Saturday, 26 October 2013

Hair and Politics

“In the ’70s, black South Africans never braided with raffia,” says Dr Nyairo. “In the early ’80s, they were left out of the braid and Maasai twist revolution that rocked Nairobi, Kinshasa and Kampala. And in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the chemical revolution passed them by.”
She adds that when they eventually caught up with the perm in the millennium, the hairdressers were atrocious and oftentimes over-processed clients’ hair. With few, if any treatments, the poorly maintained locks would invariably fall off, leaving behind unsightly patches. (Excerpt culled from The Daily Nation Online Edition 24th October 2013. Read the full article here.)

I came across this interesting article on hair written in one of the Kenyan dailies while doing my usual online newspaper reading the other day. In the article the writer talks about how while on a visit to South Africa she noticed that a lot of women wore their hair natural; either as dreadlocks or combed fros. That caught my eye in addition to the bolded paragraph at the beginning of this post. Even though I have never been to South Africa (hope to someday soon:) I too had made this observation but thought nothing of it. You see East and Southern Africans share a lot of linguistic, culinary and cultural similarities so I find myself watching a lot of South African TV shows and soaps on cable more so because I identify with what they are talking about. According to my observations for every relaxed head in one of the South African soaps I watch regularly there are almost 5 natural heads and like the writer pointed out they sport dreadlocks, combed fros,  which are usually TWAs (Teeny Weeny Afros) in most cases, braids or cornrows without extensions.
Gorgeous Lira is an award winning multi platinum selling South African singer and songwriter. ( Image source)

I honestly never thought about it in a political sense until I read this article. Because of South Africa’s racial segregation system of apartheid (please Google it) that ran from the 1940s and ended in the 1990s South Africa was more or less a loner cut off from the rest of the world and black south Africans were even more cut off because they bore the biggest brunt of this wicked system. While the rest of black Africans were being exposed to black lifestyle in the Diaspora and amongst each other, black South Africans most likely did not get as much exposure. Travel to and out of South Africa during apartheid was quite difficult and impossible in some cases; I remember seeing my aunt’s old passport from the 80s that had the words that went something like “valid for all parts of the world and commonwealth apart from the Republic of South Africa” the exact words escape me but I remember South Africa being on the list of countries she couldn’t visit because of the apartheid regime. It makes a lot of sense when I look at it that way because sanctions were placed on South Africa during the apartheid era which made trade with the rest of the world difficult so while new afro hair techniques, factory manufactured hair extensions, afro hairstyles, relaxer kits and the know how to use these products were being imported into African countries and within other African countries, South African blacks most probably got none of these products and techniques if any at all.
#Teamlocs. Very funny South African actress who plays the character Gloria in South African soap "Scandal" and no they didn't "steal" the name Lol this soap has been around for a few years I think it premiered in 2005 (image source)
The most interesting observation that I have made on my South African TV watching spree is that a majority of both city and rural women sport natural looks. In an African country like Kenya which is where I am from and know quite well you will find most of the natural heads whether combed out, styled or braided concentrated in the rural areas (countryside). In the cities it is usually the little girls and teenagers that you will find sporting combed out or styled natural hair, in fact it's very common for Kenyan girls to get their first perm way after high school and it is usually a personal choice for the young ladies a bit like the “grown” thing to do now that they are out of high school. Most older natural heads in the cities are most likely to have locs,  be in braids, cornrows, wigs or weaves, you will come across women with combed out or styled natural hair in the cities as well but not as much as you would in South Africa.  I really don’t know the reason for the current disparity between women’s hair in cities and rural areas across Kenya and indeed Africa as a whole because trust me you are very likely to find the same observation made on Kenyan women replicated in Nigeria or Ghana but I would put it down to socio-economic reasons and probably exposure or lack thereof to other black hair techniques. That on its own is an entire subject of discussion for another day.

