Easy does it

Reflection

I’ve decided to do easy.

I remember something my Dad always used to insist when somebody was struggling with a machine or a key and so on: it’s been designed to work. His point was that, if we found ourselves exerting too much effort with little success, there was a strong possibility that we weren’t approaching it in the right way. Of course this assumes that indeed the machine, cupboard etc. has been well-designed but, the lesson remains: human endeavour, and the products of it, are based upon making our lives easier. Warmer, cooler, less stressful, more healthy… it all boils down to improvements to the way we run our lives, to the way our bodies run, to the way our societies ‘run’.

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Readiness (aka hair, health and wholeness)

Readiness

At the beginning of this year, I decided that instead of creating resolutions, I would come up with a mantra for 2010. One statement that would sum up my goals and inspire me to drive towards them enthusiastically. I decided that this year would be the year of “doing and discovering.” Vague, yet empowering. The fact that these three words encompass so much, meant that I was setting myself up to succeed, rather than setting myself up to fail.

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My natural hair journey, part 3

Natural-hair-care

I went for the chop, again, a couple of months ago. After 5 years of growing locs, and loving them, I decided to say goodbye. I think the barber knew what I wanted as soon as I entered the shop but he waited for me to speak. I told him my intention and he cried out in pain and carried on with that wounded spirit for the entire time he cut my hair.

Part 2
I had never had such long hair before: my locks had almost grown to below my shoulder blades. But it was time. Right now I’m convinced that I will definitely loc again but, I wanted a break to focus on inner things that I felt my hair was somehow distracting me from dealing with. Months later I have no regrets. In fact, I’ve never been happier and so fulfilled in all aspects of my life!

Part 1
I had an afro for 4 years before I had locs. I can’t lie, it was a challenge. I loved how thick my hair was but that came with it’s own battles, particularly after university when I got my first job. I felt that it was only presentable to wear my hair out every day and that meant daily combing and daily plaiting of matutas! That took a lot of time and I wasn’t schooled on best practice to ensure that my hair remained strong and healthy. So there were good days and bad days. Locking was in many ways a relief.

Part 3
So why am I excited about having an afro again? It’s an opportunity to enjoy all the things I loved about having an afro and importantly, to do things differently. I’ve been educating myself thanks to the great blogs and youtube channels out there (and books too, which are on my list!). It’s amazing the wealth of information people have shared. People, with hair like mine, who have tried, tested, failed and recovered from different natural hair care routines, techniques and so on.

Particularly of note is Kimmay Tube (thanks for getting me hooked Tamara!). Watch her hair journey here. (I’ve been using her leave-in conditioner recipe and it’s working a treat!)

There are several other ladies that I came across through Kimmay including: RusticBeauty, CurlyChronicles and CrownofHisGlory. Other great online resources include the blog, Black Girl Long Hair. Along with useful tips, Qs & As, there’s great inspiration from women with wonderful ‘fros and locs. Last week I also discovered Nappturality which has great information and a forum too.

The parts before…
I remember growing up, how doing each other’s hair was a fantastic cross-generational bonding ritual. Whole afternoons spent, nurturing our crowning glory, learning about ourselves, and through stories told by our mothers, learning about our culture and life. It seems then that we all had much more time then. I wonder sometimes whether it’s today’s fast-paced and increasingly individualist  lifestyle that has made that impossible? Or is it just down to the decisions we make and the priorities we choose?

One great point Kimmay makes is that, taking good care of your natural hair will probably take time. It’s the committment you make if you want strong, healthy hair. The same way you commit to devoting time for exercise, or anything else that you value.

Images: at top, my aunt doing my mother’s hair; my ‘fro at it’s longest; my locs at their longest and; me today, well… a month ago 🙂

Self-perception first

Self-perception-first

The Afri-love hypothesis puts the self very much at the centre of any possible progress. A friend was recently talking to me about how she wanted to spend her days helping and empowering women but realised that, in order to do that effectively, she would first have to help and empower herself. My first thought was that’s a very brave thing to voice and then, I asked myself, why shouldn’t it be the norm? That level of self-reflection and self-awareness is what this Afri-love idea is all about.

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Pilgrimages

Afri-love-Pilgrimages-cities
“We do not know our own continent, yet we continue to benefit from it.” 

This penetrating assertion on the Pilgrimages website caught my attention today and it couldn’t have been more timely. One of my reasons for creating this blog is to share my ongoing education on the continent I call home. Something somebody once said to me will always remain fresh in my mind. I was pursuing a course in African Studies at the time when a Kenyan lady, in Nairobi, asked me why I would take up such a course of study, being that I am an African. There was so much I wanted to say to her – so many questions in response! How much did she really know about the vast Africa herself? Especially in comparison to her knowledge about other parts of the world – distant parts that she may never even see firsthand. How much did she really know about her own history – and from whose mouth or textbook did she consume that information?

What that moment evokes is how easy it is to take for granted the things that are closest to you. And yet, it is those very things that are probably most valuable to you and most necessary for your well-being and growth. Obliviousness of this may indeed be a significant barrier to contentment and progress. This is a theory that I would like to explore: the connection between self-knowledge, self-love and self-improvement, in the context of being African.

As part of this Afri-love journey, one of the things to look out for on the blog is an investigation of the continent from perspectives other than those we get from our inherited assumptions or manipulated media. In turn, will be celebrating each country on the continent with an insight into the spirit of the nation (and we warmly welcome all insider knowledge and ideas!).

The Pilgrimages project resonates with these aims. Created by The Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists, the project will be celebrating Africa’s first World Cup by sending 13 African writers to 13 cities where they will each write a book of non-fiction that will be published worldwide. In true Afri-love spirit, Pilgrimages takes ownership of that powerful piece of education: the travel narrative:

“At a moment in time when the whole continent is more visible to its inhabitants and to the rest of the world than at any other since independence, Pilgrimages will reintroduce Africans to the literary world in the same form that so many outside writers have employed to create a distorted idea of us to the world.” (Pilgrimages website)

I’m sure Our Sister Killjoy would be proud.

Illustration: Pilgrimages participating cities. © Lulu Kitololo