If you missed it yesterday, I featured a guest post from the brilliant Rita Nketiah.
Today is part 2, where we do a bit of a Q&A to get deeper into some of the themes and issues Rita mentioned in her piece surrounding perceptions of natural hair, feminism, the differences in hair choices in Canada vs. Ghana, and more. Read on!
1. Through your various natural hair representations (loose/afro, locs, short cut), have you noted any variances in your perception of self? Have you noticed a difference in how others treated you when you've rocked these different styles?
My brain is a little fuzzy now, but, I definitely think that I got the most attention with my locs. But I also think it depended on the space I was in. I went natural during undergrad at Western University, and wore my hair Afro out often. While Western is a predominantly white institution, I was surrounded by a community of Black folk (by virtue of my social circle/my work with the Black Students Association), so I never felt like I wasn’t being embraced because of my hair. If anything, I had a lot of Black women tell me that they thought it was beautiful, and wished they could adorn their own natural coil, but thought “it wouldn’t look good” on them –which I thought was sad, but I understood where it came from. Most of us are socialized to not even know how our hair grows out of our own heads. We can’t even imagine being natural, because we start perming by 6, 7, 8 years old.
2. You've spent a lot of time both in Ghana and in Canada while wearing your hair in its natural state. How would you compare the state of natural hair acceptance in both countries?
Well, what’s interesting about Ghana is that there is a small, but budding natural hair movement happening with salons such as Twist and Locs and the various natural hair events and online communities (activism, in a sense) that are cropping up. My time in Ghana was split between village life (shout out to Ajumako district) and the capital city (Accra). I’d say that generally speaking, my locs made me stand out. Ghanaian womyn, generally, do not wear locs–which doesn’t mean that they don’t desire to. I received a lot of compliments. I often heard womyn say that they wanted to lock their hair, but they wanted to wait until after they left their parents’ house or until they got married (which is kinda the same thing –the power and decision to lock usually comes from some other authority figure). Of course, the capital city tends to attract a lot more foreigners and returnees, so I think people were a bit more familiar with locs. Generally, though, there is a stigma associated with locs. Unless you are a Rasta living by the beach, or an upper middle-class woman, it is rare to see locs on a Ghanaian woman (or man). It is definitely changing though. And I applaud those village chicks and the working class/urban class womyn who are brave enough to adorn their locs in such a conservative environment. It also helps that there are salons cropping up that help womyn with their locking journey. A lot of womyn would ask me how I started mine. I feel like if there were more (affordable) options for women to try “rasta style”, more womyn would. The older generation mostly did not like my locs. I was also REALLY low maintenance with my locs when I was in Ghana. I would probably re-twist, maybe once every 2 months. I think it kinda scared them LOL!
In Canada, I think I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by sisterfriends who “got it”. In terms of family, it also helped that Brago and I did it together. For the most part, people thought my locs were fly, but obviously (black) women had questions about how I managed it, which I was always happy to answer.
3. What was your method of de-locing? Did you comb them out? Cut them off?
Girl, I cut it all off. Combing them out? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
4. Do you have any go-to products for hair health and/or maintenance?
Hmm, I do like my Shea Butter. I often use different coconut oils. But for the most part, I use whatever is available and affordable.
5. The idea of not feeling beautiful in the beginning stages of locing is a common theme. Was there anything specific that worked to help build your self-confidence?
Umm, I used a lot of self-affirmation. A lot of telling myself that this was just a stage that would pass. I had to trust the process. I also allowed myself to have “ugly days” –headwraps became my best friend during those times. And again, I had my sister who was also going through the ugly stages to assure me. I had to work through the messiness of not loving myself on my “ugly days”. That was all deeply political and spiritual work for me.
6. a) Your thoughts on feminism and beauty were really poignant. How did you personally reconcile your views on pride in one's physical appearance with your feminist values and your thoughts on rebelling against standard beauty ideals?
I mean, beautification is layered for Black women, isn’t it? We live in a world that does not appreciate our natural beauty. We are fed tons of messages about not being desirable because of our Africanness (the broadness of our noses, our melanin, our hair, our bodies). And so, I absolutely believe that our relationship to the Beauty Myth is just not the same as it is for white girls. And traditionally, we have always adorned ourselves. We have always engaged in beautification, so in many ways, that is not outside of who we are as a people. Our indigenous cultures value(d) the vibrant prints, the creative hairstyles, fly jewelry, etc. My feminism begins with my Africanness, not the other way around. I also think it’s important for my nieces and nephews to see Black women in all of their natural beauty and flyness. Ain’t no one gonna convince them that our Black isn’t beautiful.
b) I've heard this thought echoed by a number of women who rock their natural hair in various states - why do you think locs were so significant for you in creating this kind of juxtaposition?
Well, because it was the first time that I had really long hair that was my own. (My relaxed hair probably got to the tip of my collarbone, but my hair was the healthiest and grew the fastest when I had my locs, which I thought was interesting.) And I think as much as many of us are reclaiming our natural beauty through our locs, we’d be lying if we said length didn’t matter –because it does. In a way, it is our entrance into whiteness. And you see it in how other people perceive your locs at different stages. I felt like when my hair was long enough to style, I felt more confident, and people took notice of them in a different way. I really had to check that shit in myself.
7. What's the biggest obstacle you've faced with making the decision to rock your short cut? What is your favourite thing about your current style?
Listen, any #shorthairdontcare chick will tell you that best thing about short hair is the convenience. The get-up-and-go of it. The biggest challenge for me, is in between cuts, and of course, I still have loc envy from time to time. I actually tried to start growing my hair late last year, because I wanted box braids. I thought 3-4 months of growth would be enough to braid it, but it wasn’t and I grew irritated. Lol I ended up cutting it again last week. I was also inspired by Chrisette Michelle then Lupita N’yongo to have fun with my short cut. I currently have a mini-high-top fade. I’m pretty happy with that decision, and I look forward to experimenting with colour again.
Head to the comments section and let me know your thoughts! Have you dabbled in a range of natural hair styles? How were perceptions (self and external) with the various style choices? Major thanks to Rita for sharing her thoughts and experiences!