In all the years this blog has been around, we have grown a sizeable fan-base and had the privilege of meeting a few of you in person. But some of our readers stand out more than others and this is why we at Team ZedHair are so excited to share Asimbuyu’s big day with you all. She has been a loyal, fervent and consistent supporter and follower of all things ZedHair. We are very proud of you Asimbuyu and so honoured that you shared your bridal hair journey with us and allowed us to share it with everyone else in the natural hair community, especially those with shorter hair. Asimbuyu is based in Chisamba, Zambia. Pictures by Jay Mumba Photography. Asimbuyu, over to you.
Describe your natural hair journey so far.
Well, I never set out to go natural. I’m one of those ladies who can’t wear the same hairstyle for longer than two months. The average is 3-4 weeks, so I’d unbraid/undo my weaves, then retouch immediately and get re-braided/re-weaved the next day. I realised that I was wasting time and money retouching my hair because no one got to see it. So I stopped retouching my hair, and after one year, my transition was complete. That was from 2013 to 2014.
The only hairstyle I knew to do with natural hair was an afro, so once in a while I’d comb it out with a hair band in the front. The rest of the time I’d be in weaves and braids.
Then 2 major developments happened in 2014:
First, for the first time in my life, I noticed constant weaving was damaging my hairline, so I dropped them (to the chagrin of the salon lady, who loved having a customer who changed her weave every 4 weeks or less!).
Second, I discovered ZedHair. I can’t remember whether it was an advert or a notification from a Friend’s activities, but here was a page jam-packed with information on how to have healthy natural hair!
The first thing I tried out was washing my hair more often (before I used to wash my hair only when changing weaves/braids!). Then I got wider-toothed combs and started spritzing. Lo and behold my ‘kinky’ hair became soft and longer!!!
I got some Shea Butter, Mafura and African Black Soap Shampoo from ZedHair, and I could soon see the results. I now had more manageable hair that had stopped breaking as much and thus was growing longer.
I still had to overcome the ‘self-stigma’ I had that uncombed natural hair was ‘unprofessional’. I can’t count how many times I twisted my hair before bed but then combed out the twists in the morning because I felt what I was seeing in the mirror didn’t look like the hair on ZedHair and other natural hair pages.
One weekend, I bravely wore a knot-out to the Kingdom Hall. No one said anything about my hair, except a small girl who asked, “Why didn’t you comb your hair today? But it looks nice!”
The following Monday, I wore the knot-out to my job HQs in Lusaka. Colleagues there said it looked nice. The final test that day was my mother (hehe), and her not-too-approving comments made me determined to KEEP wearing my hair that way (Thank you for that final push, Mom! Love ya!)
Knot-outs became my signature hairstyle. Many women in Chisamba have natural hair, but they often cover it up in weaves. The ‘shaggy’ look stood out so much that people started calling me ‘baja ba ma shaggy’ (the shaggy-haired lady), and I’d say, “You’ll give me the credit when this hairstyle becomes popular”.
The attention my hair attracted gave me many opportunities to share what I’d learned about caring for natural hair. One mother in my congregation complained that her daughter now refused to have her hair combed for school because, “Aunt Asimbuyu doesn’t comb her hair either!” People would assume my hair was ‘kinky’ and couldn’t be combed, but when invited to touch it they’d gasp at the softness, and then say, “That’s why you can keep it natural- your hair is not as kinky as MINE!” Then I’d explain why my hair felt so soft yet looked ‘hard’.
I had two girls stay with me for three months while their parents were transferred to another town, and after ‘healing’ their hair from the effects of overblowing, one day I styled their hair into knot-outs for school. I said, “If your teachers ask you why you didn’t comb your hair, tell them you live with that lady with the shaggy hair and she’s your ‘parent’ now and makes all your food, clothing and hair decisions.” Their teachers praised them for their hair instead, and to date in their new home, the girls are keeping healthy natural hair.
I feel the final mental shackles for me fell off in 2015 when I took part in and won the #FashionYaPaZed competition that featured natural haired ladies. After that, I felt like a natural hair ambassador, and got more creative with my hairstyles using the hair products that came as part of the prize i.e. ZedHair Shea Butter, Mafura, African Black Soap bar and liquid shampoo and some essential oils.
