Sister, I Like Your Hair!

Stolen from Around the Way Curls tumblr

Stolen from Around the Way Curls tumblr

So I’m walking down the street this weekend and a guy comes up to me, remarking ‘I like your hair. I love that you have gone natural’. He then launches on about the virtues of being an African women who has ’embraced what God has given her’, as well as asking me about my reasons not to weave my hair. This lasts for two minutes before we part ways. This is yet another natural hair conversation with a male stranger on the street that I catalogue away in my brain.

It seems no matter which city, London or Washington DC, the ‘Hey sister, I like your hair’ will be shouted in my direction when I’m going about my way. It amuses me. Sometimes, I like to stop and have a deep conversation of the politics of Afro hair or discuss ‘exactly how do you get your hair to do that?’ Other times, I just want to get to my destination and simply ‘I am not in the mood to discuss my hair with you, so please leave me to my thoughts’.

Sometimes I myself want to stop people on the street and ask them about their amazing twist out or incredibly puffy Afro. Mostly, I want to stop men with well-groomed ‘locs and admire their dedication and discipline. Yes, sometimes I want to shout ‘Brother/sister, I like your hair!’

Does this happen to you? Do you want to shout it out like me? Comment below!

Kenya’s first ever mockumentary on NGOs ‘The Samaritan

I’m so excited about this new series it’s unreal!!!

We all know NGOs have a bit of a bad reputation but it’s always been talked about in hushed tones, in the safety of our own home where no one would judge us for thinking the bulk of them are a waste of space. BUT this mockumentary brilliantly engages with and portrays the absurdity of some of the NGOs around!

Here’s the trailer. I don’t know where to find the entire series so if anyone does know please help a sister out and tell me!

The Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Terrence Nance

Terrence Nance, director of the film

At one point in the blog, I plugged this amazing Afro-hipster-indie movie, produced by Jay-Z, named ‘The Oversimplification of Her Beauty”. I finally got a chance to catch a screening of it this weekend with a friend of mine (also, named Winnie). It was showing at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton and I was determined to not miss this opportunity, especially as the director was hosting a Q&A right after.

I knew that when we got there, I’d be seeing some fellow Afros/natural hair beauties, but literally everyone there was the definition of Afrocentric. Locs, braids, Diana Ross worthy-fros: the whole mix. I loved it!

Winnie & I

Winnie & I

The movie itself was great. A whole mix of medium, switching between documentary-style footage to sketched drawings, in order to showcase the dynamics, and confusion, two people experience when starting a relationship. I won’t go too much into detail so as not to spoil it, but it’s an introspective take on the director, Terrence Nance, and his love life; past flames and future love interests. The real highlight was when Nance himself talked about the film at the end (alas through Skype, as he was in New York). Taking questions from the audience, Nance explained the arduous length of time editing – which was worth it, the film is a visual feast – as well as the peculiarity he felt showcasing his romantic journeys on screen to strangers.

If you get the chance, watch it, really! My friend Winnie & I remarked how ‘intellectual’ we felt catching a one-off screening of the film, which sounds ridiculous, but honestly, the film is just so different from what is usually being shown. Terence Nance will be in London promoting the film this week. The next screening is the 11th of February at the PictureHouse in Greenwich. Watch it!

On Race

Warning: This is a word heavy and photo scarce post!

We never grew up talking politics or sports in my parents home. It just wasn’t done. My dad worked too hard to have a social life and my mother, well sports was never an interest there. On politics there was an unspoken rule that it was crass to discuss that over dinner. In Kenya, politics is not simply a linear relationship of parties and causes. At the heart of it is ethnicity, tribal biases and clashes. You can’t talk politics without bringing up ‘the Luo’s’ and ‘the Kikuyu’s’ so my parents simply didn’t talk politics.

Race though is a whole other matter. My parents were brought up when there was still the euphoria of being an independent nation state with a government voted in by and run by Kenyans. At the same time, there was still the question of who were the whites to them now? What was the proper address for a man who was once master and now de facto had no right to their obedience? Did independence mean they could now go to the same school as master’s children?

We grew up under this shadow uncertainty of how the race roles had changed, if at all they had. We instinctively knew that there were some places you didn’t bother going to because you would be looked at ‘funny’. As the only black girl in my boarding house I was keenly aware of my colour, my culture, my past, the significance of it. Yet I struggled to find my place, feel comfortable in my own skin. I apologised for my accent, the fact that I pronounced words “wrong”. I tried to fade into the walls whenever the white Kenyans discussed black kenyans disparagingly. It’s not the easiest thing fading into a white wall when your skin is the colour of chocolate.

