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GUEST COLUMN: At the root of hair issues


KRYSTAL PENNY BOWEN

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TO WEAVE or not to weave? That is the question.
It is a question which many black women face today in a society which often pressures woman to conform to an image which is far from our African roots.
For many black women, their hair has been natural, hot-ironed, braided, relaxed, texturised, coloured, cut and styled, damaged and conditioned. Yet a woman can get frustrated and bored with the state of her hair. Truly, I am at my split-end.
As I sat on a bus trying to figure out what to do with my hair, I saw a little girl with “Spanish curl” weave on her head and admiring her manicure.
She made me realise that I was a prehistoric mammal when it came to hair and so I took upon myself to see what I was getting tangled up with by doing some research.
So I decided to watch comedian Chris Rock’s documentary on African-American hair called Good Hair.
As I watched, some intriguing statements were made by some of the most recognisable black women in America.
Confused identity
Two comments which were memorable and conflicting are what Maya Angelou and Nia Long said respectively about the state of black hair: “Hair is a woman’s glory” and “the lighter, the brighter, the better the hair”.
So how could this be? How can something be your glory, yet women try their best to disguise their true self by wearing a weave instead of their own hair?
According to Rock, the black hair industry is a nine billion dollar industry. Weave takes up a significant portion of that pie.
Ironically, the hair for which black, American women pay the most comes from half-way across the world in India. It is human hair and, after it has left the heads of unsuspecting women and children, it can cost from US$1 000 to US$5 000 dollars a head.
Second, and distant best as far as quality, is the synthetic hair which most Barbadian women wear on their heads.
This type of hair makes millions for Asian producers and suppliers, but none of this money is controlled by the black people who actually wear it.
Al Sharpton in an interview with Rock called it “economic retardation” as black people have no real influence on the process (manufacturing, supplying) of the hair that we glue, sew and fuse unto our heads.
Within the hair industry there are just four black owned companies in the United States and this is an indication of who really controls our image of beauty in society.
Staying straight
Taking all I learned into consideration, (such as weave wearing is obsessive and it can result in the lost of a hairline), I have concluded for now I have to stick to the “creamy crack”, or the “nappy antidote”. I will he conforming to the mantra “When your hair relaxed, people relax; when your hair nappy, people ain’t happy.” But it is hard (literally) to keep the natural look and many women have employers who may not think it is suitable to keep the natural look.
Yes, the world is far from accepting anything which does not represent that “European look” but in the next decade or so this may all change. 

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