Friday, 18 October 2013



is more famous for being Breast Cancer Awareness month but did you know that it was also Domestic Violence Awareness month? Now you do.  In the last year alone I have read several stories about women who were sent to an early grave by their abusive husbands. Statistics say that at least 2 women are killed every week as a result of domestic violence. Some leave but are sent back by their families "do not bring shame to the family name" they are told, God hates divorce some are told, some are too emotionally abused to have the willpower to leave, some stay for the sake of their children, some are financially dependent on their abusers and this make them too scared to leave not knowing how they will survive if they do.

If you know someone in a domestic violence situation or suspect that they are going through one please reach out to them lend a helping hand, a listening ear do something. While it is ultimately their decision on whether to leave or stay, the support that they may or may not receive when they finally leave from family, friends and the society more often than not impacts their decision to leave or stay. If you can, do something you may save a life.

Here are two stories of one woman who had the courage to leave with her children and another who was killed by her husband in a domestic dispute; first is Oma’s story she had the courage to leave, it’s in ten parts but worth every read. Go here to read it. The second is a lady who was killed by her husband, go here to read it.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Drink up!

If you are on a hair journey you must have by now heard or read that drinking plenty of water is good for your hair. It is said that we should drink at least 8 glasses of water a day (I am going by a 250ml glass for this post) but this is also subject to your level of activity (you drink more fluids exercising than laying on the couch watching TV), body size and other environmental factors among others; one tends to be thirstier in the hotter summer months than in the colder winter months.

Here are my tips for people who either do not drink water and want to start which you should or are struggling with drinking enough water;
  • Start with drinking water with every meal, a glass at breakfast, a glass at lunch and another glass at dinner and work your way to more glasses from there. I always drink water with all my meals irrespective of whether there is another drink at the table or not.
  • Get a one litre water bottle fill it up in the morning and try and finish half the bottle by 3pm. Finish the other half before bedtime.
  • Infuse your water with slices of fruits like apples, oranges, lemons, pears, or any other fruit of your liking to make it taste better.
  • Always have a bottle of water in your bag, car etc that way you have no excuse not to drink up. I always have a bottle of water with me that is the one thing you are guaranteed to always find in my bag. 
Plain water and water infused with orange slices
The good news however is that the recommended water intake is not limited to just water but all liquids, we need to replace lost liquid from the body, prevent dehydration and flush out toxins among other functions of liquid in the body. In essence all fluids drunk during the day count towards this total you must however use common sense in what fluids to drink. Two litres of soda or alcohol a day for example will do more harm than good for you while two litres combined of natural fruit juices, smoothies, milk, soups, coffee, wine and water is more beneficial for you and your health in the long run.

I have always been a huge water drinker regardless of the weather, my personal water drinking regimen on a good day goes something like this  half a litre in the morning, half a litre in the afternoon and another half litre usually more between early evening, bedtime and morning. I sometimes wake up at night to drink water so I always have a bottle of water handy by my bedside. It’s more like a sip or two in the middle of the night though not an entire glass. I know the amount I drink because I always have my water in a 500ml bottle which is half a litre.  I can leave home at let’s say 8 in the morning and by midday that water will be gone and I will have to refill it this refilled bottle will be gone by the time I am getting home let’s say around 6 in the evening and once again it will be refilled and I will have drank half of it by dinner time and drink the other half with my evening meal, refill the bottle and keep by my bedside. So in total without counting the bedtime water I will have consumed 1.5 litres of water in a day. I try to drink a minimum of one litre of plain water a day that way if I end up with other liquids like tea, coffee, wine or soda on that day I still have one litre of good clean water in my system. Drinking water alone is not enough to maintain a healthy head of hair and beautiful skin this must be coupled up with a good diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables and plenty of exercise.

Go here for more information on water and drinks in relation to health.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

How often...

do you wash your combs, brushes, scarves, hair clips, headbands etc?

