A Beautiful Hair Affair – there’s more to Hair

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

A Beautiful Hair Affair – there’s more to Hair
–  by Natasha Patterson.

Ask almost any black woman and she will probably tell you that her relationship with her hair is similar to a love affair. Whether it’s the long hours spent waiting at the hair salon, the pain endured from unknowingly buying fake hair and haircare products, pressing or braiding, or the amount of money spent— hair is truly an obsession. While I realize other cultures also value hair,  for Black culture, hair is extremely significant and often synonymous with identity. Many individuals, such as Don King, Bob Marley, and Angela Davis, Ara, Derele,  have used their hair to make a statement.

As a member of the Black culture, I admit we often take the significance and maintenance of hair to another level. But this is not of our own will. In fact, the importance of hair in the Black community can be traced back to our African ancestors.

The origin of this love affair can be traced back to Africa. It seems only natural that the “affair” would begin here, since most blacks were transported from the west coast of Africa. Although the textures of their hair varied greatly, the Africans expressed similar views on the cultural and social significance of their hair.
Social significance
“In the early fifteenth century, hair served as a carrier of messages in most West African societies” (Tharps and Byrd 2001) These Africans–citizens from the Mende, Wolof, Yoruba, and Mandingo—were all transported to the “New World” on slave ships. Within these communities, hair often communicated age, marital status, ethnic identity, religion, wealth, and rank in the community. Hairstyles could also be used to identify a geographic region. For example, in the Wolof culture of Senegal, young girls partially shaved their hair as an outward symbol that they were not courting (1). “And the Karamo people of Nigeria, for example, were recognized for their unique coiffure—a shaved head with a single tuft of hair left on top.” (1) Likewise, widowed women would stop attending to their hair during their period of mourning so they wouldn’t look attractive to other men. And as far as community leaders were concerned, they donned elaborate hairstyles. And the royalty would often wear a hat or headpiece, as a symbol of their stature.

Just as the social significance of hair was important, so was its aesthetic appeal. According to Sylvia Ardyn Boone, an anthropologist who specializes in the Mende culture of Sierre Leone, “West African communities admire a fine head of long, thick hair on a woman. A woman with long thick hair demonstrates the life force, the multiplying power of profusion, prosperity, a ‘green thumb’ for bountiful farms and many healthy children” (Tharps and Byrd 2001) However, there was more to being beautiful than having long tresses. One’s hair also had to be neat, clean, and arranged in a certain style. These styles included, but were not limited to, cornrows, and other braided styles. They also adorned the hair with ornaments such as beads and cowrie shells.
Just as hair was elevated for social and aesthetic reasons, its spiritual connection also served to heighten its significance. Many Africans believed the hair a way to communicate with the Divine Being. According to Mohamed Mbodj, an associate professor of history at Columbia University and a native of Dakar, Senegal, “the hair is the most elevated point of your body, which means it is the closest to the divine.” Consequently, many thought communication passed through the hair. Many believed a single strand of hair could be used to cast spells or inflict harm. This explains why hairdressers held and still hold prominent positions in the community. For those who do not know, styling and grooming black hair is often complicated and time consuming. This time spent at the hairdresser often results in close bonds between the stylist and the client. It is important to note that “unstyled and unkempt hair was largely unseen, as were scarves and headwraps.” Therefore, one can conclude that the hair was not meant to be covered.

As the study of American history has revealed, the slave trade not only inflicted physical damage, but it also left emotional and psychological scars. The most devastating scar, that is still reflected today, is that done to the slave’s self-image. This is especially true as it relates to hair and skin color. As they both became the framework for determining race.
Slave owners often described the Africans’ hair as being “woolly”, thus likening them to animals. These and other terms would later be used to justify the inhumane treatment of the slaves. After years of repression and constantly seeing those with “straight hair” and “light skin” afforded better opportunities, the slaves began to internalize these words. Ultimately, self-hatred began. In an effort to educate others about black hair and to celebrate its diversity, I wrote this piece. While this is not a complete history of black hair, it should provide some basic knowledge.  – by Natasha Patterson. Copyright 2002

Share.

