‘Na hii nywele yako sasa tutaifanyia nini?’ my mum asked as she helped me pack in preparation for the new school year. It would be my first time to join a boarding school and her biggest concern was my hair! According to her it was too kinky and would be a challenge to maintain.
She worried that if we left my natural hair open, I would have trouble combing and keeping it neat since I was always having it plaited. But she was sure Wambo, her salonist who she trusted with her life, would have a solution to all this. After all, she was the one who had given her a perm in the early 90s and had been servicing it since then.
I dreaded visits to Wambo’s Salon. I hated the pulling, occasional yanking of my hair and neck in all directions as Shiko tried to comb it. Don’t get me started on the plaiting that took forever, which was always accompanied by Shiko’s constant complaints about the volume of my hair, ‘Na uko na nywele mingi ngumu, ni kama steelwool!’.
Did it have to be this painful? Was this every little girl’s experience? I wondered.
We visited Wambo’s salon and I ended up relaxing my hair. According to her this would make my hair more manageable. Sixteen years later, I shaved the permed hair, started rocking my natural hair and I am loving it! I no longer find it hard and difficult to manage. Although I have to say it has been a journey. I have had to unlearn a lot of what I believed to be true about my natural hair growing up.
Looking back, I wish I had grown up hearing more positive things about my glorious natural kinky hair. It is important to let little girls know that their natural hair is beautiful just as it is. It is not hard, it is not untidy, it is not ugly and most of all, it is not difficult to manage. It is beautiful just as it is.
And I believe that this all starts with the content they consume, especially in this age of technology. When I was growing up, I didn’t get to watch cartoons or kids’ content that had characters who had hair like mine.
But now with my weekends being spent baby-sitting my nephew Lesho, it gives me so much joy to see him watch Akili Kids! and see characters rocking their natural hair. I am happy that little girls in Kenya get to see Kiduchu and Kibena of Ubongo Kids who look just like them. Not forgetting Rosa, Abi and Grace of My Better World who also rock their natural hair! This without a doubt, is what we have been waiting for!
What inspiring messages do you give your kids about loving their natural hair? Let us know.