Hair Around the World

One of the reasons that I have been completely out of action over the last few months is that I have done quite a bit of travelling. I spent about two weeks in Washington DC and the following month, about two weeks in South Africa. From a hair point of view, both of these were extremely illunminating expereinces. I will start with the first trip to the US of A.

As the land of all the blogs and products and where people of African descent get their cool factor from, I was really looking forward to touching down in DC. Now, it could be because DC is an international city and therefore not very representative of the United States, but from the moment I got off the plane, I liked what I saw. Three major things stood out for me:

1. Natural hair was everywhere. Everywhere I turned where I saw black people, there was at least one person in each group or cluster with natural hair. It was beautiful. After a while, I stopped staring at the awesome hair all around me.

2. Second was the diversity of hairstyles. People had long hair, short hair, dreads, relaxed, weaves, twists, afros, braids, TWAs, coils, funky hair, professional/formal and sleek styles, there were the sexy hair, the playful hair. It was just an amazing hair experience.

3. The third major thing that I observed on the streets of Washington and Virginia was the confidence with which people carried off whatever look they had. Perhaps because it was the height of summer, but there was a general I don’t care attitude where everyone just wore what they wanted and was happy with that.

Me at the White House, rocking’ two-strands twists

The second trip to South Africa affected me for a different reason:

Conventional wisdom states that as you go south of Zambia (encompassing Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa), the women of these countries share a common trait: their hair doesn’t grow, and this is why they have preferred TWAs and dreadlocks for decades. Until I went natural and started educating myself, I subscribed to this erroneous school of thought too. I have travelled within the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region countless times and I go to SA at least once, usually twice in a year. But, this trip was different as I went with ZedHair eyes and viewed almost everything (including fashion and style) through this prism.

The Orlando Power station cooling towers — one of Soweto’s most iconic images

I observed how confident the women were with their extremely short hair. The TWA rarely fails, is all I can say. It is a sure-fire winner.

I was totally in love with the creativity displayed with the various dreadlocked styles. I wasn’t able to take pictures the way I would have liked, but I definitely hope to do so the next time I am there in a few months time. We braid and style our locks in Zambia too, but the abundance of locks and the variety in styles was far above what you see in Lusaka. It was very inspiring and made me look forward to the day when I grow locks once again.

It also emphasised how misplaced the myth that women south of Zambia can’t have long hair. Many of the women and men with locks had waist-length hair. This debunks the myth that is is not possible for them to have long, strong and healthy hair.

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