Natural hair journey: length check & my current regimen, 10 months after the big chop

Natural-hair-10-months-on

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?

12 months, 12 posts you loved

I know I have a penchant for lists and if ever I needed an excuse to create one, surely today is the day. Tomorrow marks one year of Afri-love and as I reflect on all the people that I've come across and had the opportunity to meet (if even just virtually), I want to share with you the most popular posts. It so happens that indeed, most of them are interviews with some of these people. I am honoured to be a part of this army of creatives and change-makers and I look forward to meeting and collaborating with more of you.

Ododo-Originals-flowers

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Week in review, experiments with the work week & the image of the black in Western art

Week-in-review

I hope you've all had a fantastic first week of the year!

I always feel like what I make of the first week sets a precedent for the rest of the year. Although I went "back to work" this week, I spent most it reflecting (yes, some more – see our Asilia year in review), planning, writing proposals, preparing contracts and meeting with current and potential collaborators. Generally getting organized and handling business so that I can free up space and time to get down to the good stuff – to actually designing.

One thing that I'm experimenting with, in an effort to create larger chunks of uninterrupted time in which to create, is working on Sundays instead of Fridays. Because other people don't generally work on Sundays, I'm not going to feel like I should be available and ready to respond to emails and calls. With that psychological barrier out of the way, I'll be free to get in my flow, without anticipating any intrusions. Plus, Friday is a great day to have off – the early start to the weekend makes it seem like a long one.

So far, so good.

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On the lookout
I came across this series of books this week, via Essence magazine:

Image-of-the-Black-in-Western-Art

Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume I: From the Pharaohs to the Fall of the Roman Empire

Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume II: From the Early Christian Era to the ""Age of Discovery"", Part 1: From the Demonic Threat to the Incarnation of Sainthood and
Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume II: From the Early Christian Era to the ""Age of Discovery"", Part 2: Africans in the Christian Ordinance of the World

I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on these. It will be interesting to see the different contexts and different ways in which black people have been represented in art over the centuries. And, I am intrigued as to whether the examples include art created by blacks themselves.

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Afri-love on YouTube
I also set up an Afri-love YouTube channel this week. At the moment, I'm slowly adding videos from the wider YouTube community that I like and think are relevant. Categories so far include art, hair, literature and music. Later in the year, look out for videos created especially for Afri-love – especially for you! Subscribe to the channel to stay up to date.

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Last week on the blog
Here is a quick (and brief) recap, in case you missed anything:

Zaki_photos-by-Che-Kothari

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Thanks as always for taking the time to read and to share comments, facebook appreciation and tweet love. Remember, you can also get blog updates as well as extra links, ideas, news and info via facebook (afriloveblog) and twitter (@afrilove).

Have a great week everybody, be proud and be inspired!

Lulu x

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Image above: Zaki Ibrahim

Book review: Ultra Black Hair Growth II

Ultra Black Hair Growth

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.

The 9 most popular Afri-love posts in 2010

Dimitra-Tzanos-For-the-love-of-Africa-Buffalo

I started this blog in June this year as an outlet for my passion for Africa and for the arts, culture and self-investigation. I've thoroughly enjoyed the many hours I've put into creating the content and I'm ever grateful for all the time you've put into reading, commenting, appreciating and sharing.

I posted a similar round-up a little while ago, on the blog's 5 month anniversary (yes, arbitrary I know). It does make a bit more sense to do so at the end of the year so, particularly for the benefit of all the new readers (welcome!), here are the 9 posts that were most visited in 2010. Common themes: art, hair and fashion…

1. 
Inspired by Dimitra Tzanos whose Greek and South African experiences were brought together in her design project "For the Love of Africa" (image above)

2.
Le Coil: photography celebrating the beauty of afro hair 

Le-Coil-portrait-on-blue

3.
The debut post in the Afri-love interview series: a spotlight on Chief Nyamweya, the artist behind Emergency Web Comic

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4.
The bold and beautiful Africa-inspired accessories designed by Rachel Stewart

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5.
An interview with enterprising designer, Mkuki Bgoya of Kina Klothing

Mkuki-Bgoya

6.
Pilgrimages: illustration inspired by the ambitious literary project; writing interrogating the limits of our self-knowledge

Pilgrimages-taster

7.
The first post chronicling the third round of my natural hair journey 

Before before picture

8.
An interview with Lesley of Ododo Originals whose passion is in full bloom

Lesley-of-Ododo-Originals

9.
Female Relations: a peek at a painting series I recently exhibited

Bibi

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Images from top: design by Dimitra Tzanos; photo by Jamala Johns; illustration by Chief Nyamweya; photo courtesy Rachel Stewart; photo courtesy Mkuki Bgoya; illustrations by Lulu Kitololo; photo by Lulu Kitololo; photo courtesy of Lesley/Ododo Originals; painting by Lulu Kitololo.

Natural hair journey: 4 months on and getting my protective styling on

4-months-twist

Since I cut off my locks in July, I've been a little bit obsessed with gathering information on how to care for my new 'fro. I was pleased to find that there is quite a wealth of information out there with women sharing their trials and triumphs via anecdotes, pictures, videos, recipes and more. Most of these ladies have been from the US and I know some African ones who are skeptical as to whether the suggested techniques will be as effective on kinkier manes. 

My hair is as kinky as it gets – I don't know anyone who has hair as tough as mine. Combs quiver when I'm in the room – they are usually not up for the challenge! That said, I thought I'd chronicle my journey for all those sisters with their work similarly cut out for them.

It all began here. My regimen since the big chop has been a twice weekly wash detangle and deep condition with no comb touching my hair in between. In the mornings, I spritz with a water and oil mixture and simply "fluff" out with my fingers. Recently however, with my hair getting longer, the finger styling hasn't felt presentable enough. So I decided to try and see if it was long enough to two-strand twist. It worked – my first conscious venture into protective styling! It took quite a while to get through my entire head but, the results (and convenience) was worth it.

Twist-out

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Images: top – twists in, taken on the day after twisting (see the stubborn curls at the nape of my neck – hanging on to their autonomy!). Bottom – the second day of having the twists out. I managed to keep my hair decent-looking for 4 days after taking the twists out.

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 🙂