#MyRealHair: Sarah’s Passport Renewal Story

It started with the photographer who came to my office to take my pictures for the passport renewal application. He looked at my Bantu knot out and said “Sorry mama, they want the photos to be with your real hair.” “This is my real hair,” I replied. “Oh!” he said peering at my hair in disbelief, “It’s very nice.”

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When I took the forms to the passport office the a couple of days later, the lady I submitted them to said, “this hair is mounted” I asked, “what do you mean?” “It’s artificial,” she said “ we need photos with your real hair” wishing I had come with my hair in a bantu knot out I answered, “that IS my real hair ” she looked at my hair (which was in flat twists at the time) and back at the photos and said ” Mmm… now these curls, I hope it won’t be rejected.” I pointed out the fact that I had twists with extensions in the used up passport I was handing in for renewal.

When I went to check on my passport a few days later (in twists), the lady told me the pictures had been rejected because my hair looked artificial. I told her it was not as she could see and she said there was nothing she could do about it. She said I would just have to bring fresh photos with a puff or something along those lines. I asked where the people that did the assessment of the pictures were so that I could see them and ask them what was artificial about my hair. I pointed out the fact that people do not travel with the same hairstyle that they had in the passport photo anyway so I could not see the need for all this fuss.

By this time I was pretty close to boiling point but I had to get back to the office. Given that my next trip was scheduled to take place in the next three days I decided I did not have the time to argue the matter any further. So I crossed the street, went into a photo studio, undid the front row of my twists, raked the hair back, gathered it and the rest of my twists into a pony tail at the back of my head and took fresh pictures. When the photographer showed them to me I noticed that my hair looked rather uneven in them but by then I was past caring. I had them certified and took then back to the passport office.

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When I went to collect my new passport a couple of days later, lo and behold the Bantu knot out picture was in it! Apparently by the time my picture resubmissions arrived someone had decided to approve the original ones. I briefly entertained the idea of demanding a refund for the fresh pictures I was made to take.

 

I think there is need for the so called rules regarding hair to be reasonable and consistently applied. The current situation that has ladies with their natural hair in a free or locked state being made to jump through all sorts of hoops, whilst those with perms and weaves not asked to grow them out or take them down, is beyond belief. It has to stop. The focus should be on the visibility of our faces rather than our hair styles which change all the time. I have said my piece…..

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