I normally wear my hair in an afro. Or a semi-afro, as much as I want an afro I don’t really foresee it in my future. I think afros are very goddess-like. The way they defy gravity. And most importantly, the way they’re a political statement. They say ‘yes, I am good enough’. They say “I know now the aim is no longer white and I embrace my africanness”.
I have hair that poofs when I want it to slick and slicks when I want it big. My hair mimics cotton candy at the faintest smell of rain. I have hair that I relaxed since I was eleven and thought I had to because no one would marry me looking like I just came out of the bush.
But I am extremely proud of having figured out my hair all by myself (with the help of countless blogs which I thought showed the reality of our postcolonial world: Americans had to teach me how to do my African hair because we’re not quite there yet).
When I was sixteen I had a drama teacher who was very dramatic. One day at practice, I came late and he threatened to set my hair alight. I heard a quick whizz, felt a smack against my head and that’s when the smell caught up to the action. I felt at my neat bun, you know those ones you make with the rolled up sock, and all my hair came off. He ran after me to the toilet yelling “Sisca, Sisca, Oh god sisca!”
And that’s when I had lost all my hair. The hair my mother used to wash, put rollers in and plait with prayer, patience and coconut oil. The hair my grandmother relaxed because with today’s technology, if you have coarse hair, it’s your own fault. The same hair I straightened every second day when I was completely infatuated with an Indian boy and feared having to meet his sisters looking like, well an African. I had to start all over and I had no idea where.
I tried it all. I watched countless YouTube tutorials. Pictorials. Blogs. I broke three afro combs. Wasted several packs of yaki braids because I couldn’t quite figure out how they do that thing where you cut the hair in half and then pick at it until it’s uneven. And don’t get me started on adding the hair so that the braids are the same width also, without the braid looking funny. And then there’s the part where my family thought I was a stoner now. My mother said it looked unchristian. My father said I wouldn’t get a job looking all unprofessional. My grandmother said she refused to be seen in town with me.
And you know what the beauty of it is? I figured it out. Bantu knot, halo braid, pineapple, I even learned after three years of trial and error (and accidently burning my own ends) how to install box braids. I learned how to love my hair. Because in all seriousness, our country’s history is entangled into my hair. My hair exists and grows despite being shamed on a daily basis. My hair is as resilient as my people. To think about it, my hair stands up for its cause.
It took me three years to transition to natural hair and another two to grow past waist length. The fact that I length check is still a problem I’m working on but sometimes I can’t help myself. Maybe it’s a token of my progress. An emblem of self-acceptance.