My natural hair journey
Updated: Aug 17, 2021
My hair journey has been a rollercoaster — but with lots of the lows as opposed to the highs. Just right off the bat, the society I happen to grow from is not only made up of judgemental cynics but it's also guarded with the credos that a man with long hair, leave out dreads locs is a person who's 'Karabu' (Arabic for spoilt). In 2016, I decided to let my hair be, be nappy and happy or coily and oily, I stopped trying to fit in, and here's that story.
We had one strict order to follow concerning our hair, a self-explanatory one-liner, keep them short and knit. There's been a couple of times we've had our ears pulled and pinched for not keeping our hair short, it's the same rule at school. Kids who schooled in Northern Uganda and South Sudan, I bet you remember what we use to call 'Belele' a mark the teachers would make on your hair with a pair of scissors as a punishment for wearing long African hair. It almost felt like everyone just hated our hair.
After school, it felt like liberation but did it? We were only naive because there remained so much prejudice and stereotypes outside of school around natural hair that I'd later come to learn about... long hair and locs were linked with weed smoking, defiance, and rejection of religion. I dragged my mother's name through the mud of shame when I started experimenting with cornrows and assuming rap names. I had to wear hats and beanies every time I am going out to bypass questions, and being viewed as a failed person.
I've always had long hair and I think it's hereditary, my mom's hair is insanely long and thick but we rarely get to see it or touch it because 90 percent of the time, her head is tied in wrappers as a necessity of her religious position. Also even if her hair is free, it's like a VIP party, invites only. Lol
“It's not been an easy journey, there's a point I got asked to leave from an event I got invited to, some parents were pissed at a person they've never met. I have had people come to me to beg for a lighter, and in Juba, there's the 'inta fanan?' question that you can't avoid with the security personnel and others. .”
So how did I gather the courage to let my hair grow in the locs I've today? Here are the lessons
1. I like to think of my hair as a conversation starter if someone asks properly. It's been my purpose to challenge this tendency of unsound generalization and judging people based on their clothes/hair and lifestyle instead of on the content of their behavior. 2. Embracing my #Africanness. We've been made to believe that we are not enough - our women are made to obtain Brazilian hair and whatnots because we've for so long shamed our natural hair. Do you see the economic benefits here, if we don't see our true selves as inferior? (NB. I'm not against weaves and braids, and I do understand that people wear them for different reasons) 3. Learning and following vlogs/blogs and companies that help with products to keep your hair clean but also affirms that your beautiful just the way you're. 4. I sometimes cry combing my hair but with the locs I only need to do repairs once in a while I couldn't imagine my head any other way. 5. I'm also living as a testament that you can have locs and not drink or smoke. This alone has encouraged quite a bunch of friends to allow their Africanity to bloom.
I still say this line of disclaimer every time I'm in an event or new town... I'm not a smoker or a bad person. What are the crazy things that happen surrounding your hair ? Let me know