In 2013,  a lot of events, pieces of entertainment, music and movies inspired rhetoric on black empowerment, cultural appropriation and dilution, reverse racism and so on. It’s got me thinking a lot more than ever about what it means to be black. What racism means? Is there any such thing as reverse racism? Or is it an oversimplification of the true meaning of racism to say a bad experience on a 2 week holiday in Africa can equate to a lifetime of feeling less of a person because my colour wasn’t was associated with poverty, backwardness, lawlessness, unattractiveness (except for passing trends as if race can be a trend)?

This is more of a stream of consciousness than an argument for or against anything. It’s me trying to understand, placing my knowledge in the context of what has happened and what is happening.

What do you have to say on race? What’s your experience? Did you grow up with the same racial tensions my parents and consequently we grew up with? Was race a non-issue in your upbringing?

 

The crickets couldn’t get any louder if they tried.

Image

Your facial expression right now about our lack of blogging discipline. I know. I know. We really need to get our lives.

First and foremost Susan and I are jokers of the highest level. But in the spirit of moving forward I will move forward with a hair update because what is life without one of those right?

I finally got a wide tooth comb because my hair is now long enough to detangle but not long enough to finger detangle. It’s at this weird stage where nothing looks good also because I don’t really put in the effort to make it look good so I have resorted to conditioning, treating then slapping on (a really pretty) head scarf. I call that protective styling so I don’t feel too bad about it.

My hair goals for this year are:

  • To sleep through an entire night with a satin scarf or just by a darn sating pillow case! (I normally remove the scarf halfway through the night)
  • 6 inches of length. Right now my front hair reaches my eyebrows stretched. (Photo? what photo?)
  • Drink more water
  • Deep condition every week
  • Seal in the moisture….I get super lazy about this one sometimes
  • Protective style (braids are my go to protective style and I am braiding this week for 2 months then during my exam period for a month)

So the goal is off course healthy hair but I would be lying if i said I didn’t want some good old length as well.

Have a happy and healthy week!!

How to keep your natural hair moisturised in winter

Ladies and gentlemen the cold season is upon us once again and I for one could not be more excited if I tried! I love winter. I love wearing chic black coats and knee high black boots. I love layering my clothes and leather gloves. I love any excuse to drink copious amounts of hot chocolate. I love snuggling up in my big warm bed with a cup of tea and a good book as I watch the snow drift down my window. I especially love a good excuse to be antisocial – no way am I going out in winter unless I know for certain I’m going to meet my future husband if I do. True story. Don’t judge.

Despite my love of winter one part of me rebels against the cold. My hair. Afro hair tends to be drier than other hair types (I’m sure there are other people who can explain the science of why better than I can) but winter doesn’t really improve the situation. In fact, if anything my hair tends to become an even bigger and messier freeze ball of dry tangled hair. Nice.

As a result, I’ve taken great lengths this year to begin prepping myself for the cold. I read somewhere about the LOCO method (again go to someone more sciency for the science; I am an economist and have no time for reality). When it comes to regimens I just tend to do what feels right hence my lack of scientific backing for why I do what I do. If my hair responds to it then that’s good enough for me. Plus there are so many conflicting views on different regimens the best advice I can give you is ‘Do you boo!’

So back to the LOCO method. That stands for Liquid (water), Oil (coconut, olive, rapeseed etc.), Conditioner (leave in or otherwise), and Oil again.

LOCO METHOD

It’s a method of sealing in moisture into the hair to ensure your hair isn’t crispy and dry by the second day after you washed your hair.  Your supposed to apply the products onto your hair in that order to seal in moisture and condition your hair.

I’m trying to keep it simple with my products so I use olive oil or coconut oil for the oil part. I have shea butter which is a lot heavier and as it gets colder I am going to gradually replace the lighter oils with it for a stronger ‘hold’. For my conditioner I’m still going strong with the Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie and you know what they say; ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ I am tempted to try something new for fun but I’m also scared I’m going to wasted £12-£15 on a completely useless product. Does anyone else get that paranoia?

So far so good with the LOCO method. I do it every couple of days or when I remember that I have hair on my head. My hair feels so soft I’m shocked especially because I rarely comb it. I kind of just perk it up with water and pat it into shape in the morning. Lord! How I’m enjoying the hassle free life of short hair!!

What are your tips for locking in moisture during the winter months? Also do you guys wear silk scarfs under your woollen hats and beanies to stop them absorbing moisture? #struggleisreal 🙂

African Timing

So I live on African timing. It is what my life operates on. Unfortunately.

