My friend Nkechi Ubakaeze is a strong woman.
In Africa, women are generally known to be strong. Strength has been defined in terms of getting married and pleasing a husband, childbirth and keeping a home together. The African woman is given a little more credit if she’s loved by her extended family (her husband’s to be more specific). She’s labeled genius if she has a little something going on the side so she doesn’t have to ask her husband to provide for the children’s shoes and onions to make good soup.
In Africa, a new generation of women is arising.
The newer African woman isn’t afraid to be heard. She isn’t afraid to defy family and societal norms. She seeks knowledge and looks for opportunities to make her hands skillful. This woman does not deny the essence of her that is vulnerability and compassion but instead, uses her insight to recognize needs and fill voids. This woman has plans; big ones. This woman has eyes for money and talent. This woman has a 24hour day and every minute is laid out, detailed and yet, she refuses to limit herself. I can go on about this phenomenal, quintessential feminine woman but time and space cannot contain her. I best describe her not as plantation but as a seed: a seed of love, strength, change and greatness with the potential to mother plantations if she’s well cultivated.
My friend is the newer African woman.
I’m supposed to be writing about natural hair, right? What does my feminist rambling (as some would say) have to do with it?
The newer African woman is a non-conformist. This woman is regarded as stubborn, rebellious and pig-headed not because she necessarily is, but because of the outlook the society expects her to have. This woman is not afraid to question facts and throw age-long beliefs in a heartbeat. It is ironical that Africa has had a tough time giving up the core of her which is her culture, yet about the simplest basic things, she has proven not to care about. Like HAIR.
It seemed like ‘overdo’ to me when I started hearing the natural hair sermon. Now that the ‘trend’ is picking up, it is beginning to seem pretty in my eyes. I then realized something; our definition of beauty has become dependent on what is acceptable and not who we really are.
I’ve not started my natural hair journey and I might never embark on it. The reality of it scares me. If I’m ever going to preach accepting and loving one’s self; it includes accepting one’s roots. It includes accepting what really makes you you. Very few people are able to survive the temptest of perception the world has hurled at us. When you think of it, this hair journey starts with just hair and the path leads you to a zillion of places: your religious beliefs, your music, your food, your family values, your philosophies about life.
I’m the newer African woman. I have curly difficult black hair; not straight withered-ends brown hair. The sun has made love to my skin and has made it nearly untamable. The fertile land has offered me its fruit to nurture it with so I’ll not resort to ‘oyinbo chemicals’ to tame it. Why should I desire to change my black healthy skin color? This really is politics.
You know what makes me different from that other African woman, I accept it. I love it. I work it. I defy the notion that I should relax my hair to tame it. I defy the notion that I’ve to be fairer to be more beautiful. I defy the notion that my heritage is something to be ashamed about, inferior, suppressed and adjusted.
My friend Nkechi is a beautiful strong woman. She is the newer African woman who loves her curls and her skin. She won’t treat herself like a lab experiment in dire need of a solution. It might be difficult but my friend will learn. She’ll learn to work it. She’s not afraid to look odd and if you’re careful, she’ll drown you with her naturalista message!
Natural hair isn’t a trend. Think about it.
Natural hair is you.
(I’m not trying to justify natural hair or condemn relaxed hair. I’m getting you to ask questions, break out of conventions and love you for you without the help of the society, the media. I’m getting you to redefine the African woman.)