Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Hair There, How Are You?

Hair for a PoC is political.

There is no way around it.  Every PoC I know has a hair story.

Here's mine.

I was lucky enough to be born with European looking "straight" sleek hair and for the first few years of my life I don't have any recollection of hair associated trauma....

But you see my paternal grandma was a curly. Not a wavy, but a corkscrew tight and frizz-ful curly. And when puberty struck things changed for me and they changed drastically.

I never understood what was going on when all of a sudden the girls at school started commenting on how "bushy"  and frizzy my hair looked. "When last did you brush it?" the snide girls would ask, and then laugh. "It wouldn't look so bad if you just kept it wet all the time" others would say.

I stayed at school during the term, and when I'd go home in the holidays my mother did not take well to this newfound bushy hair her daughter exhibited. I'd be whisked to the salon and it would get chopped off on the regular, then blowdried pin straight.

Every-time I'd come home from school this was the case - I learnt that my hair was not beautiful unless it was in a tight bun or blow dried straight... I tried relaxing it when I was twelve... to no avail. At school the coloured girls would ask me "What's wrong with your hair?" and my cousins (who were Indian) would tell me I looked coloured and had black hair (to them that was the ultimate insult).

I hated my hair. Every time it would grow I would take to it with scissors and chop and chop but it would grow back. (This wasn't something I would do as a teenager. I did it as early as a few months ago.) When it grew long enough I would ask the girls at hostel with me to iron it with a clothing iron, which they would. I would keep it straight for as long as I could then go through the process again. When ironing was infeasible I would pull it back into a tight bun so that the back of my neck would hurt and it would never be perceived as bushy.

All the guys I dated always told me how beautiful my hair was, but they didn't know it was fake. It was ironed straight. It was in a straitjacket. I convinced my dad to buy me a higher end hair straightener when I was 17 and spent an hour each time I washed it to get it straight and pristine. Every time I would wash it and it would coil I would recoil in shame. I did this for years - until I was about 24... And then I put my foot down. I said to myself: enough.

This didn't come easy. I had a friend who was a curly who told me I would be beautiful by just letting my hair be. And the reception was great... I had long luscious curls and they were well received by the world. My look worked: it was wild and free. And so was I.

But this didn't last. I still secretly resented my hair. It was so thick and heavy and my friends all coloured their hair and floated through life with their sleek halos. I dyed it blonde and hated it more. Then I cut it all off. All of it. I shaved 2/3rds of my head and kept a hipster type top knot.

This didn't help either. I started romanticising the long hair... but told myself this exercise would be good for me, I would learn of who I am and have to accept my hair as it grew out. Guess what? You got it... this didn't work for me either. At each phase of growth I found something to hate about it.
It doesn't listen to me, it doesn't conform, it doesn't mould to what society says it should, and I hate it. Throughout all of this I felt no legitimacy talking to other natural hair girls because they  perceived my hair to be fine and "beautiful" and their difficulties seemed so much worse.

I have no resolution to this tale..... Except to say that I still have to live with it. I have questions I ask that I am scared to answer?

What am I projecting onto my hair?
What does my hair represent?
How do I come to accept it without my acceptance being dependent on what society deems beautiful?
Who taught me how to hate my hair?
Why do I feel gut-twisting hatred when I look at it in the mirror?
How do I find help?
Will I ever be a natural hair queen?

If you are reading this and you know, PLEASE, I beg of you, let me know.  Share your story with me so I can share it with the world.

Monday, 7 November 2016

A (Long Overdue) Love Letter to Queen Solange

Dear QUEEN Solange

Your art has come at a time in our collective global consciousness that is long overdue. Our parched hearts have been yearning for the recognition - for a seat at the table - that your gentle falsetto delivers. 

It is so clear from your older albums that you look to the greats - Nina, Diana, Zora, your sister Beyonce - for inspiration. But YOU queen solange are a great. Showing a depth of wokeness that is sorely lacking in our world as it exists today, in western media and as a South African in my society, and I can only imagine how deeply in the USA. 

I've listened to your album on repeat for almost two months now daily. And each time there is something new giving me goosebumps. Whether it be the unique backdrop of the piano in Weary or your pleading voice like sweet molasses in Scales claiming and longing for the world to be kind  - each and every time the chords of our souls are strung and resound in our psyche. 

Oh Queen Solange if only you knew the redemption your album has brought. Visually, aesthetically, musically and consciously. RISE is a nightly lullaby and a morning invocation. Every time I stumble I hear the 3 second intermission and your gentle assertion telling me to walk in my ways so I can wake up and rise. 

My queen. I want to thank you. From thee deepest darkest angriest chambers of my heart for the healing you album he brought me and my tribe. The tribe of black women who have long been trampled over, the Mules of society as mama Zora calls us, the tribe of women who have no voice and feel like they have no place in the world. Your hypnotic voice tells us to be leery of the place in the world we have. Reminds us of our bodies -  of our temples - that have for so long absorbed the harshest circumstances of existence and of our glory. 


PRAISE GOD. We belong. 

Even if it is only for the fleeting moment where we are in unison with you. 

My queen if I may? The layers you peel back ever so gently while seated at the table ring with truth so universal it's remarkable. You've liberated us from the metal clouds for just a moment by sharing your humanness, your realness with us. 

The queen mother who birthed you (miss Tina Lawson) speaks with the wisdom of the strongest and highest caliber human being. Bless her. And while she has always taken pride in being black I come from a place where we have not had that privilege. The white oppressors of apartheid have ingrained in us that being black is being less than. And it's effects are seen today in a generation that self-loathes so deeply and tries to live up to a standard of whiteness that is unattainable.  Your words of self love are absorbed so deeply by this very generation. So deeply because we need love like the love you share so desperately. 

Your father reminds us of the context of black men and how much violence they are faced with and allows us compassion for the experiences that turn black men rock hard. Their love does indeed go. And they have a lot to be a man about. And it is that type of toxic masculinity that is killing them. Killing our men. 

But what you've shared with us not only redeems us but also makes us laugh. Laugh when we literally think about the ones who don't wanna do the dishes but just wanna eat the food. And laughter is so important in this war we are fighting. The war to exist freely and equally. 

Dear queen. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the gift you have given us. 

We love you. 

From another, 
Indo Afrikan queen.