Natural Spotlight: Towani

Managing a blog can be a lot of work, especially as I do not want to be the lone voice being heard. It helps to have other contributors and it REALLY helps when people approach me (of their own free will) and say they would like to be featured on ZedHair to share their hair story. One such person is Towani Clarke.
I was intrigued to read the natural hair experience of a colored (mixed race) person. Her father is white and her mother is black. Towani is a yoga instructor, karateka and fashion designer. You can visit the Facebook page for her label, Kutowa Designs. I hope you will find this as interesting as I did.
Fro Coiffeure
1. When did you go natural?
Fifteen years ago as a New Year resolution to go natural. I had been relaxing my hair straight for 8 years. I had about an inch of natural under growth below my shoulder length permed hair. So on New Years day I had the permed hair shaved off leaving me with my super short undergrowth.
2. Why did I go natural?
There were a couple of reasons behind this major decision. Firstly, I figured all those chemicals in the relaxer couldn’t be good for you. If they could burn your scalp and damage your hair, who knows what other effects they may be found to have in the long run. As a mother I was also concerned what effects the chemicals could have on my children during pregnancy or breast feeding.
Secondly, I was tired of making my hair be what it inherently was not – straight and able to lie flat against my head. I had years of hating my hair, wishing my hair was straighter, softer, silkier, more like the Caucasian hair of my father or at least the more typical soft curly coloured hair of my sisters. The Caucasian hair genes seemed to be lost in me and I inherited, much to my disappointment, my mother’s African hair. I figured, what was the point of being coloured if you didn’t get to have soft curly hair! Now, I wanted to accept and love my hair as it is – kinky curly, springy, full of body and standing up.

Up Fro
3. What has been your experience having natural hair so far?
It has been an experience of total discovery. I was surprised that my hair was not as hard and kinky as I had imagined and actually had more curls in it when wet. I discovered styles that worked with my hair’s ability to be kinky and stand up rather than try to straighten and flatten it by blow drying or putting it in rollers and going under the dryer. I do still sometimes wash and blow-dry my hair when I have the time and inclination to go to a hair salon, especially when I need to have a trim but it is not the mainstay of by hair regimen.
As my hair grew, the experience was different at different lengths of hair. When my hair was super short and I was working at a farm in the heat of the Zambian sun, I loved being able to put my head under the cool running water of the tap without thinking about all my hours of setting going to waste. As my hair grew, I found that different styles worked better. Finally, I have settled on the length that I have now which is about as long as my hair grows which is about down to my shoulders in its straight blow-dried state and about 6 inches or 12cm off my head in its uncombed afro state. I find this length gives me the most diversity of styles as I easily get bored with my hair and want to change my hair style regularly.

Fro Hawk
4. What is your hair regimen?
The motto of my hair regimen – is less is more. The less I can do with my hair, the better – it saves time and money. I have two main hair regimens depending on the weather and how I want to keep and style my hair. Whatever the regimen there are some things that I have discovered about my hair.

One – wash my hair with conditioner, because I find that shampoo dries my hair out making it brittle and prone to breaking. I wash my hair 2 to 4 times a month.

Two – NEVER comb my hair while it is dry, unless my hair is in a straightened state from blow-drying or plaiting. In its afro state, if I try to comb it, it breaks hopelessly. So I comb my hair when it is wet and well lubricated with conditioner.

Three – I ALWAYS start combing the hair from the ends and work my way towards the scalp. Putting the comb in by the roots and trying to get the knots out is a recipe for disaster for my hair, as it just breaks hopelessly.
Wet fro regimen – For the rainy season, or when I know I will be doing a lot of swimming (I’m a water baby at heart):
· Wash with conditioner
· Comb while conditioner is still in the hair
· Rinse out conditioner
· Shake excessive water out of the hair by shaking my head
· Apply a glycerin based gel to the sides and the tips of my hair
· Style
Then as daily maintenance, wet, shake out excessive water, gel and style.

Dry fro regimen – For the dry season, because my hair is extremely hygroscopic absorbing water out of the atmosphere which will frizz hair in hours
· Wash with conditioner
· Comb while conditioner is still in the hair
· Rinse out conditioner
· Shake excessive water out of the hair by shaking my head
· Oil my hair with a light oil i.e. one that is primarily liquid at room temperature and less likely to stick my hair together. Eg. Coconut oil, or hair promades mixed with baby oil.
· Comb from the ends first with a wide toothed comb and then a fine toothed comb to take out as many knots as possible
· Plait my hair while it is still wet.
· Unplait when the hair is dry – which can can be anywhere between 12 to 24 hours.
· Style according to the mood and occasion of the day
· Comb and plait my hair at the end of every day.
As a daily regimen, comb, brush and plait my hair at the end of the day and unplait, comb (sometimes I don’t comb it to maintain the curl from the plaits) and style the following day.

The Up Fro
5. How did you achieve the hairstyle in these pictures?
(It seems all the pictures I have relate to the wet hair regimen

Fro Hawk – using the wet hair regimen, apply more gel to the sides, brush the hair up and away from the ears towards the centre on both sides. Use hairpins to keep the hair flat against the sides of the hawk.
Fro Coiffure – using the wet hair regimen, apply more gel to the sides and backs, brush the hair up towards the top of the head. Curl the hair from the top of the head into a coiffure leaving the front of the hair cascading forwards and down one side of the face.

Up Fro – using the wet hair regimen, apply gel to sides and back, brush the hair upwards all the way round. Gather the hair together as if making a puff on the top of the head. Get a hair band and place around the base of the puff and pull the hair out to the sides. Do not twist and tie the band tighter as when making a regular puff.

The Fro Coiffeure
6. Any advice to those considering going natural?
Experiment and find what works with characteristics of your hair, to bring out its unique nature and beauty.

7. How is natural hair viewed in your workplace?
I have noticed over the years that the more I love my hair, the more others do too. For the last two years, I have been an entrepreneur with my two business babies Kuthuta Yoga and a clothes and accessories label, Kutowa Designs. The philosophy of yoga is very much to reveal and love the you as you are, so keeping my hair natural fits in very well with this philosophy. Many of my yoga students compliment my hair and comment that they miss my afro when I go through my phases of combing it back into a pony tail.

Towani strikes an impressive yoga pose

On the design side, Kutowa Designs is about celebrating that which is African but in a contemporary way. Just as Chitenge fabric is uniquely Zambian (and African) so is afro hair. I hope more women will see the beauty in their African hair and have the confidence to let their hair’s true nature shine through. In this way, I believe we can truly be ourselves. Ultimately I believe true beauty is when you are comfortable and love yourself just the way you are. Of course you need to groom and take care of your hair, your body, your dressing, but in a way that brings out the real you and does not distort or mask who you are. People pick up this vibe and see your inherent beauty too.

Where possible I try to use models with natural hair.

Towani is escorted by her models at the Origin Africa Designers Show-case in Mauritius, March 2011
Pictures: Courtesy of Kutowa Designs. Towani is wearing her own designs in each of these pictures.

2 responses to “Natural Spotlight: Towani

  1. Pingback: Full Re-cap of the ZedHair Natural Hair Show | ZedHair·

  2. Pingback: Being Kutowa Design’s Glam Squad | ZedHair·

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