This week I released myself from my braids. They had been in for way too long due to laziness and mental health struggles (see post on depression), and now I was ready for a change. Or rather, I was ready to once again let my natural hair reign supreme for the summer.
The arduous task of taking out the braids however, means more than a few hours of untwisting hair and wistfully dreaming that maybe this time around, your natural hair will conform to your every will and not remain the unruly mess it was the last time you tried to rock an afro. As usual however, I always dream too damn big.
My natural hair has not been straightened or relaxed in well over five years, and yet it remains a mystery to me. It’s not very thick or very long, and if anything, it could be described as “wiry” and “not meant for the head of a woman” but those are just phrases that have been going around my head. Nevertheless, I feel more like myself when I have my natural hair out. And that is not to say that I think I look better au naturel. If anything, I probably look better with braids, but I also look less like the me that I recognise. Confusing, no?
I suppose what I mean is, having natural afro hair these days has many connotations and assumptions attached to it; you’re an artist, a free spirit, in touch with your African ancestors and family ties, and you know something about your own culture, therefore you are separate from the British culture you might have been raised in, etc. Granted, not everyone attaches such assumptions to afro hair, and in the London bubble people don’t even bat an eyelid at you in public, let alone recognise your hairstyle change as “outlandish”.
But I like being considered as those things above; the artist factor being the most significant as it feels the truest thing about me. I am not nearly as in touch with my Ghanaian heritage as I would like to be, and I think “free spirit” is the last thing anyone who’s ever met me would refer to me as. Yet I let my braids out, look into my slightly dull coloured fro, throw on a dashiki and think; Yeah, I could be her, I could be free and creative and not stuck in a 9-5 job. I could write about whatever I wanted to and meet up with all my artist friends and set the world to rights with a new book or poem. I could do all those things if I just…did them.
Then, I might fuss some more with my hair, feel fairly dissatisfied with what I was seeing in the mirror, and brace myself for comments in the office about how I changed my appearance since last week. I guess for me the natural hair is a step in the direction I want to head towards; where I am comfortable in who I am, and I am creating. And even though I am surrounded online and sometimes in person via the poetry scene, with natural haired goddesses who fuel their life with art and have found a way not to compromise on that, I still don’t know where I fit into that narrative.
I don’t speak my Ghanaian family’s tongue, or visit the country very often. And I write under a different name to the one on my LinkedIn profile, of a person I am beginning to recognise less and less. But I am counting down an unknown amount of time until I can leave this life and fully get into the creative space I should have always been in. So letting my natural hair fly free may not seem like a huge step in the grand scheme of things, but it is at least, a step.
Who knows, maybe I’ll dye it or something.
Image credit: Afro by Delluxo from the Noun Project