African hair as a cultural identity and different perspectives

Different Perspectives About African Hair in the 21st Century

Different perspectives about African hair in the 21st century tend to turn conversations into an awkward mood, especially among black sisters who are free to wear different kinds of hairstyles. But the freedom to wear any hairstyle, especially among African sisters, brings about debates around the question of identity.

Consequently, when this question of African identity pops up on restaurant tables, social media platforms, and workplace desks, the mood of unity diminishes. While the head of division springs out of nowhere. The question of African hair and identity separates old school friends, siblings, and lovers. It is one of the topics that does not end well in most circumstances. But how can natural hair cause division amongst sisters? Let’s find out.

What’s the Fuss about Hair?

The natural black hair of a woman is a crowning glory

Black sisters, like any other sister of any race, grapple with hair from time to time. Hair is the crowning glory and when sisters do not have it, they feel incomplete. The same applies when hair is present, because women  struggle with how to style it to suit the outfit. In this regard, hair compliments the owner and the owner identifies with the hair. But the problem starts when a group of black sisters, sometimes brothers, adopt an entitlement to comment on someone’s hair. Especially around sisters who wear weaves and, despite that, it’s a personal choice. And this tendency brings to the front different perspectives about African hair in the 21st century.

Hair Drama in the 21st Century and Different Perspectives

Two different hairstyles, a weave and natural hair that sparks different perspectives about African hair

The reality of the 21st Century brings to the fore globalisation, which makes everything run at a faster pace. And in order to survive the present era, you need to move. Like they say in my Hood; ‘Walala, wasala’ and in JZ’s New York lyrics; ‘ If you sleep, you ain’t happening’. Fact of the matter, you have to keep on going.

Now, with so much movement that happens daily, there’s an issue of presentation. As a result, the presentation sparks conversations on different perspectives about African hair. And as for women, presentation goes a long way. Meaning the hair, the bag, and the shoes have to sync. Not to mention, the conversations, the smile, and the approach, all put together define globalisation .

Why is Hair a Factor ?

In this regard, hair is the first obvious thing that makes up the physical structure of a person. Therefore, making it the first thing that other people see. Meaning  maintaining it is important. Now, black hair has its own share of stories. Consequently, every black sister has a different experience with hair. Because it’s never the same. Black hair gives you many vesions of it in a week. For example, some days it is soft, loving , and beautiful. And other days it is hard, angry, and unmanageable.

Now imagine a Tuesday morning filled up with appointments and the dilemma of an angry hair. What must a black sister do? Must a black sister calm the angry hair for the sake of identity?  Or must a black sister put on a weave and attend appointments? In this regard, different perspectives about African hair come to light.

Debates on Twitter Streets about Matters of the Hair

A black girl wearing a weave that causes different perspectives about hair on Twitter

Not so long ago, the former Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni’s tweet was trending simply because of a tweet about Hair. He wrote: “As I go to dinner, we debate why Africans and South Africans wear Brazilian or Indian hair. I am not making a judgement on anybody. Please don’t burn meat at the stake. Black consciousness is required on the hair question. Why this foreign hair?”

Undoubtedly, the comments section paints a clearer picture of different perspectives about black hair in the 21st Century. Some Twitter followers feel the tweet is an attack on women’s rights. While other followers feel the same sentiments with the tweet.

For instance, different perspectives go as follows: “People must let women be and exercise their own right to choose their own hairstyles”; “Society makes women believe that beauty comes with long hair”.

Perspectives on Black Hair and Identity

Natural black hair without chemicals as a different perspective about black hair

The argument around black hair and identity is a sensitive issue among black folks. Because history tells us everything that is black is discriminated against. Therefore, it is not surprising that black folks rebel with natural hair in order to re-gain black pride.

In this instance, the definition of black hair is natural hair that is free from damaging chemicals, human hair or animal fur on it. This definition is widely accepted but different perspectives about African hair stem from identity. The meaning behind black hair and identity, in this instance, differs from groups of pro-weave and anti-weave.

