Are you confident? Headstrong? Did you believe “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” So was I till the day I decided to do something different.
I was 17 going on 18 and I had been relaxing my hair for years. If it wasn’t relaxed it was always blow-dried and straightened. I would spend hours the night before frying my hair to bone straight perfection. That was what society deemed ‘acceptable’ so that was what I fed my mind until one day I decided to make a change. Little did I know that that change would come with hurt feelings and hiding a part of who I am once again.
I had learnt how to put my hair in twists at night and let it out in the morning. This was one of my go-to tricks when I’d wear my natural hair (there were times I’d go up to 8 months without relaxing and only blow & straighten). One day I decided I’d wear my hair natural at school and so I did.
When I walked into my first class the white kids started to laugh at my hair asking, “What did you do?” “Where you electrocuted?” The black kids felt my hair and would ask why it’s not coarse or why it felt like cotton; “You’re not really black then”, they’d say to me. After that day I was so overwhelmed with emotions of hurt and I knew then I wouldn’t wear my natural hair for a very very long time.
My big turnaround came towards the end of 2015. Mid-year I had bleached my hair and the ends were fried & dyed to death so I had to chop them off. My friend had been researching natural hair and I asked her to share with me tips on how to take care of my natural hair and I myself began to do my own research and I started buying the correct products and wearing my hair natural with the occasional straightening.
This time around I wasn’t in high school and over the years I had grown a thicker skin. The world around me had grown and was more socially aware and accepting of change so if there were negative comments I knew those words wouldn’t affect me as much as they had years before.
In 2016 after experimenting with different hair colours for months and bleaching more than I should, I went and did ‘the big chop’. I must admit I felt like “What did I do? Now I look like a boy.” But eventually I fell in love with my new look. My hair was growing at a steady pace and more importantly it was healthy and strong. This time around I was accepting of myself rather than accepting of what others expected.
My journey has been more than just switching lanes from chemical treatment to natural haircare. It’s been a journey of learning self-love; not letting the opinions of others affect me enough to change who I am and making sure I have beautiful strong hair to show for it.
Paloma ka-David Ncoco, is a 23 year old creative and designer who currently lives in Sandton, Johannesburg. Her passion in life is creating whilst using many different art forms to do so. She completed two courses in makeup and photography and is currently working as a photographer and makeup artist whilst making plans to complete her fashion degree. Paloma is a strong young woman who is determined to live life not bound by the opinions of others.
I’m so grateful to Paloma for sharing her personally painful but hopeful experience in seeking out her true identity. She has reminded us that your journey with your hair goes far deeper than the external. It is an expression of what is going on within you.
What has transitioning to natural hair meant for you personally? What challenges/obstacles have you faced in this journey? I would love to hear about your experiences too.
Do you get that many civilisations are born through you and because of you?
It may come to others as though I am being biased because I am black and have been raised by you, a black woman. If you look around, however, Nubian Queen, you’ll notice, many other races are raised by you too.
Dear black African Queen,
Do you understand your value and how much you give back?
It’s said that when a woman has money, her society is always blessed. She will always sow seeds of development in her society because she naturally gives back. I have seen this in my own home. How my mother would take care of cousins and send them to school with our home’s collective incomes. We would move from country to country and she would bring someone from her home village to educate and care for.
You have changed lives Nubian Queen, because of your generosity, consideration and love for your people.
Dear black African Queen,
Do you know how tough you are?
How resilient you have to be in the work place? How opportunities that land in your hands can sometimes be leftovers from those before you but somehow with little you make much.
You rise, dominate and sustain.
Dear black African Queen,
I bow in adoration of your resilience, selflessness and ability to raise nations.
More importantly, however, I hope you appreciate yourself just as much too.
A Young Black African King
What are your thoughts on this letter? Do you see yourself in this light bAw? What else would you add to this letter?
