like me as I am. I am a woman […]and I won’t copy another woman to be accepted by a man,” she says.
Owners of local shops and salons in Dakar say they have seen an increase in women wearing their hair in natural styles.
“Without a doubt, it is becoming more popular,” says Fatou Ndeye, a salesperson at Les Hairoïnes, a shop in Dakar that sells hair products.
“People have more of a tendency right now to make a transition to natural. So natural products are a lot more popular and sell a lot more.”
At the Rencontre Afro de Dakar, the woman cluster together, eagerly sharing stories about when they decided to go the way of the fro and complimenting each others’ coifs.
After all, they say, working hard to support each other in this movement is only natural. ●