As a result, the proponents of natural hair identity emphasize that one must look at black hair as a cultural identity in the black history context. For obvious reasons, the statement above is emotional and comes from a woman who knows the history of discrimination. A woman who remembers her own experience of discrimination. And most importantly,  a woman who worries about the future of black hair.

The Emotional Baggage on Different Perspectives about African Hair

A black sister with issues of managing hair

For every black sister who wears a weave or puts chemicals on their hair, there’s always emotional baggage that goes along with that choice. The obvious story is that there are other sisters who still associate beauty according to white standards. And this largely comes from the media portrayal of beauty. While for others it is all about following office protocols. The most noticeable emotional baggage is manageability.

Meaning, many sisters confess to having difficulty managing black hair. Which is a concern, because they want to heed the call of black identity but struggle to manage their hair. As much as straightening hair or putting on a weave is easy to manage, sisters come home and face their real hair under the weave. Or put up with damaging chemicals after every two months.

Different Perspectives for Different Circumstances

Clearly,  different perspectives about black hair stem from different circumstances that sisters come across daily. And for those who have nothing to lose, look at the hair issue from the economic side of things. For instance,those who produce these weaves and chemicals versus those who buy them. In this instance, the question about economics opens up the wounds of black slavery and how cultures were lost. Thus, there’s a strong meaning that drives black sisters to yearn to embrace their natural hair and ditch the weave.

Ongoing Attacks on Black Hair and Protests in School Premises

High school students protests against school hair policy..

It is not everyday that a young girl faces her teacher and gives them a middle finger due to different perspectives on African hair. In this instance, we take a look at how high school girls confront the issue of black hair in the school environment.

Malaika is a seventeen-year-old student at a prestigious Pretoria High School for girls. She goes to school to learn obviously. But while in class, in the middle of teaching and learning, her teacher tells her that her Afro is distracting others from learning. In this situation, the remarks from the teacher did not go down well with Malaika. She experiences intolerance and day by day fears at school.

But, she is not aware that other girls feel the same way because they suffer in silence. The students’ experiences in school include a teacher giving a student Vaseline to straighten their hair. While other experiences include a teacher telling a student her hair is not ladylike. And this attitude from teachers is the result of the school dress code policy which does not include afro. And yet it requires girls to straighten their hair . For that reason, different perspectives on African hair draw the nation’s attention.

 Differences in Black Hair Perspectives Go Viral

Following recent developments at Pretoria High School for girls, Malaika and other students decide to protest against the school policy that forces them to alter their hair. As a result, the images of the protest went viral and the students gained support from the Minister of Education Panyaza Lesufi and other political parties. Leading to this uprising on different perspectives on black hair, the school changed its policy and included others.

Other Related Protests on Different Perspectives about Black Hair

Ground forces of EFF Political Party protesting outside Clicks stores

Similarly, there are pop-up messages that tend to disregard black hair as not good enough. In this instance , TreSemme, an American hair care product, provides Clicks, South Africa’s largest retail pharmacy, with the contents and images of the advertisements. The two advertisements show a black woman’s hair with the message “frizzy and dull” , while the other advertisement shows a white woman with the message “fine, flat, and normal.

For this reason, Clicks stores and TreSemne draw attention to the store. Consequently, the Economic Freedom Fighters  (EFF) leader, Commander Julius Malema tweeted, ordering his ground forces to attack. Undoubtedly,  the EFF ground forces heeded the call and stopped customers from entering all Clicks stores.

Even though the company put out a public apology, the EFF did not back down from protesting outside Clicks stores. In retaliation, they were calling for the store to close permanently. In his speech, Malema states that the advertisement insinuates that black people and their identities exist as enferior to those of white people.

As it stands, the EFF is not new to these kinds of protests. For instance,  when a Swedish retailer H&M Store in South Africa posted an online advert showing a black child wearing “the coolest monkey in the jungle” sweatshirt, the EFF rebelled.

