These Women Open Up About The Emotional Journey Of Going Natural
By Michelle October; videography and photography by Megan Flemmit
Going natural can be an emotional rollercoaster.
If you’re a woman of colour, you’re likely au fait with the subtle trauma of having unruly hair. Up until very recently, rocking natural curls was considered unprofessional, untidy, and uncool. But the growing community of Naturalistas (as they call themselves) in South Africa are applying coconut oil to previously relaxed curls and are going with the fro.
Tangles and Trauma
“I hated doing my hair; I hated going to the hairdresser because it was always a mission,” says hair blogger Amanda Cooke about growing up with curly hair. “[I hated] having to relax my hair, having to blow it out, straightening it, which was always a mission for me and I didn’t really like it.” For most of her life, she took the time and money to make sure her hair was straight, and booked appointments with salons for relaxing treatments constantly to get rid of her curls.
She’s not the only one. We went to the Clicks Curls event in Cape Town, and every woman we interviewed had similar versions of the same story: fighting with their unruly textures for years, and being teased for wearing it in its natural state. “I went to a model C school and we were never allowed to embrace our natural hair,” says Keziah Linderoth, who was at the event. “You had to look a certain way, and doing certain jobs, I used to do promotion work and you know it had to be straight,” she says.
Added to that, if you didn’t fit the status quo, curly-haired girls would get teased at school. The women we spoke to almost exclusively were all called the same things: “ghoema hare” (referring to the coarse texture of hair as candyfloss), “bossiekop” (meaning “bushy head”), and “kroeskop” (meaning “coarse head”). “What I’ve done with the term “bossiekop” is embrace it,”says Cooke. “I call myself a “bossiekop” because it was made to tease, but if you take that and own it, it doesn’t really hurt you as much anymore.”
Going With The Fro
Cooke’s turning point happened in her late 30’s. One day, her daughter, who has coarser type 4 curls, was playing with her straight-haired cousin. “She stroked her cousin’s hair and said ‘Ah, you have such beautiful hair’. I turned to her and said ‘Your hair is just as beautiful’,” says Cooke. “That’s when I realized that I needed to teach her that her hair was beautiful and [to do] that I needed to stop relaxing my own hair and be an example for her.” Other women at the event said they also had an “aha moment” when they heard similar comments from their daughters. But the tides are turning; the Clicks Curls event was sold out so quickly that the organisers had to release another batch. Clearly, there’s a demand for haircare products that care for curly textures.
Ntombenhle Khathwane, founder and creator of local haircare brand Afrobotanics, says her business’ success can be traced to the growing number of women embracing their curls. “Women are busting the whole standard of beauty that requires us to have straight hair and light skin,” she says. “Natural hair is the healthiest state your hair can be in.” Amen to that!
Want more? Read about how this woman went on national television without having washed her hair for a week, or check out why this woman is growing out her body hair.