Updated: Oct 10, 2020
The history of African natural hair has been long and complex. From the time when every African society had their own hairstyles as the center piece of cultural expression to the time the African self-image was destroyed as a way of subverting a peoples unique identity by painting the natural African texture as unruly, primitive and undesirable, all the way through to more recent times there have been stories that broke out regarding big corporations and even educational institutions that have portrayed African natural hair in derogatory terms while promoting the relaxed straightened look that mirrors Caucasian hair as more attractive or professional. Taking back the narrative on the Afro has become a tool of liberation and self-expression in ways that are both artistic and revolutionary.
The Black Panthers used it as a symbol of solidarity and became just as integral a part of their uniform as the black leather during the civil rights uprising in the 60s.
It was used as a political statement and represented social and ideological standpoints of the people that wore it. Both men and women have worn their Afros as a form of artistic expression, ethnic identification and even social standing. In my parents’ day, an afro was a symbol of social status. Only the financially independent ‘city guys’ or ‘girls’ could afford the proper products for a shiny gravity defying round and well-shaped afro. Some women used it as a sign of their authenticity, a connection with their roots and commitment to being original.
A couple of guys during their university years have donned their Afros as a cross between rebellion and an expression of freedom.
Rebellion against the societal norms that dictated short hair all their lives and sometimes even familial rules regarding how a male child should be groomed. Being the first time away from home and the strict expectations, they let their hair grow out as a form of letting go and being free. I know a lot of people who did let their Afros grow out during this pandemic simply because of the convenience or rather due to the inconvenience of the barbers being closed.
Over the years the Afro has been representative of so many things but sometimes it can be just a stylistic decision. a decision that more and more people are now making as a form of self expression. After a tumultuous history, of being straightened, relaxed and being hidden away under weaves and wigs, the Afro and other boldly African hairstyles are reclaiming their place as crowns on the heads of enlightened Africans seeking to reconnect with their culture and celebrate their heritage. Its like an awakening sweeping across Africa. A realization that our hair is a part of who we are. The many ways we wear it symbolize our diversity, yet unite us at the same time. We are the only people with hair more versatile than any other and that is cause for celebration. There are so many different types of Afros from the Teeny weeny afros (TWA) to the view blocking big hair, the curly Afro, the straightened ones, the kinky coily afro and everything in between. Let us choose to wear our Afros as an expression of who we are in defiance of all the stereotypes and narratives of the past.
I have found confidence in how I chose to defy societal norms when I wear my Afro in certain spaces that I had not seen it before. I found beauty in my choice to redefine how I viewed it and my overall appearance. I found companionship in the joy and absolute camaraderie that was instantly sparked whenever I was in the vicinity of another Afro. I found a strength in me that I never knew existed but seems to grow exponentially the bigger my Afro gets. It has sparked a revolution within me, and as i have stated before; the revolution shall not be texturized!
Written by Kinky Krown of Glory
Credit for Images in article: Shutterstock, Wikipedia & Tall Grass Media