These days it is common to see women in Nigeria replicating natural hairstyles of what many often refers to as the good old days. In this piece Azubuko Onyeka, takes a look at factors that may be fueling the trend.
In the early African Civilization, one’s family background, age, marital status, religion, wealth, social rank could be indicated from hairstyle. The African hair is known for its spongy full and tough nature
Lori Thanps a journalist in his book ‘Hair Story about History of Black Hair’ stated “Just about everything about a person’s identity could b learned by looking at the hair.” Combs where heated on stove or gas heater to straighten natural hair because of how tough it was.
During Slave Trade, Africans took alot of their customs with them including their special designed combs.
In the 19th century, slavery was abolished and most Africans felt they had to blend in with the society, and adjusted their hair hence applying relaxer. Black people felt compelled to smoothen their hair and texture to fit in easier, and to blend into the society better. It was more like a camouflage.
The afro hair came back to existence in the 1960s’ during the civil right movement it Natural hair transition was as a symbol of Rebel and pride.
As the natural hair trend takes over United state and Europe, African countries also joined the bandwagon. The natural hair movement in Nigeria, has been quite fascinating to watch. Gone are those days when the ‘Team Natural ‘ in Nigeria, was for spiritual people . Most Nigerian women especially youths do not relax their hair anymore.
If anyone had said a time will come when Nigerians will quit using relaxer one would have said never. At some point Nigerians couldn’t do without relaxer. Even the young ones were not spared. Children also had their hair relaxed mostly because combing it can be very painful and tough so why not relax it and make it softer. But now with the help products such as shea butter and some natural oil, maintaining natural hair has been made easy. People now feed their hairs more than they feed themselves. Using some natural products such as avocado, sheabutter, banana, onion and even okra to treat and soften natural hair.
Natural hair doers, refer to themselves as ‘naturalists, #teamNatural, Fro, etc. however as the massive growth of natural hair increases in Nigeria there has been some speculation as to whether people are going natural because of the recent economy meltdown or is it just a trend?
Tosin Abayomi-Baba a newly transitioned naturalist expressed how expensive it is to maintain natural hair even with natural products “ I think it’s a wonderful trend. Its has made many ladies appreciate their natural hair rather than extensions and all. I also think the trend is making ladies prettier and younger. Maintaining a healthy natural hair is expensive i used to buy avocado pear for N100, today I went and its N150, and egg is now N50 for one. Which way Nigeria?”
At Utako market abuja most of the market women into buy and selling of hair care products such as relaxers, complained bitterly on how bad demand for relaxer has reduced. Mrs Okonkwo a shop owner is Utako said “for the past three years, the number of people that request for relaxer has reduced and keeps reducing.” She also stated that her business is taking a change as she will specialize in selling natural hair products only. “I cannot keep buying what people are not buying. I have relaxer that have expired because people are not buying.” She added.
While others see it as a bad market, Rachael Ogali CEO of Radiant Black Soap abuja tells us how demands for her hair care products have been especially from naturalistas. “Well I’m amazed at the amount of ladies joining the ‘Fro Family’ it just shows that we are gradually appreciating our roots. I doubt it’s the recession. Natural hair products are expensive and it requires alot of attention and care. Trust me recession has nothing to do with it. It’s just the beauty and self esteem people get when you’re natural. Having people say you’re hair is gorgeous, omg it’s so soft. The compliment can make a bad day turn good. Demand for product increasing both for natural and those transitioning. Its crazy how much products natural hair consumes. Once you’re product can help tame the ‘tangle spongy dragon’ trust me you can’t keep up with demands.
Fashion designer Ruth Chukwu of WELES COUTURE Portharcourt a Fashionista and Naturalista, gave us a fashion view on Natural hair “From the fashion angle, a whole lot of styles from years back are coming back to play and actually look good when rocked with natural hair. “
The healthy aspect of natural hair is not left out , as Azeezatu Bakare a naturalist, and a Medical student of ABU Zaria explained
“ I think its helping ladies be more aware of their hair. They now know that if you take good care of your hair, it will grow and be healthy and long. They also know that straight hair isn’t the definition of beautiful hair. It helps them to be more conscious hygienically and prevents any preventable causes of hair loss.”
The guys were not left out on the matter. Kelion Nwohamba of KelionArts had his own few words saying Natural hair is not for everyone. “ I don’t like the Smell of Ori (sheabutter) but it’s just like keeping beards. If it fits you then that’s fine. I also think it’s cheaper to maintain. Reduces stress on ladies. Too many women spend lot of time in the salon. Its up to the ‘babe’ to do what she wants. Who will love will love you. If the person can’t deal let him die. It’s just like a babe telling me she doesn’t like my beards”
Natural hair is the new Brazilian hair in Nigeria.