By Christa­bel of Chys Curlz

I’ve been think­ing of devel­op­ing this sto­ry for a while now. It is the sto­ry of how girls were/are made to wear their hair shaved from grade to high school both in Ghana and in Nige­ria.

A lit­tle back sto­ry, I was born Nige­ri­an and grew up in Nige­ria until I was 10 years old when we moved to start a new life in Ghana. Since I spent most of my for­ma­tive years in Ghana, that became more home to me than Nige­ria was. There are many sim­i­lar­i­ties between the two coun­tries and one is the rule to have young girls wear a TWA until they grad­u­ate from high school.I think the rea­son­ing behind it is the same as there is for wear­ing uni­forms. It ensures homogeneity,also, the girls who could not afford to get their hair braid­ed did not have the pres­sure to spend the mon­ey and third­ly, every­one looked “neat” and “pre­sentable”. Now, that is not to say it was right or wrong, just giv­ing the pos­si­ble rea­sons.

As far as I can tell, this prac­tice was most­ly the case in pub­lic schools. I noticed that many (not all) pri­vate schools per­mit­ted their female stu­dents to wear their hair at what­ev­er length they want­ed as long as it was braid­ed up neat­ly.  The only girls who were exempt from this rule (pub­lic and pri­vate school) were those who were bira­cial. There weren’t many girls who were bira­cial, but those who were, got to wear their hair long. Again, as a lit­tle girl, you don’t think any­thing of it. You just knew that their hair was “pret­tier” and more “man­age­able” than yours and it wasn’t a big deal. You didn’t read mean­ing into it (at least not con­scious­ly), you just accept­ed it.

I remem­ber our final year of high school, many girls (me includ­ed) will grow their hair out but will tie it down with a scarf overnight to encour­age the max­i­mum shrink­age to avoid being pun­ished (spanked) by a teacher. We did this because we knew that once school was out, we were going to get our first relaxers…good times :)

That’s me with the ban­dan­na and our senior year of HS :)

This prac­tice did not seen like such a big deal to me when I was grow­ing up, but as I get old­er and upon going nat­u­ral, I’ve been think­ing about how it affect­ed my love or lack there­of of my nat­u­ral hair. You see, most of my Friends are Nige­ri­an or Ghana­ian and most of them — if not all — sport relax­ers and will not let go for any­thing (although I’ve con­vinced 7 includ­ing my mama to BC yay! #team­nat­u­ral). But why is this the case though? Why is it that after grow­ing up with­out relax­ers we hold on to it so strong­ly. Many of the expe­ri­ences I read on blogs per­tain­ing to nat­u­ral hair are those of African-Amer­i­can wom­en. They relate how they got their first perm at 4,5,6, or there­abouts. The sto­ries go on to say that since relax­ers was the norm for them, they just kept get­ting them until their deci­sion to either BC or tran­si­tion.

My ques­tion is this, why after hav­ing two very dif­fer­ent and dis­tinct expe­ri­ences do African –Amer­i­can and African wom­an have this reluc­tance to let go of the relax­er?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…
After liv­ing in South Africa for almost 6 years, in my per­son­al opin­ion, most South African wom­en or men for that mat­ter, don’t know how to take care of their hair. This is not an attack, but a fact. My 3 year old son has 4C hair and no one under­stands why he has long, thick, healthy hair. I had to buy a detan­gler brush over the Inter­net in the UK, could not find one here that would not break his hair. In terms of prod­ucts, same thing, so I had to end up mix­ing Shea but­ter and oils in… Read more »
Sub­lim­i­nal mes­sages is more exten­sive than you think. It’s basi­cal­ly every­where. It’s true that there were 2 dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences, but yet the mes­sage was the same. Afro tex­tured hair is infe­ri­or, it’s ugly, and it some­how doesn’t mea­sure up and have to remain hid­den. Pro­gram­ming oth­ers from an ear­ly age is what this sys­tem is about. It can be passed on from adults who have been pro­grammed to young ones who are now com­ing up, and it shapes their views about how they view them­selves and what they have and even how they fit in. I remem­ber some­one say­ing years… Read more »
Coco Naturelle
I would actu­al­ly wager that the prac­tice of hav­ing school girls wear their hair short is an out­growth of the prac­tice of forc­ing new­ly enslaved African wom­en to cut their hair. It all comes from colo­nial­ism and white suprema­cy. It was a way to destroy the pride and con­fi­dence that the colonists viewed as our arro­gance about our crown­ing glo­ry. It sent a clear mes­sage that we were unac­cept­able and ugly as is, in order to get us in the mind­set of chang­ing to suit the oppressor’s taste. Only those who where already accept­able (mean­ing mixed) were/are exempt. It was… Read more »
I would also like to add that I think most AAs think that africa and Africans have pre­served their cul­ture and it is still pure. That is why they get shocked when they go there. I don’t blame them but what they need to under­stand is that african cut­lure and our men­tal­i­ty has been high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed we have our his­to­ry of being col­o­nized and even after colo­nial­ism we still bat­tle with infu­sion of west­ern men­tal­i­ty and cul­ture as supe­ri­or to our own. For instance where I come from in tan­za­nia there are places which have tribes which are high­ly ara­bic… Read more »

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