Lov­ing your black crown­ing glory, kinks and all

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE VERVE -

THERE’S a beau­ti­ful move­ment hap­pen­ing: in­di­vid­u­als, es­pe­cially black women, are cel­e­brat­ing black hair. Their hair has been a con­tro­ver­sial is­sue for a long time and is of­ten de­bated in main­stream me­dia. Black women are ex­plor­ing the beauty, mean­ing and metaphor of black hair and the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia are at the fore­front of driv­ing the story “My hair, my crown”. I spoke to stylist Kwena Baloyi whose Instagram pho­to­graphs cel­e­brat­ing black hair, ti­tled Afrikan Krowns, caught my eye. Q: Tell us about your­self ? My friends and in­dus­try peers call me “Kween Kwena.” I’m a vi­va­cious, high-spir­ited and fun per­son (or so I’m told).

I’m from Mo­letjie Ga-Mak­i­belo in Lim­popo and I’m the fourth child in our fam­ily. I have two sis­ters and four broth­ers. I’m a pro­fes­sional on-de­mand TV, mag­a­zine and per­sonal stylist.

I’m also a fash­ion ad­ven­tur­ist who ex­plores clothes to come up with unique styles. I con­sider my­self a fash­ion ther­a­pist be­cause I help peo­ple find their fash­ion iden­tity. I’m low-key ob­sessed with hair too.

Q: Tell us a lit­tle about your hair jour­ney? Most of us black women have or had a con­tentious re­la­tion­ship with the kink in our hair and it has been in­flu­enced by what so­ci­ety tells us is “ac­cept­able.”

I’ve been through that phase where my hair needed to be straight be­cause I thought that was ap­pro­pri­ate. I’ve gone through a pe­riod where my nat­u­ral hair was called un­tidy or not ap­pre­ci­ated by those around me so I thought it would be bet­ter straight­ened or shaved.

The older I got, the more I started to ap­pre­ci­ate what my hair meant to me and what it rep­re­sented to me, as a woman, in a so­ci­ety that held so many neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions about African peo­ple’s hair. I’m at the point where I wear my hair which­ever way I like be­cause it’s an ex­ten­sion of who I am. It ex­presses my per­son­al­ity and char­ac­ter fur­ther than any item of cloth­ing could. Q: What in­spired your hair pho­tos? Be­ing a stylist af­forded me the op­por­tu­nity to travel to dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try and meet many dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters. Each per­son I met had an in­ter­est­ing as­pect to their hair. Some stood out for be­ing unique and other for in­trigu­ing me be­cause they choose to be reg­u­lar for the sake of fit­ting in.

Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing this va­ri­ety of peo­ple sparked the no­tion of how peo­ple re­late to their crown, which is what your hair is es­sen­tially. I’ve also been at­tracted to how dif­fer­ent tribes around the con­ti­nent, par­tic­u­larly in West Africa, wear their hair. My coif­fure hair­style is in­spired by women in West Africa.

There’s a lot of doc­u­men­ta­tion by his­tory schol­ars and in­ter­na­tional artists on black peo­ple and our hair. I de­cided to start the se­ries be­cause it’s high time we told our hair sto­ries, from our own lips and through our own lenses.

Q: Who is re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing the beau­ti­ful hair­styles?

My go-to stylist is Ncumisa “Mimi” Duma – a tal­ented hair ma­gi­cian who un­der­stands the im­por­tance of treat­ing nat­u­ral hair with care.

My hair has not seen a hair dryer or en­dured any ar­ti­fi­cial heat since I started grow­ing it. It’s the health­i­est my nat­u­ral hair has been in ages. Q: What trig­gered your hair jour­ney? The song I’m Not My Hair by In­dia.Arie has al­ways been one of my favourites jams. But, it wasn’t un­til years af­ter I heard it that I be­gan to un­der­stand what she was say­ing. The way in which In­dia de­scribes her hair story in the first verse is how my hair chron­i­cles kinda went: you start off with what­ever hair your par­ents de­cide you need to have. Then you be­come a girl who does your hair the way your school deems ac­cept­able. From there you be­come a teenager and you’re in­flu­enced by pop cul­ture and what’s trend­ing. As an adult, there’s peer pres­sure. Even­tu­ally your hair starts to fall out be­cause you’ve ei­ther put too many chem­i­cals in it or braided it for too long, sewn on way too many weaves and ended up los­ing your hair line. You re­alise the only op­tion is to cut it all off and start from scratch. That mo­ment can ei­ther be the worst feel­ing in your life (you know how black girls get at­tached to long hair) or it’s go­ing to be the most lib­er­at­ing thing you’ve done.

For the first time, you have the chance to grow your hair into what­ever shape or form you choose, with­out prej­u­dice or out­side pres­sure. And you know what? You fi­nally re­alise that your hair never de­fined who you were to be­gin with. You start un­der­stand­ing that your hair is what­ever you choose it to rep­re­sent. It’s an ex­ten­sion of who you are and should never be the cen­tre of your be­ing.

Q: How would you de­scribe your re­la­tion­ship with your hair?

The day I de­cided to ac­cept my hair for the awe­some kinky and coily mag­i­cal part of me that it is, was the day I started form­ing a healthy re­la­tion­ship with my hair. I can con­fi­dently say I love my hair with all its in­tri­ca­cies. It’s one of the most im­por­tant el­e­ments of my be­ing that rep­re­sents who I am. I’m fond of it and take a lot of care to make sure that it’s in the best con­di­tion.

Q: What do you find chal­leng­ing about main­tain­ing black hair?

The temp­ta­tion to want to make it straight has to be one of the big­gest is­sues we have. I love my nat­u­ral hair but, truth be told, it’s painful to comb out in or­der to do dif­fer­ent hair­styles. That’s why it’s im­por­tant to in­vest in prod­ucts and peo­ple who will make it eas­ier to main­tain and keep it healthy. Hav­ing great hair doesn’t just hap­pen overnight or mag­i­cally; it needs a lot of ef­fort and love. Black hair also needs a lot of pa­tience be­cause it doesn’t grow out as quickly as one would like.

Q: How do you see nat­u­ral hair em­pow­er­ing women?

It says you’re get­ting to a point where so­ci­ety’s stan­dards of beauty don’t de­fine who you are. Q: What are you work­ing on? Hair, hair, hair and more win­ning “krowns”; mak­ing sure our hair is beau­ti­ful, stays beau­ti­ful and is ac­cept­able; and hope­fully a hair ex­hi­bi­tion. Con­nect with Kwena on Instagram: @kwe­nasays Top 5 tips from Kwena for nat­u­ral hair 1. Cut all the dead hair off and start afresh – new hair, new you! 2. Wash your hair ev­ery day; wa­ter nour­ishes it. 3. Avoid us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial heat and ditch harsh chem­i­cals. 4. Find a nat­u­ral hair­styl­ist who un­der­stands black hair. 5. Do kick-ass pro­tec­tive hair­styles while you give your hair time to grow.

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