This is the story of Maimbo’s big chop, in her own words.
Why did I go natural?
Well the answer to this is multi-faceted. I have always had a wild and vivid imagination and every time I relaxed my hair I would imagine the worst. I would be bending over the sink smelling the fumes from the relaxer cream and wondering how many brain cells were dying by being exposed these this obviously toxic chemicals. Soon enough every time I relaxed my hair I thought about going natural.
I imagined myself with long tightly curled soft tresses. The difficulty was that I could not reconcile this mental image with the course brittle hair that was my undergrowth. Besides, what was I going to do with it? How the hell was I supposed to style it especially in an isolated mining town in The Australian northwest? There were no black hair salons and I didn’t want to look “unprofessional.”
The moment of truth came when I was watching ‘Good Hair’ by Chris Rock . There is a scene in that movie/documentary were a chemist puts sodium hydroxide on a chicken breast. I saw what it did to the chicken breast and thought to myself, “this is crazy, if it can do that to the chicken, what is it doing to my skin? And how much of this chemical is absorbed by my skin into the bloodstream? What about the proximity to my brain was I loosing brain cells by using this stuff?” (See what I mean by a wild imagination?) . I went online and looked for information on the adverse effects of relaxers and there were all these horror stories of women going bald. I watched ‘Good Hair’ with some of my non african friends and colleagues from work and the shocked expressions on their faces helped make up my mind. I would not continue to put this stuff in my hair and skin?
At the end of the show I threw out my relaxers and told my fiancé that when I eventually took the braids out I would do the “big chop.” I finally faced what I consider to be a central question. Why did I have relaxed hair? Is it what I wanted or had I just taken it for granted that there was no other way?
When I took the braids out my wonderful man did the big chop with his clippers. Verdict? It was liberating and apparently I looked ‘authentic.’ I am glad I did it and since that time, my hair and I have been on a journey of discovery.I kept it short for a year before deciding to grow it out.
But I won’t lie and say it is has all been easy. It has not. There was the awkward length (6 months growth to 9 months) where I just did not know what to do with it so I braided it. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I find that my confidence grows with each new style. I am not longer overwhelmed by it. I love how crazy curly and soft it is.
Sininga bwelele ku mbuyo. I would never go back to relaxing it. My closest girl friends have all gone natural too though I can’t take credit for their transformations, they did it on their own. I am now working on converting my mother, three sisters and cousins but it is slow going.
I think keeping your hair natural is something everyone has to arrive at on their own. It takes time but I dare say definitely worth it.