By Amandla Karungi
With your long untamed hair and your big square glasses, you were to change my life forever. My life views on hair of my kind, that is. I had never seen anyone with the type they call “kaweke” walking around so proudly with it. It was 2011, and I was in my first year at University but still, I had never seen an untamed “kaweke” so long, so uncombed, so proud.
All my years, I knew without question that people with my hair type, should keep it straightened with a relaxer for the good of themselves and the general public. I knew that, that kind of hair was naturally unkempt and never meant to be seen.
As soon as I was allowed to grow my hair, I could not wait to tame it so that i could see it fall loose and straight like white people’s hair. On the day of my 19th birthday I had tried to pass a comb through it and the comb broke. ‘That is it,’ I cried. I was done. I went straight to the hairdresser and even though my scalp got burned to red with smarting blisters for a month, I never wanted to deal with it again.
Two years later, I handed scissors to my mother and told her to cut it all off. It was because of you Felicity. It was because your freedom allowed me to believe that my hair was not something to feel ashamed about.
After my new beginning, i still did not know what to do with it. I just knew that it was okay for it look like it did. But i had never been taught how to care for it. And so i continued treating it the same way i had when it had been chemically processed.
I now knew that all the “Look at this Felicity with her uncombed hair” had been the beginnings of revolt in my own mind, propelling the audacity to look natural. Th audacity to look natural is something that is frowned upon. How dare we walk around with the hair we were born with and expect to be taken seriously in the professional context? Tough, tight African hair is only for the uncivilised.
Dear Felicity, one of my biggest headaches while planning my wedding has been how i will wear my hair. To many it was obvious that i would “relax” it. To the more liberal, they believed that i should wear a straight hair weave on top of it, so that I would look presentable.
There is the wedding look and then there is the natural hair look. There is elegance in conforming to white standards of beauty but there is ugliness in looking too African.
But Felicity, you not only taught me about the Historical foundations of Roman-Dutch Law, you brought enlightenment and redemption to my all too African hair.
And for that matter, my real hair is going to show up at my wedding. It is one of the invited guests and it is very very welcome.