I wash my combs, hair clips, fabric headbands (the work out kind), scarves and whatever else I used on my hair that week on wash day which when my hair is out of extensions is once a week. I soak in warm soapy water and then lightly scrub the combs using a manicure brush or old toothbrush and hand wash scarves and headbands as well after soaking in soapy water, I use shampoo or sometimes hand washing detergent if it is on hand. During the week I just wipe whatever plastic tool I used with a paper towel or cloth however if I feel that it is too greasy then I will wash it. My wooden soft brittle brush is washed less often because I hardly use it except to smooth my hair when in a bun or help lay down my edges that is if I don’t use an old toothbrush for that; I would say maybe once or twice in two months not too sure honestly because I have never kept track of its wash days but I do pick out hairs from it though after every use with the tail end of a rat tail comb and wipe the handle with a paper towel or cloth. I do the same with plastic brushes before washing them when I use them which is very rare unless I have a weave on; pick out hair with a rat tail comb end, toothpick or run a small tooth comb through the bristles, soak in warm soapy water and then scrub in between the bristles using an old toothbrush and toothpick to help get out any product build up between the bristles. T-shirt for t-shirt drying is washed once or twice a month I figured I am using it on clean hair once a week anyway so it doesn't need to be washed as often.

I wash my spray bottle and my oil applicator bottles once they run out. My homemade spray bottle mixes are usually kept in for a week or at most ten days to two weeks depending on the contents and I wash it with warm soapy water and a bottle cleaner before pouring in a new mixture. My oil applicator bottles carry 100ml of oil at a time so once this runs out they are washed with warm soapy water using a bottle cleaner and completely dried upside down before another oil batch goes in. Blow driers and other electrical appliances I simply wipe clean with a cloth after every use. 

Video Link: How to clean combs and brushes (if video is no longer available by the time you read this post just type "how to clean combs and brushes" on the YouTube search bar for more videos).

Monday, 7 October 2013

Training Braids

One of my goals in this hair journey is to learn how to self braid using extensions so I decided to get these big box braids done last Friday by someone else and use them as training braids. Training braids in the sense that once they get messy I will re-do the perimeter or the entire head if I am able to, one braid at a time without having to take down the entire perimeter/head; so it will be one messy braid at a time until I get the hang of it. I can already fix a loose braid I have been doing that for as long as I can remember but I have never attempted to self braid my entire head with extensions so this will be an interesting challenge for me. Maybe I will even graduate to self weaving after this who knows? I have a few YouTube box braids tutorials bookmarked to use as a guideline just in case. I don’t really have a timeline for how long I will keep these braids in but will probably take them out once I am bored with them or they get too messy or I get tired of rebraiding them.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Loc Takedown

I must have been living under a rock all this while because I never knew you could unravel locs! I first heard or rather read about it a few weeks back through a comment someone left on a blog I was reading. Then a few days ago I clicked on a link that led me to a blog that had a video of a loc takedown process. Now usually I watch any YouTube videos I come across on blogs on YouTube itself so I clicked on the “watch on YouTube” link and boy oh boy was I surprised there were a few more loc take down videos! Here is one;

She used a dental tool to pick her locs but any sharp metal like object can do like the metalic tail of a rat tail comb.

Loc takedown is labour intensive and takes a lot of time one of the ladies took three weeks to get her entire head done, another one six days. It all depends on how many hands are taking down the locs and how much time you have in which to do it. The people who took longer did a few every day or every other day. Some of the ladies had their locs in for a year or two others nine years plus. The amount of shed hair that came out of those locs was crazy years and years of shed hair! You could possibly make an afro wig out of the shed hair from locs seriously! Since I get bored of one hairstyle quickly and love to see my hair every now and then, I think I will stick to temporary kinky hair locs should I feel the need to get locs but this is some great information for anyone out there who like me never knew this was possible. 

If this video is no longer available by the time you read this post just type "loc takedown" on the YouTube search bar to see more videos of the process.