Before you go sis, here are a few things you may be interested in:
We have a Hiking Event to celebrate you gorgeous bAw this Sunday the 27th of August at Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve in the South of Joburg. If you desire to get out, meet other bAw and hear inspiring stories about how to best reflect on your life and live it in a way that God desires for you, this get-together is for you. We will have a lovely picnic after our short hike and some uplifting words from our older sisters who have learnt the value of taking stock of their lives. Come and let’s Heal, Exhale and Reflect together.
Would you like to be part of a community of women who are daily speaking and seeking healing for different aspects of their lives and returning to their true identity in Christ? Then join us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to receive daily encouragements and connect with like-minded sisters!
This Women’s Month, my team and I really wanted to celebrate black African women (bAw) each day on our social media pages. To celebrate God’s gift of women who are making waves as activists, artists, and go-getters but also to celebrate our everyday sisters, friends, mothers and daughters. To be able to capture the essence of who the bAw truly is as formed by God.
I remember watching the movie “Neria” as a young girl and being moved by the plight of the widow Neria. That movie was ahead of its time and clearly highlighted the struggle of the black African woman in a patriarchal society. And so, it was a life-changing moment when my sister Rumbi reached out to the author of “Neria”, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and she agreed to engage in a conversation about her experience as a bAw.
Today, I would like to share her genuine and inspiring insights:
Rumbi Dube: What is the greatest hurdle you have had to overcome as an African woman?
Tsitsi Dangarembga: The greatest hurdle I have had to overcome as an African woman is lack of access to resources to maximize on my abilities, skills and achievements. Sometimes this hurdle manifests socially because society tells you that a black woman can only do this or this but not that. When society makes that decree, there is little to no support when you as a black woman opt to do the thing society has indicated you should not do.
This can even begin in the home as you grow up, because most of our families are patriarchal, this includes our mothers. Many of us have had patriarchal mothers. I am glad to see some change in this respect, but there is still a long way to go. At other times the hurdle is material, for example, when I have no access to resources, such as land and buildings to realise a dream that needs to go further. At yet other times the hurdle is lack of access to human resources because men or political parties or patriarchal women – of which there are many – may not support your excellence. The hurdle is also financial since, generally, as a black African woman, you are excluded from capital.
As a black African woman on the continent, you are generally relegated to donor aid and this donor aid is usually tied to political or another form of power. It is also predicated on a world view that sees Africa as a continent of peasants who need to be saved. So if you are not grass roots, and do not need to be saved, but need to be empowered to fly, you seldom qualify for donor aid. I call this financial apartheid. This brings me to the last hurdle in that the cumulative outcome of all these other hurdles is that one’s ability to contribute to one’s community and society is seriously compromised.
RD:What do you wish the black African woman would come to realise?
I wish black African women would come to realise that we have to work together, that when we work together we can produce more than the sum of what we produce individually. I also wish that black African women would realise we have to pull ourselves together and stop accepting a victim identity. A victim identity is extremely dangerous as it can become an excuse for all sorts of negative tendencies and behaviours. When captured in a victim mentality, people tell themselves, ‘It’s all right for me to do this because…’ They justify actions that are clearly not acceptable. This results in serious ills for society. In short, a victim attitude encourages selfishness, which, in spite of the Kardashians, is not cool.
RD:Which African women inspire you?
TD: Women of my generation have few female role models on the continent. We have to be the role models for ourselves and others.
RD: What legacy would you like to leave for other African women?
TD: I would like people to say of me, ‘She never, ever gave up’. In terms of external results, in the same way that black African women are too often excluded from capital and ownership, we are excluded from representing ourselves in narrative as we see ourselves in our diversity, agency and beauty. Narrative, like resources is power.
Narrative is particularly important because we learn about the world, come to understand it and communicate with each other through narrative. The exclusion of black African women from narrative is another reason why we have few role models. So my desire is to create a strong institution that can focus on telling the stories of African women from the point of view of African women in a way that is accessible to many and has powerful impact. This means film, rather than writing. Writing has its uses and I pursue it also, but film is ideal on the continent for reaching wide audiences.
