Today, I turned 21 29. I considered creating a “30 before 30” list but I fear that creating realistic goals achievable in one year would make for very boring reading! Instead, I thought I’d share 29 important things I’ve learned in my days. In no particular order …
It’s been a while since I’ve shared a hair update. Time flies and I’m so happy at how healthy my hair is growing. My current regimen goes like this:
- Wash once a week:
- Finger comb previous twist-outs and gently address any tangles
- Pre-poo by putting coconut oil through my hair and massage my scalp
- Wash with a sulfate-free shampoo (I currently use Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Threat shampoo)
- Apply a rich conditioner through hair (I currently use Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose conditioner) and very gently detangle with a wide-tooth comb
- Cover with a shower cap and wrap with a towel. Leave on for 1 – 8 hours. Basically depends on what I’m doing at the time!
- Rinse out with cold water
- Apply leave in conditioner (I use Kim Love’s recipe – find it in the intro box of her KimmayTube YouTube channel)
- Apply a shea butter mix I created (with Jojoba oil and a few drops of essential oil to make it creamy
- Two-strand twist away! (It takes me 2-3 hours)
- Daily spritz with a water and oil mix (about 1 tbsp of Jojoba oil and/or vegetable glycerin in an approximately 150ml spray bottle)
I usually wash and twist on a Sunday or Monday and then take the twists out on Friday or Saturday. The twist-out can last 2-4 days. All I do in the mornings is spritz my hair with the water and oil mix, to bring life back to the sleep-matted tresses. Water works magic! Learning that I don’t have to avoid it is probably the best thing I’ve done for my hair.
One thing I’m not so happy about is how much work this all takes! I’m going to be honest here: I thought locs were a lot of work but, taking good care of my “loose” natural hair is so much more intensive. I don’t say this to discourage anyone considering going natural though because, after all is said and done, it’s absolutely worth it! Well, I think so at least.
Natural hair wearers out there – why is it worth it for you?
An informative and relatively quick read, Ultra Black Hair Growth II: Another 6″ Longer 1 Year from Now by Cathy Howse helps to dispel several myths about black hair. Things that you probably heard while growing up, often from so-called professionals, and may have thus adopted as truth.
For example, that water is the enemy. Given that black hair has a tendency to be very very dry, water is actually what we need more of, being that moisture is water. Instead, people would have us believe that oil is the answer to dryness. I sure do remember the ritual of having my scalp greased when in fact, according to Howse, that’s the last thing we need. Our scalps naturally produce the necessary sebum. Another belief she challenges: that trimming is a solution to growing your hair. Another example of the elusiveness of common sense.
With sections tailored to those with chemically-treated hair, the book provides a good education for all and inspires you to envision that you can have long and healthy hair. For supplementary information, news, testimonials and more, visit Howse’s website.
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’.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
“Everything that we have been looking for has already found us. It is already waiting within us.”
— Michael Brown, South African author of The Presence Process
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