Thursday 23 September 2010

Going Natural And Taking A Thousand Heads With Me

Ever since my eyes were opened to the strangeness of permanently altering your hair with toxic chemicals, I've become a natural hair street preacher of some sorts. Repent, for the death of your follicles is near, is my new waking, sleeping and eating cry.

Not surprisingly, my friends have grown a little irate over my zealousness.

"It's my hair."
"I like it straight."
"Natural hair does not fit everybody."
"It's not that expensive.'
"I'm not trying to be white."
"My hair is too hard to go natural."
"Leave me alone."
"I'm glad to be enslaved by Western ideals of beauty."

Some of these are a few of the retorts that they have thrown in my well meaning face. Recently, these so called friends have left the defense and moved to the offense. Whenever I try to warn them of the dangers of the sodium hydroxide chemical found in relaxer, they assume attack position immediately. First, they start every sentence with "Since you are going natural," then they launch into the demolition.

Since you are going natural:

"Why don't you wash your hair with juices and berries?"
"Why don't you make your coat from ankara?"
"Why are you wearing trainers? Let us buy you leather sandals from the North?."
"Why don't you brush your teeth with chewing stick?"
"Why do you wear a bra?"
"Why do you speak English?"
"Why do you go to school in England? There are good Universities in Nigeria."
"Why do you go to the cinema?"

On and on the barrage continues.

I don't understand the antagonism. It's not that I want them to stop perming their hair. I just want them to start thinking about what they're doing. If you were going to permanently alter your nose, you would think about it. If you were going to permanently alter your mouth, you would think about it, but most people I know don't even think about what they're doing before they permanently straighten their hair with dangerous chemicals.

So you see my dear friends, it's not just that I want to convert you to the 'fro brigade. I just want you to think about the social and cultural reasons that make you feel the need to permanently alter your hair.


  1. LMAO! You didn't waste time at all. You really should look into the ankara coat idea. lol. We love you but what's love without harassment?!...MEE

  2. chibs! I like your point BUT you're like a reformed smoker - you don't mention much about the many years when I seem to remember you turning up with a conspicuously altered hairstyle every half term or so!? Love lottie xxx

  3. altering your nose is different from altering your hair. you can always go natural if you want, your nose however you cant change so easily

  4. Power to the naturals! Love this post chibs cuz I also get the same reactions as well. Go natural, don't go natural... your issue because it's a personal decision. But please don't blame anyone IF you end up an old bald lady in future cuz I know I won't be one =]
    Love, A yellow girl with natural hair, haha!

  5. Lottie, all those times I changed my hair, it was temporary alteration. :) And anonymous 2, it is very difficult to go natural. Either you shave your head or your relaxed hair breaks off, until its completely natural. Both experiences can be traumatic. And Anon 4, Viva la naturals!

  6. It's difficult to go natural but not impossible. Somebody mentioned bald old lady, lol. My dad never relaxed his hair, he is bald now. My mum still rocks her perms. Let not get neurotic. Chidindu, you look lovely with your hair.

    Heard about your book sale from a friend. Congrats. Hope to keep in touch.

  7. Thanks Myne for the congrats and the compliment. You're a blog celebrity so ASBTW is glad to have you stop by :)

  8. Chibundu! you are a brave girl and I applaud you for going natural especially with all the stick you are getting for it. Am glad that you've raised this issue to get people to really think about these issues.

    It's somewhat been a tradition that we've bought into without having the full picture. Its only recently that I've come to understand the origins of our obsession with the western notion of how our hair should look. It has parts of its roots going back to the slavery era when it was a survival issue. Having hair straighter or looser than the 'kinky' hair meant a slave was more likely to be out of the fields and 'promoted' to the white slave master's house, or even set free. Us African woman with some exposure to the Americans seem to always look up to our African sisters outside the continent to tell us what beautiful hair is. They may still be conditioned to that pattern of wanting to look more like the slave master even though they have been set free now, and that is an issue they will have to work through and hopefully break out off. We have been on a separate journey so its funny that we still copy them so blindly.

    For those complaining of the natural hair being difficult to manage, I say just like we invested some creativity, effort and time to come up with the relaxer, we should rightly place those resources into finding ways to manage our hair. Am not a chemist but I know that stuff cannot be good for our hair and scalp if it burns and scars like that. Also the scalp is permeable so lets imagine what could be going into that area of our bodies so close to the brain hmmm!

    I wont take any more of your blog space so I'll finish by saying that we have the choice but we should really think about the reason why we do the things we do and the implications of it all.

    Kudos to all the natural girls out there!!!!!! and to those thinking of making the transformation I say GO FOR IT!!!!

    Luv Joy!

  9. I might have to blog about this again Joy :) You've added even better arguments to my stock pile. And also, maybe you should think about starting your own blog about natural hair mehn.

  10. I think the different choices people make about their hair aren't always political in nature. I went natural not so much because of a rejection of Western ideals, but because relaxers are pretty damn painful and I was tired of getting burns. Then I went to dreadlocks because I wanted something that required even less maintenance than an afro (I'm lazy to a fault about my hair!). Yes, natural hair does happen to intersect with some of my anti-Western politics, but that wasn't the reason I made the choice in the first place. I'm simply averse to pain! That said, I could go another direction someday. My sis was natural and, after two kids, went back to a relaxer and weaves because she doesn't have time to maintain her hair. (I try not to judge her for it. :)

  11. AL at least your sister tried natural. I'm still fighting the good fight. Aluta continua o.

  12. I agree with Alligator Legs, I went natural not because of a social/political awakening but because I oculdn't afford £60 a month to maintain relaxer, products etc.

    It was only after I grew out the relaxer that I realised my natural hair was lovely, and both friends, fam and boyf prefer it. I look back and wonder why I even followed the fashion for relaxer etc. Thank God I never tried weave...

    I wear braids now, but I'm glad I've stopped straightening my hair by force and fire. I'm also glad for all the savings I make and how empowered and "black and proud" I feel knowing that I'm rocking my hair the way my father and my God gave it to me :)

  13. Just started growing my natural hair......again.Started before but changed to jerry.This time,there's no going back.It's really tough but I get inspiration from people like u,Jodie,Chimamanda etc.Congrats on ur novel by the way.Bin working on mine for years now.By God's grace,one day I'd hold a finished copy in my hand too.God bless you!


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