I started wearing bantu knots to work, wash-n-go’s were no longer ‘too shaggy’ and I even went with a shaggy look for my national registration card replacement (I did carry a comb, just in case! But the officers made no comment about my hairstyle).
When I was due to be interviewed for a work-related documentary on ZNBC TV, my mother asked me to have my hair plaited, “to look neat” as she put it. That wasn’t the time to ‘hide’ my hair either, so I found the middle ground by having my hair twisted with thread and had a curly ponytail extension attached at the back.
I’m glad I went natural. There’s something….. liberating about being ‘yourself’. Plus I have a strong stubborn streak, so this is a fun way to ‘stand out from the crowd’ of relaxer creams and weaves!
I stopped counting how many ladies have either gone natural or stopped hiding their natural hair because of my example and influence. Having had a small share in the so-called ‘Natural Hair movement’ has been good for my own personal development confidence-wise. In other words, if I can go #TeamNatural in a Eurocentric society, what else can’t I do?
What is your natural hair regimen?
I’ll be honest- I don’t always stick to schedule. Sometimes life happens and you get busy or just plain lazy. But what I strive to do at least once a day is spritz my hair. My spritz bottle always contains water, glycerine and leave-in conditioner. Sometimes I add oils- mafura, olive oil- and more rarely I add drops of essential oils (marula, tea tree, etc). For ‘perfume’, I add a few drops of vanilla essence.
I (try to) wash my hair once a week, usually using African Black hair shampoo. If it’s super dirty because of an accumulation of oils from my spritz, I use ‘normal’ shampoo. I have never wanted to be one of those naturalistas who become obsessed with certain brands of products (product junkies, I think they are called), so unless it’s from ZedHair, I’m not picky with my brand names as long as they fit my budget.
I normally wash my hair in the evening, so if it’s not too late to go outside (coz we’ve got plenty of snakes here!) I pluck leaves from a guava tree and use the water that comes from boiling them for 20 minutes to rinse my hair. I have NO idea why or how it works, but there is a drastic reduction in the amount of hair left in the tub when I rinse my hair with guava leaf water.
After rinsing all the shampoo out, I apply my leave-in conditioner and while the hair is still damp, I twist it into bantu knots or finger twists, depending on my mood (finger twists take longer). Shea butter creates dandruff on my scalp, so I am careful to apply it only to the hair, and in small quantities. I do not «scalp» (i.e. applying vaseline-like products to my scalp), applying all products only to my hair and leaving my scalp to breathe.
Chitambalas (head wraps) always slide off my head when I sleep with them, so I rarely bother (unless my hair is oily, because then that means more pillow cases in the laundry)
I deep condition once a month: after washing my hair as explained above but before applying the leave-in conditioner, I apply one beaten and warmed egg to my hair (I’ve lost count how many times I forgot my warming egg in the microwave and ended up cooking it! That’s why I only use one egg at a time, to reduce wastage in case I need to start over). I don’t have a dryer, so I wrap my head with a plastic bag (yes, like those Shoprite bags) and then wrap a towel over it and stay with it on for about 30 minutes while doing other stuff around the house. The heat from my busy brain «steams» my hair 😉 Then I rinse out with guava water (or plain water) and proceed as above to twist my hair before bed.
Sometimes I deep condition with mayonnaise, which gives both protein (egg) and oil. But it leaves a rancid smell so that’s where the vanilla essence in my spritz comes in handy. I have used avocado a couple of times to deep condition- it was a hassle getting the fibres out of my hair. Do not- I repeat- do NOT do this without an assistant!
(Side-tip: The riper the avocado, the fewer the fibres and the cheaper on the market. No one wants to buy an overripe avocado to eat, but hair isn’t that picky)
On a daily basis- and this is the part I hate about having natural hair- I plait vikuti (chunky braids). In the morning, I just unplait them, spritz and style.
To give my hair a break, I plait mukule (cornrows) with artificial hair, or do box braids. Weaves are now in my distant past, and the salon lady mentioned earlier now boasts that she can plait natural hair neatly without having to blow it first, adding, “This customer never blows her hair.”
What made you decide to be a natural hair bride?
In one word? ZedHair!