Effects of Many Instances of Different Perspectives about Black Hair

A black sister suffering the effects of different perspectives about hair

Even though many black sisters embrace their natural appearance, there are voices in their heads that remind them they are not good enough. These voices echo high school memories where teachers refer to black hair as dirty and untidy. Owing to these negative remarks about different perspectives on black hair, some sisters are angry. So much that others  suffer from lack of confidence and mistrust around white people.

And the only way to break the chain of discrimination is to go natural. As seen recently, a lot of black sisters rebel against misogyny with their natural hair. This new trend is evident on social media platforms where different pro-black groups promote black hair. Most of the groups offer sisters tips and lessons for maintaining black hair.

The purpose of the groups is to motivate black sisters to embrace natural hair. Equally important,  sisters come in numbers to brag about black hair. “Looking back, embracing my natural hair is the best decision I ever made. Because it correlates with a bigger milestone in my life. It boosts my confidence and every day I’m learning to accept the person I’m becoming. Wow! How empowering” .

The above statement about true liberation leads to understanding why black sisters flaunt different hairstyles nowadays. And as for black sisters who are taking a natural route, there are many hairstyles to choose from.

Natural Spirals despite Different Perspectives on African Hair

A black sister spotting a hairstyle called natural spirals

Owing to the texture of natural black hair, a sister can take this advantage and let their hair be. Meaning, during the styling process, a sister can put a little bit of water in her hair and style it using her fingers. The tricky part about looking stunning in this hairstyle is that a sister must play with make-up. In this instance, focus on the eye lashes and highlighting the best facial features.

Afro Hairstyle and Maintenance

A black sister holding an Afro hairstyle with both hands

The Afro hairstyle is one of the best hairstyles to show off your hair. And maintaining it relies on a few tricks. That is to keep it clean using shampoo and hair conditioner. And for better results, always tie your hair into knots before going to sleep , for better results in the morning.

An Updo Hairstyle

A black sister showing off a hairstyle called the Updo

As the name says, the hairstyle called Updo means a sister puts her Afro up. For best results, a sister puts a hair band around her hair and pulls her afro together. The straight and smooth look on the sides gives the hairstyle a unique edge, while the top curls on top add texture and volume. This hairstyle is for sisters who want to go bold and gorgeous.

Keeping a Short Hairstyle

A black sister spotting a short hairstyle

A short hairstyle is easy to maintain and keep. It is one of the hairstyles that requires less attention and is suitable for a sister who wants to spend less time doing their hair. This is a wash-and-go hairstyle and tends to make a sister’s flawless features pop up.

The Bantu Knots Hairstyle

A black sister flaunting her Bantu Knots to protect her hair and maintain moisture

The process of making Bantu Knots is easy and anyone can learn how to do them. Firstly, you divide hair into sections,twist and wrap it to form spiral knots. This hairstyle is originally from the AmaZulu tribe in South Africa. So sisters tie their hair into knots to embrace culture. And most notable , the Bantu Knots help sisters protect their hair and maintain moisture.

Braids Hairstyle for the young and old

A black sister happy with the braids hairstyle

The Braids is a popular hairstyle among black women and girls. The freedom that the braid hairstyle gives women stems from its manageability. It takes approximately five hours to braid hair. Hairstylists use a comb to divide hair, a needle, and a hairpiece to braid the hair. Black sisters usually braid their hair to tame and grow their hair.

Dreadlocks Hairstyle

A black sister enjoying her dreadlocks despite different perspectives about hair

Dreadlocks has a history that spans from a long time ago. This hairstyle is popular among legends such as Bob Marley, Whoophi Goldberg, and Tracy Chapman. Most people associate the hairstyle with the Rastafari religion. Nevertheless, black sisters wear their dreadlocks with pride because they are manageable and adapt to any face shape without a doubt.

Cultural Significance of African Hair in Anthropology

Despite differences in opinions about African hair due to the history of discrimination and the effects of degrading comments, there’s a social communal cultural role that black hairstyles play in the lives of black people. For many decades, styling black hair has remained the best pastime that brings sisters together in talks.

The process of doing another’s hair in a home setting is a way of preserving social life among women. As a culture, the community learn to embrace indigenous ways, thereby passing knowledge of maintaining African hair to the next generation.

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