I've damaged my Natural Hair

14 February 2016

another failed attempt at make-up. Self photography is hard!

After reading Aisha's blog post on closet naturals and coming out, my hair confirmed to me that the hair practices that I had convinced myself into thinking were okay were in fact unhealthy. My hair started thinning and breaking off, it was dull, wispy and frayed at the ends. I used the word 'confirmed' because deep down, I knew what I was doing could only spell disaster for my hair. I had watched enough you-tube videos and read enough blogs to know that my type of hair could only suffer from being neglected like that. For those of you who don't know, I have been a closet for about 2 years of my 2 year and 5 month natural hair journey. Read more here and watch my natural hair story below.

 As I sat there trimming my split ends which were almost half the length of my hair, it dawned on me that I had to ask myself some serious questions about the underlying reasons as to why I would knowingly go against the advice of many 4c hair gurus. If I was to truly achieve my goal of growing my hair past shoulder length, I had to know where the logic that was influencing my counterproductive decisions was coming from and tear it out by the root. Pun intended.

 What drove me to continuously put direct heat on my hair with only coconut oil as a ''heat protectant'' ? How and why did I lie and convince myself that going from ''weave to weave to weave'' ,with only 3-5 day breaks where my hair can just be, is protective styling and will be good for my hair? More importantly, where did this pressure to constantly alter my hair into doing anything and everything that wasn't meant for African hair come from? Sure, the first wig was created in Africa and wigs were very popular among us mpondo women, but why was it that every time I did something to my hair, it was as far away from African influenced hairstyles as possible? Of all the extensions I reached for, not once did I look for 4c kinky hair extensions. Not once did I look for someone who could recreate the old hairstyles on Mpondo women. I even considered 'heat training' my hair so it could achieve a looser curl. Not because I had felt the ''hardships'' that come with maintaining 4c natural hair yet , with me being a closet natural since the day I big Chopped, but because I wanted a looser hair texture because I though it was prettier. Why did I not deem my own hair beautiful exactly the way it is? Why did I not think it worth the money, daily time and effort that would go into maintaining healthy kinks when I wouldn't even think twice about spending R300 almost  every two months for new weave? Why is my only motivation for actually taking care of my hair is to grow it long? Why am I not excited about just letting my hair be and do what it wants to do?

 A few things became apparent to me when I answered these questions with as much brutal honesty as  I possibly could, my own hair was not enough. I was looking at my hair from a ''European standard'', much like how I used to look at everything else. My hair had become not ''good enough'' to me . I viewed my hair as a kinkier, uglier un-evolved version of European hair. It was a deficit to the standardised paradigm of what ''beautiful, normal'' hair is.  These answers both shocked and appalled me. They helped me diagnose myself with what I had only seen in Steve Biko quotes. The demon behind me hurting my hair like this was the black inferiority complex. A series of memories supporting this diagnoses came back to me. Like the time I cried to my mother asking her why my hair was not long, flowing and blonde. Or how disappointed I was when the creamy crack didn't make my hair stay straight forever. I'll never forget how in love I felt when I ran my hands through the bundles of what would be my first weave, something I had never felt for my hair.As much as I have tried by all means to recover from the mis-education and the self hatred, as much as I have tried to instill some black pride in myself after years of being taught that anything that has to do with blackness was inferior, there was still a white-wannabe woman in me steering me towards the weave and flat iron. I was looking at my hair through her blue contact lenses, which at one point in my life I so longed for, and I need to get rid of her! Permanently. My black inferiority was directly influencing my hair decisions.Now here I am, having to wage yet another psychological war with myself to unlearn 20 years of being told that my hair is ugly, my hair has to be straight, my hair has to be long, my hair has to be as close to whiteness as possible before it can be beautiful.

Mpondo hairstyles, uninfluenced by European hairstyles at the time
Yep, the black inferiority complex. perpetuated through media, family friends, teachers, society. Born as a means of survival back when being too black meant no madam would hire you, when having an afro was near demonised in Missionary schools, when having a looser hair texture meant you were better that the rest of the ''kaffirs'' because there was and element of whiteness in you. Self hating ideals and practices which were simply a way of having a shot in post colonial South Africa were passed down to sons and daughters who today are the perpetuaters of those ideals. They have been woven into the very fabric of  black society.
Mind you all I wanted to do was grow some long hair. None of the blogs told me about this part. Nobody said anything about the psychological reconditioning and the complete overhaul of my mindset I had to do.Now I HAVE to unlearn all of this brainwashing. The act of unlearning this nonsense in itself will be an act of deeming my hair worthy of the books I'll have to read, the museums I'll have to visit to see rare original Mpondo wigs, the pictures I'll have to scour the internet for and immerse myself in to convince myself that African hair is beautiful. Our has its own needs and rules and that straight hair should not be the standard against which it is measured. It should be its own standard

I now understand that those practices I had adopted are merely a symptom to a deeper underlying issue, much like the crime in South Africa is a symptom of the systematic marginalisation of black South Africans. It is not the actual weave, wig, relaxer or flat iron that my issue is with but the reasons why I viewed them the way I did and the influences behind those views. Here I am using the same logic I used to deem my wanting blue hair as self hatred even though there are Africans with blue eyes. My desire for those eyes did not come from my seeing pictures of those African whom I didn't even know exist at the time but from seeing them on white people whom I had grown to associate with perfection. The same concept applies here. My wanting my hair straight or in weave or wig did not stem from African influence associated with those things!

I'm seriously contemplating getting professional help for myself because I have been wrestling with this woman for about 5 months now but I still find myself trying to find reasons to "protective style'' again.  I'm sorry 'medem baas' but you gatsta go; even if it means getting those judgmental looks when walking into he psychologists office. No scratch that, sorry, I'm not sorry.
What I'm trying to achieve is the mindset a pre-colonial Mpondo woman would have about her hair. Then and only then will I consider weaves, wigs and extensions because my reasons for wanting them will have changed. I know we won't have any strong point of reference for such a woman, but we'll do our best. I'll call for an appointment on Monday.

Winni Madikizela Mandela Mandela, A Mpondo woman
in her youth
Source Modernised version of Mpondo hairstyles on

And now to unsubscribe and unfollow all non-4c natural hair gurus until further notice to get rid of curl envy. Have any other naturals wrestled with this issue or should the fact that I'm having this trouble worry me?

Stay tuned and Stay blessed.


  1. As Africans we must love our hair even in its original state, and you are right we tend to envy too much and forget that we have different genetics all together.


    1. True. And its not easy when you've been told something is wrong with Your hair since you could understand words. but i'll get there.

  2. It's good to see people simply acknowledging these standards of beauty. Once you're aware you can change but if you don't even know a problem exists you can't change it. I'm African-American and it's very enlightening to see this problem with all populations. This European standard has been very damaging all over the world. I wish there was a practical solution to this brainwashing!

    1. RIGHT?! like a step by step "do this and do that" to undo it all. Most people aren't even aware of our condition or plight and some who are don't self introspect as honestly enough to admit to having this problem and challenging these "norm". It is a very sensitive topic to navigate even as a black person. Thats why I took advantage of the free psychological service offered on campus and also do some retracing of my roots people and our history and culture which I'll be posting about soon. I'm making some progress.


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