At first, I wanted to do long faux natural hair (because I’ve always wanted hair like Mwanabibi!) since my own hair wasn’t growing as fast as I wanted. I remember telling my fiancé that we’d get married as soon as my hair was a certain length. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to my split ends and had to get a drastic haircut to save my hair. That definitely ‘postponed’ the wedding hehe.
Then one day on one of the natural hair groups on Facebook, someone (whoever you are- THANK YOU!!!) posted a quote that talked about how obsessively striving for length was also a vestige of colonialism, where you might accept that your natural hair is never going to grow straight like the white woman’s, but you still want it to be as long as a white woman’s….. That got me thinking…. “Why do I want long hair? Do I believe that long natural hair is ‘better’ than shorter natural hair?”
That introspection helped me to realise that what really mattered was my hair’s health, and so I got busy keeping it healthy and free of split ends. Then came the ZedHair call for natural brides, and seeing Chanda’s story (the first ZedHair Natural Hair Bride featured), her bridesmaids encouraged me, because that’s how long my hair was. I showed my fiancé the photos and told him I wanted to qualify for the feature, so I’d not add any extensions to my hair.
I then started Googling images of hairstyles that were ‘bridal’ and could be done on hair of my length.
What was the reaction from your fiancé, family, bridesmaids and others regarding your decision to be a natural hair bride?
As mentioned above, my fiancé was in on the plan from Day 1 (did I mention he knows how to do bantu knots that are good enough to rock in public?).
Three months before the wedding- during our first meeting with the bridal party to discuss what we’d look like – I showed the girls my collection of Googled hairstyles and explained I was going 100% natural so I could qualify for this feature. I proceeded to show them Chanda’s interview, and how it was so cool that all her bridesmaids were natural too.
To my shock and utter delight, all three girls revealed that inside those braids and under their weaves, they were also natural/ transitioning. Plus they wanted to be natural at the wedding too. As one of them put it, referring to one of Chanda’s bridesmaids, “If she can expose her recovering hairline, so can I!”
So from that day on, they set out to improve their hair health: no more weaves, daily spritzing and weekly washing. They started wearing their natural hair out weeks before the wedding – that’s how proud they were of the results they were seeing.
My chief bridesmaid had started her natural journey back when I won #FashionYaPaZed, so by wedding time, her hair needed very little attention. We often joke that it’s not fair that her hair looks better than her ‘teacher’s’!
I remember when Chanda’s article came out, we were reading it together and I showed her the photo of Chanda’s bridesmaid, who had a teeny weeny afro, and my chief bridesmaid asked worriedly, “You won’t ask your bridesmaids to do a big chop if their hair isn’t natural, right?”
I initially planned that each girl was going to do her hair any way she preferred, so it was an unexpected dream come true to get a full squad of naturalistas in my bridal party!
My youngest sister knew I was going natural, and her only demand was that I get my hair done by a professional.
No one else knew/was involved in my hair plans. For three weeks before the wedding I kept my hair in vitambala. Just to keep people wondering what I was doing with my hair 😉
Were there any other pre or post wedding day activities and how did you wear your hair?
Kitchen parties are not my thing (eish, I don’t even attend them!) so the only pre-wedding day activity was the legal ceremony when we went to the local council to sign the marriage certificate.
My hair was still ‘curly’ from the trial a few days prior, and I had other errands to run (like looking for cheap tomatoes for the reception!) so I just pulled it back with a piece of elasticated string and voila! Hair done.
We did do something that I call ‘post-wedding’ – the day after the wedding and after religious services in the morning, we went to Goat N’ Chips at Eastpark Mall with a couple of friends for some goat burgers, and I still had my hairstyle intact from the previous day. That hairstyle was so pretty that I wanted everyone in Lusaka to see it. LOL
How did you go about choosing a hairstyle and a salon?
I chose several similar styles from the internet (Google search: short natural hairstyles for black brides), and sent them to Sarah (Naturallyafrosis salon).
I chose this salon because apparently they are one of only two natural hair salons in Lusaka (ZH: now there are three). Sarah said the styles could work, and we set a date for a trial. She’s currently at school, so she came over to my house to spend the night. That evening she washed my hair and gave it several treatments, and then she made bantu knots to see how my hair curled. She liked the results the next morning, so that was the style we were going to go with.
