A month ago I was invited to speak on a panel hosted by Africaniwa: HairXpress Yourself. Africaniwa is community of tribespeople passionate about photography and Telling the African story through the camera lens.
The session gave me moment to reflect on how we may not be our hair, but it is certainly an extension of ourselves. Tribespeople shared hair stories from their lived experience there was a virtual photo exhibition showcasing past, present and future of African hair..
Here’s part of what I shared of the story behind my hair….
In Primary School we were mandated to have short neat hair, which meant that every other weekend had to get my haircut… My mum wasn’t the best of barbers (sorry mum lol) and not to mention how difficult it is to evenly tame this nappy hair with a pair of scissors, that would leave you with a haircut that made you embarrassed to take off your school hat in class… The only consolation being you weren’t the only one with a mangled up cut on Monday…
The message which was being drilled into our tiny little heads was that our hair was only neat when it was short, if it grew past a certain length, no matter how well-combed it was, it became “untidy”. Looking back, I recall I learnt with mixed-race students and it seems the short hair clause only applied to those of us with this kinky hair that seemingly defied gravity….
Even though nothing was ever overtly expressed, young minds are sponges that easily grow up into an adult who thinks hair is only good when its shaved off, chemically straightened or replaced with malleable synthetics mimicking good hair…
I pretty much stopped getting my haircut after I finished high school and no longer needed to keep it “neat” (actually in my final high school year I earned myself the moniker Mavhudzi meaning One With The Big Hair after a character from a Shona Setbook we studied Nhume YaMambo cause I had started keeping an afro which I combed and compressed until it looked… shorter)
I just wanted to see how long it could grow….
Fast forward to now I think everyone has pretty much accepted I am not getting my hair cut at least, not anytime soon, no one asks me when I am getting my hair cut unless it’s in the context of hey can you save me some of your locs when you cut them…
These days its common to see someone with hair like mine, and I often hear people quip how “marasta avakuwanda kudarika vanhu” meaning that there are more rasta guys than people… It also carries the implication that someone with locs isn’t like other people, they stand out, someone will identify how a group of 5 people consisted of 4 people and a rasta…..
Curiously I have noticed that people in the creative field tend to have locs…. Is there something about having a wild mane of hair that is related to one’s creativity? I have had random strangers just ask me if I am an artist, or do artsy stuff… Once upon a time somebody actually called me art…
What have you heard about people with hair like my mine, I might answer it in my follow up article when I share some of my Hairxperiences….. navigating the world while dread