A decade ago, having realized this, I designed a project called Hitting a High Note. It was to portrait at least half a dozen exemplary African women of achievement in half hour documentaries to record their stories for posterity so as to act as inspiration for future generations. Well, that project never saw the light of day. But I persevere. I have already begun setting up the institution. It is called the African Women Filmmakers Hub. Our pilot programme is successfully being carried out in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Malawi with support from the Ford Foundation. The next step is to roll out the five year programme across the continent and to create an African women’s film fund that will exist for a minimum of five years in order to enable a critical mass of African women to tell the stories that are important to them.
RD:What does the future hold for Tsitsi Dangarembga?
TD: I have a confident expectation that I will realise my career dreams. They all revolve around boosting the creative industries and growing the creative economy on the continent. As human beings, our creativity is the path through which our inner being is manifest. If we do not sustain our own creativity and its products, we will end up consuming and mimicking the products and creativity of others. The world will be a poorer place if this happens and will not develop in the way that is intended, because black African women are on this planet to participate and contribute as much as everyone else. Preventing their participation and contribution is preventing the great plan of being from coming to its best fruition.
Thank you Tsitsi for engaging with us and giving us insight into your journey and life as a bAw. It was humbling and encouraging to see that someone who has already achieved so much in her life faces similar challenges and struggles to us who are getting started. We wish you more love, joy and strength, as well as God’s best in all your future endeavours!
To my bAw family, I hope today is a special day for you as you are celebrated for being a beautiful creature of God! I also hope that the experiences of our fellow bAw, Tsitsi Dangarembga, encourage you to continue to pursue the purposes and goals God has placed on your life in spite of the resistance you may face. That we may truly band together and uplift one another as women in fulfilling the great work God has imparted on our lives.
Happy Women’s Days sisters!
About Tsitsi Dangaremba
Born in Mutoko, Zimbabwe, filmmaker, playwright, poet and activist Tsitsi Dangarembga completed her education in her home country, where she worked as a copywriter and started writing seriously as a poet and playwright. She obtained her Masters in Filmmaking from the German Film and Television Academy Berlin. She has produced several documentaries and has credits on most of Zimbabwe’s feature film classics, including EVERYONE’S CHILD, which she co-wrote and directed.
She lives in Harare where she founded the production house Nyerai Films and the International Images Film Festival for Women. She also founded the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa where she works as director. She has received international awards for her prose and film work. Her award winning short music KARE KARE ZAVKO (MOTHER’S DAY, 2005) was screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
The gorgeous black African Queens that formed a part of the first “Natural Hair Appreciation High Tea” event!
This past Sunday, a group of twenty-something women decided to commune and have some tea while appreciating the crown of glory God has blessed them with. “What crown of glory?”, you may ask. The natural hair each of these ladies has been blessed with – free from harmful chemicals and manipulation.
We had our dear sister Zanele share her experience with finally going natural and embracing her natural hair as being a reflection of who she really is close to the age of 40. It really is never too late to choose to do what is best for your hair.
Then yours truly gave a brief outline on the history behind black hair and why we perceive it the way we do today. I also shared my reasons for going natural and how it is a part of our identity and is important in God’s eyes.
Thandiwe from Afrolocology (who co-hosted the event with me), then gave great insights into the myths around natural loose and loc’d hair, as well as practical tips on how to care for one’s natural hair.
We also had such yummy treats to indulge in, and the ladies got some cute little take-aways! We enjoyed talking about and sharing our journeys with natural hair, while encouraging each other to patiently care for our crowns. The ladies also had so many questions that opened our eyes up to natural hair and how it impacts one’s whole life and identity. In future, we will be discussing broad topics around natural hair including how to best style one’s hair or how to figure out your hair type, amongst other things.
I would like to give a BIG thank you to my sisters who helped to plan and co-host this awesome high tea event! Sis’Nosi, Zanele, Rumbi and Thandiwe, your assistance and support was unmatched and I’m truly grateful to have you! To all the ladies who came to be a part of this very first Natural Hair event, thank you! Your presence made an impact and we so look forward to hosting you again soon.
Look out for more of these and other events at bAw!