An avid reader of the blog asked me to share my take on cultural appropriation for natural hair. Hence the inspiration for today’s post,”What does natural hair have to do with cultural appropriation?”
Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated but is deemed as high-fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves. ~Amandla Stenberg
Growing up, I always had my hair in a ponytail for my primary school days. It was a pretty frustrating experience for me because the school I was attending at the time. They kept insisting to have my hair cut bald. Thank God for my mommy, for making me the proud natural hair rebel I am today.
During my O-level’s, I was asked to cut my luscious hair to one inch since it wasn’t like that of the other Arabian girls. The other day while I was interning, my employer implored me to consider wearing my hair straight because it is more professional. That’s my example of cultural appropriation for natural hair.
Questioning the term.
What is cultural appropriation for natural hair?
•Is culture appropriation for natural hair like kaweke*(Luganda for 4c natural hair) when white women plait cornrows?
•Is culture appropriation for natural hair when the person is simply playing wardrobe games (for hair, I am not quite sure how that works) or is one embracing a trend?
•Does the wearer of the hairstyle recognize the historical connotation? (Honestly)
Is cultural exchange a possible solution?
In as much as I am an advocate for everything natural hair, African wear, and African woman bodies, cultural appropriation for natural hair; it got me wondering; what if the west loved Black people as much as they do for their culture?
In fact, here’s what Lupita Nyong’o said on this matter.
Problem with cultural appropriation.
I feel like I’m channeling my inner Black Panther mode. It bothers me that people have a problem with African heritage and yet can benefit from our culture. It infuriates me to see guys take aspects of our culture that seem easy and leave out the most intricate parts of it. The easy part for them suggests that they are assisting black image. For example, the popular Bantu knots hairstyle is now referred to as mini buns.
“If someone pulls from a culture, it’s a compliment.”
“Bob Marley had dreads because it was a trend.”
“It’s just hair.”
“There are worse things to worry about.”
“I don’t see color.”
“We get it, you’re Black.”-From an interview on Medium that suggests defending cultural appropriation is dangerous.
What the interview seems to suggest looks something like this.
However, they do not make a contribution to any pressing cause among the black community. (Especially when it comes to hair, culture and our African bodies).
Here’s an excerpt from a poem by Nikki Giovanni, called Oppression.
“I wish I could have been oppressed
by straightened hair
then I wouldn’t have had no problems
till after emancipation when mme. walker
captured our kinks.”
In regard to hair; Is hair braiding a human practice and not a black one?
In as much as it is a human practice, it is also where the most significant Culture appropriation has been traced. Various aspects of our (African)culture that were first mocked have been taken and now people are imitating them. The perpetrators of this seem to have forgotten that we don’t need outside forces to endorse us because black is beautiful.
The epitome of culture appropriation today is when hearing things like natural hair isn’t beautiful. At least not until another person deems it so. Natural hair is deeper than being popularly termed as nappy, kinky, coily or kaweke. It is beautiful, why do you think there are so many natural hair businesses whose economic impact is undeniably profiting.
I wrote a poem on this;
For Queens that wear their natural crown.
We are an empire.
Just like Amina Queen of Zaria,
We too have become active warriors,
and invite you to taste our rebellion of not having mainstream hair (that must fall).
Like Candace empress of Ethiopia in the military,
we carry might strong enough to slay dragons and spit
fire to burn the pages that regard natural hair as a source of shame.
Or like Makeda, Queen of Sheba, small in stature but great in conquering nations, we too
choose to conquer our roots.
We are collectively built of adventure like
Nefertiti Queen of Ancient Egypt
Or Yaa Asantewaa of Ashanti who loved bravery down her people’s spines
We choose to love bravery down these strands
Don’t call me nappy, kinky or shabby!
Just call me Phoenix!
Rising above the notion of not having mainstream hair
And acknowledge that I am more relaxed, NATURAL!
If you have any further questions on cultural appropriation on natural hair, I will be glad to respond them in the comment section.