Solange’s Don’t Touch My Hair served as a declaration for black women, that their hair is an extension of who they are and that it’s their crown of glory. India.Arie’s I am Not My Hair was a bold statement from the inner being, vehemently saying the scrutiny she faces can’t be based on the exterior. The contradiction of the two ideologies in the songs is an epitome of women’s differing feelings towards hair. Moriri. Izinwele. Misisi. It can be such a contentious topic.
I’ve had the fine thread stands in my head for the past few days since watching Chris Rock’s 2009 doccie Good Hair again a few days ago. In addition to that, I’ve been witness to a salvo of posts from female friends on social media about their anxiety of being unable to do their hair during this lockdown. While some females are shit scared that they’ll be looking like Ol’Dirty Bastards lost daughters during this time, others see this as an opportunity to just let their hair down and not worry about looking the part for anybody, for the next few weeks.
“Actually I’ve never really thought about that, ukuthi izinwele zami yicrowd. Eish angazi” says Smangele Vilakazi, laughing. She currently has cornrows and says she usually wears her hair natural as an afro if she doesn’t feel like wearing a weave. “No, this lockdown hasn’t brought any anxiety because my hair doesn’t require too much work. I just wash it, let it dry and then it’s good.” Smangele changes her hairstyle every month, depending on what style she’s wearing.
“I have locks, I never call them ‘dreadlocks’ because there is nothing dreadful about my hair,” Nobantu Baba tells me. “Currently with the lockdown, I let my hair hang loose only indoors, I usually have it in different styles or wrapped up in a turban, but I never strain it with tight pulling hairdos. I try to keep it simple.”
Conspiracy theorists will be happy to know that Nobantu is more concerned about the virus making home in her hair, than the anxiety brought by not being able to visit a salon. “I’ve heard theories of the virus getting stuck on your hair, so I don’t take chances. With grooming it, I don’t stress much because it probably needs a break too. I’m also lucky to have my boyfriend who has experience grooming natural hair, so he mixes up special oils to keep the skull nourished and he styles it when needs be.”
Thando Dhaza loves her mane, but doesn’t see it as a crown. “I have cornrows, I always have cornrows if not braids,” she says. “[The lockdown] has caused some anxiety because I do my hair every three weeks.”
Similar to Nobantu, Nicole Ling-Ling Sidell finds herself on lockdown with someone who can do her hair. “I’m not a salon person, I do my hair myself. But with the braids, I got lucky because I’m in lockdown with my sister-in-law who is really bomb with hair. And she did it for free,” Nicole says.
She bats for Team Solange in that she sees her hair as her pride. “Let me tell you something. Hair is very important to women, but for me it goes a level up because I’m a fashionista. It completes my looks, an outfit can be really dope but without the perfect hairstyle, might as well not rock it.”
“I’m currently growing my natural hair from scratch because it got damaged as a result of my recent obsession with bleach. I wear a wig most of the time, but since the lockdown I got box braids. Really long ones, been wanting to do them for a while but didn’t have the time to. So now well, we all got time currently,” says Nicole laughing. She washes her hair every three days and applies a special mixture of crushed marijuana seeds and coconut oil.
Felicia, who is a hairstylists says the lockdown has affected her to a point where she has to operate as though she’s selling contraband. “I firstly never took this [Coronavirus outbreak] serious but I realised that big companies and big stores are being closed and we’re forced to be isolation. Me and a friend of mine manged to get a permit, which we had to fix at the internet café by adding our own names and details so that I’m able to go to Joburg to stock up.”
Her salon of more than five years, is situated in a double-garage in her yard and was forced to close by police last week.
Sitting with her, Felicia plays me WhatsApp voice notes from some of her customers who are inquiring if she’s open for business. “My business is operating, but I do house calls although it’s a challenge because you get there and someone tells you they forgot about the appointment or that they aren’t home.”
Whether you’re Team Solange or Team India.Arie, only you as a black woman know what your hair means.