(I proceeded to conceal my hair in head wraps again so that no one would see before the day!)
Tell us about how you styled your hair and matched it with your dress and overall look for the day.
All the styles I’d picked out from the internet involved cornrows on the side and varying forms of mohawks, so she used that as inspiration. The night before the wedding, she washed my hair and gave it more treatments (oil, protein) and then she plaited the cornrows and twisted it into bantu knots. To make sure it would dry by morning, I sat under a dryer.
I do not wear makeup at all, so I was totally in her hands. She decided a natural look would best suit the hairstyle, so she worked her magic on both my head and face. I am very short-sighted (can’t see anything even with mirrors nearby) so I had no idea what I looked like until the very end of dressing up. So that look is totally Sarah’s work!
So I was a bride wearing a knot-out with cornrows on the side, and hair pins added to make me look bridal. The veil had a comb it in so it attached nicely to the hair.
What did your bridesmaids and line-up do to style their hair?
Everybody had their hair washed and prepared with protein and oil treatments.
The chief bridesmaid and one of the other bridesmaids have long hair, so Sarah decided they’d get updos (tuck & pins). To prepare their hair, the chief bridesmaid slept with vikuti and then had her hair blown in the morning. The bridesmaid had her hair blown first and then kept stretched overnight with thread. The bridesmaid had a large cornrow on the side to make them different.
The other two bridesmaids had knot-out mohawks. The night before the wedding, their hair was twisted into bantu knots, and then dried under the blower. To make them different, one bridesmaid had cornrows on one side.
How did people react to your hair on the wedding day?
I don’t think the wedding guests were surprised to see me in shaggy natural hair (because if you see Asimbuyu, you see shaggy hair), but I know they loved the more-elegant-than-usual-shaggy look. There were gasps in the audience when the groom lifted my veil, but that could also have been because of the makeup. Haha.
What advice can you share with other naturals considering being a natural hair bride on their big day?
The main reason you *should* do it is that it is NOT common. Zambian weddings tend to be the same old experiences, and while it is good to stick to tradition, your wedding is about you (and your groom of course, but no one really cares about the groom. Haha) and your personality, so one way to make that stand out is to wear your hair your way. We did so many things different from the norm for our wedding, and being a natural bride just made it even more unique.
Prepare months in advance – keep your hair healthy (stick to your regimen, control split ends, eat well, get enough rest, etc) and you absolutely must have a trial session. This helps you get a better idea of what will work with your hair, giving both you and your hairdresser time to get whatever extra products or accessories you may need. Both Sarah and I were specific with the brand of hair gel and kind of hair pins (respectively) so time was needed to find those things.
The trial also gives you the opportunity to build a rapport with your hairdresser, which makes for a stress-free dress-up session. (I was so ‘chillaxed’ that morning that I even had time to mix the songs the knife «girl» and boy were going to use that afternoon).
Lastly, don’t fret over length, thinking that only ladies with really long hair in roll, tuck & pin up-dos can be natural brides. Looking at my wedding photos, I feel my hair looks longer than it really is, but natural hair is versatile and you have SO many styling options, no matter your length. Healthy hair is always beautiful hair.
Please also share any links to vendors that have Facebook pages or websites, if you were happy with their services.
I was satisfied with ALL the vendors who provided services during the wedding, but I’m restricted to those with an online presence, so here goes:
- Sarah of Naturallyafrosis for our hairstyling and makeup
- Ara’s Designs for my custom-made wedding dresses, groom’s embroidered shirt and the bridesmaids’ dresses
- Motion Studios for the videos
- Sugar’s Kitchen for the catering
- Fringilla Lodge for the reception venue and giving us free rein of their farm for our themed photo shoot
Thank you all so much for the discounts and freebies, making me an extraordimagorically happy bride!!!
Well there you have it ladies and gents. Click here if you want to view Asimbuyu’s Complete Wedding Album. Remember that ZedHair is interested in featuring natural brides from all over Africa and the Diaspora. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘I’m a natural hair bride’ in the subject line. NB: you need high quality pictures to make it onto or site. Read THIS for more details.