The tale of coarsehaired women fighting to tame their unruly hair is one that is as old as time itself. Black women especially, have often had to go to all kinds of extremes just simply to get their hair looking neat and tidy.
Most women often resort to either relaxing, braiding of weaving their hair to get it to behave the way they want it to. The media, advertising agencies and hair product manufacturers have further helped in perpetuating the notion that natural hair is undesirable and women should treat it.
However over the last few years, there has been a paradigm shift with more women leaning towards embracing their natural hair. Namibia recently had one of its natural hair expos where all women from different walks for life came together to learn, celebrate and purchase products to stimulate the growth of their hair.
Sharon KasandaEmvula, who many know as an author was one of the exhibiters at the expo however on this occasion she was showcasing her line of natural hair products. Kasanda-Emvula, after relaxing her hair and treating it with chemicals for many years, decided to stop after noting that it had stopped breaking and was in poor health. It was then that she, her mother and sister embarked on a journey to create all natural products that would feed their natural hair.
“My mom, sister and I started making the hair products for ourselves in 2012, our intention was never to sell but people took an interest in it when they noticed how healthy out hair was,” KasandaEmvula said.
Their hair product range titled Afrorage has now grown and has begun manufacturing not only hair products but also skin products as well. All their products use natural materials found in Namibia and is manufactured here as well. Kasanda-Emvula noted that the reason a lot more women are opting to keep their hair in its natural state is because chemicals are damaging women’s hair.
Quelling the old-age notion that embracing natural hair is declaring war on braiding or weaves, she said that the two can co-exist in that you can braid your hair underneath and wear a wig on top or however you wish to style it. She explained that one of the biggest challenges women have with natural hair is the fact that they do not know how to take care of it, which is a result of them jumping to quick into relaxing their hair instead of keeping it in its natural state.
“Love the hair in your head. Do not compare your hair to other people, find out what works for you. There is a lot of information online about how to care for your natural hair and the good part is that locals are now also putting up information on natural hair,” she urged.
Maliza Mukungu, one of a handful of Namibians to vlog about natural hair, also dispelled the notion that embracing natural hair is declaring war on everything else. “Protective styling (braiding) is good because it is a lot of work to leave your natural hair loose,” she said.
The vlogger explained that it not only protects hair but allows for a person to style their hair as they want, especially if they get bored with hair styles like she does. Mukungu added that they the reason a lot of people were embracing their natural hair is because this is the information age. People have information readily available to them right now, which helps them learn how to care for their natural hair, which would have been difficult otherwise.
“I urge people to read a book titled Natural Science of Black Hair. It explains everything you need to learn about natural hair,” she said. Although she has in a way always had natural hair, she said that the feeling of cutting all her hair off four years ago and started a fresh after suffering from a few mishap with chemicals was very liberating for hair.
“There is a market for natural hair products locally and I am happy to see that Namibians have started producing their own natural hair products because we have the resources,” she said.
Her vlog, Happy Mestakes, helps give tips on how to handle their natural hair, amongst other things. However to meet the natural hair community and experience it in all its glory, keep an out for the next natural hair expo.