About Author

44 Comments

  1. Hi. I have checked your ahbmagazine.com and i see you’ve
    got some duplicate content so probably it is the reason that you don’t rank high
    in google. But you can fix this issue fast. There is a tool that generates articles like human, just search in google: miftolo’s tools

  2. After looking over a few of the blog posts on your website, I honestly like your technique of
    blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark site list and will
    be checking back soon. Please check out my web site too and tell me how
    you feel.

  3. Appreciating the commitment you put into your blog and in depth information you offer.
    It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that
    isn’t the same old rehashed material. Great read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding
    your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  4. Have you ever thought about creating an ebook or guest
    authoring on other sites? I have a blog centered on the same subjects you discuss and would love to
    have you share some stories/information. I know my readers would appreciate your work.

    If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to
    shoot me an e-mail.

  5. This is the right web site for anyone who would like to understand this
    topic. You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a new spin on a subject that has been written about for decades.
    Great stuff, just wonderful!

  6. Just desire to say your article is as astounding.

    The clarity in your post is simply excellent and
    i can assume you’re an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab
    your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please keep up the enjoyable work.

  7. Excellent beat ! I would like to apprentice whilst you amend your website, how could i
    subscribe for a weblog website? The account aided me a acceptable deal.

    I were a little bit familiar of this your broadcast provided brilliant transparent concept

  8. It’s amazing to pay a visit this web page and reading the views of all colleagues concerning this article, while I am also
    eager of getting knowledge.

  9. Hello friends, how is the whole thing, and what you wish for to say about this piece of writing, in my
    view its in fact amazing designed for me.

  10. Very good website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of
    any forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article?
    I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get opinions from other experienced
    people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
    Thanks a lot!

  11. Howdy, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot
    of spam feedback? If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or anything you
    can advise? I get so much lately it’s driving me mad so any assistance is very much appreciated.

  12. Hi there, I found your blog by means of Google while searching for a similar matter,
    your web site got here up, it seems to be good. I’ve bookmarked it in my
    google bookmarks.
    Hi there, simply was alert to your weblog thru Google, and found that it’s
    really informative. I am gonna be careful for brussels. I will be grateful in case you proceed this in future.

    Lots of other people shall be benefited out of your writing.
    Cheers!

  13. Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?

    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!
    Cheers

  14. It’s not my first time to pay a quick visit this
    website, i am browsing this web page dailly and
    take fastidious facts from here daily.

  15. I do accept as true with all of the ideas you’ve offered on your post.
    They are really convincing and can definitely work.
    Still, the posts are very brief for beginners. May just you please lengthen them a
    bit from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

  16. Hi! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and
    say I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same topics?
    Thanks a ton!

  17. Howdy! This is my fіrst visit tto your blog! Ꮤе are a team of volunteers аnd
    starting a new initiative іn a community iin tһe ѕame niche.
    Υ᧐ur blog provided us valuable іnformation to wolrk on. Ⲩou һave done а marvellous job!

  18. Hello there, I discovered your blog by means
    of Google at the same time as searching for a similar matter,
    your web site came up, it appears to be like good.
    I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

    Hello there, just turned into aware of your blog via Google,
    and located that it’s truly informative. I’m gonna be careful for brussels.
    I’ll be grateful for those who continue this in future. A lot
    of people will probably be benefited from your writing.
    Cheers!

  19. Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed!
    Extremely useful info particularly the last part 🙂 I care
    for such info a lot. I was seeking this particular info
    for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  20. It is perfect time to make some plans for the
    future and it’s time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I want to suggest you few interesting things or suggestions.
    Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article.
    I wish to read more things about it!

  21. Your style is very unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from.
    Many thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity,
    Guess I’ll just book mark this web site.

Leave A Reply