Loving your black crowning glory, kinks and all
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.