For all the newbies to this term, African timing aptly describes why your black friend never arrives at the time you tell them to.  It is the easy-going, ‘it can wait, the world isn’t ending’ attitude that will forever keep you late. At least according to Western time-keeping standards. It is the reason why you expect people to arrive at 4pm, when you scheduled the event for 2pm.

I have lived in the UK for 6 years now but I have not acclimatized fully to the point that I arrive to any function on time. Classes, lectures, part-time work, even job interviews, I have arrived to late; usually I’m 5 to 15 minutes off. In terms of African standards, that makes me an early bird. It does drive the people around me mad, mostly teachers, who are perplexed why each time, I still get to their class at least five minutes after it’s started. Some of my friends have learnt to live with it, my British friend Laura now adjusts her own timing to suit mine i.e. she’ll say meet at 10:30 while actually meaning 11.

I don’t want to say that this is in-built but I literally have no other excuse for it. I leave my home, certain that this time I will make it on time, but I never do. I have even gone so far as to set my watch 10 minutes early. It didn’t work. Still late.

This varies among people. Out of my friends, I am probably the most punctual and that is saying something. A Congolese friend of mine pushes the boundaries of African timing so far that even I am confused by the clock she runs on.

If African timing plagues your life, let us know in the comments box below. Or even better, if you aren’t African, but have your own version of it, let us know!

Note: I just found out the phenomenon has a Wikipedia page, go figure!

Iggy Azalea

This weekend I went with friends to see Iggy Azalea perform in Heaven. She was amazing! Worth the 2 and a half hour wait. Seeing her perform ‘Work’ and ‘Change Your Life’ live was surreal, especially when she draped herself with birthday cake across her body during one of the songs and the epic moment when confetti was blasted through the room during ‘Bounce’.

Note to the Heaven novices, this club has a ridiculously long queue to get in, especially on Saturdays, get there early! Something me and my friends learnt the hard way.

However, the main point of this post is my height. If you don’t know by now, I’m short. Well the correct terminology would be petite, but unfortunately ‘petite’ just doesn’t cut it during a concert. Each time I go to a gig, my neck gets the worst cramps as I try to move it into the most awkward positions trying to get a glimpse of the artist on stage. Or I strain my feet, standing on my tippy-toes throughout the whole performance. As my luck goes, I always get the annoying tall dude blocking my view, you know, the ones who choose to stand dead centre, rather than to the side. I have thought about heels but 1). they are the most uncomfortable things for me 2). the kind of gigs I go to don’t really lend themselves well to girls clunking along in heels.

Says it all

Says it all

I end up using my phone screen as a way to actually view the concert; pretending to take a picture/video but actually just trying to see the person I paid to see.

Unless I’m up for getting there insanely early to get a good spot, (highly unlikely since no matter how important the event, I will still run on African timing), then I will have to get used to massaging my poor neck, while admonishing my genes for my 5ft 1 stature.

Enamel Ware

My grandma on my dad’s side does not like change. We bought her a gas cooker and thought she’d jump for joy but she uses it as a counter top and still insists on cooking at the fireplace despite her back problems. Apparently, she has a deep distrust for cookers.

Fair enough.

I have a deep distrust for espresso.

I think that’s one of the most endearing things about her. She knows what she wants and in her own quiet way she will stand her ground till you get bored trying to change her.

One of her greatest loves is enamel cups. Off course in our language it doesn’t sound anywhere near as elegant and back in the village you get them for dirt cheap. Her theory (also shared by my mama’s mum) is that the tea tastes better in them as opposed to normal tea cups. You can tell where I get my peculiar ways and ideas from. I was going to buy both grandma’s a set of enamel cups for Christmas (not that we do Christmas presents if we are being honest) before it hit me how unnecessarily expensive they are in this country- The U of K. What maddness???

But, I’m a dreamer and I thought I’d show you guys what I wanted to get them so that we could, you know….discuss this matter and give enamel ware the level of respect and interest it deserves but rarely gets.

These are from Falcon. Purveyors of classic simplicity.

And these beauties are from Not On The High Street.

Hair Regimen Lately

As you all know I cut my hair about two months ago now. Check out the progress from relaxed till now.

The first photo is the most recent. Not the best light but I just realised I rarely ever take photos of myself so I have nothing else to. I don’t know what that says about me but I’m going to have to step up my game in that area. In terms of hair growth you can’t see it very well in the photo but it has (I promise I am not just being delusional) it has grown a little bit.

I’ve had a lot of fun not worrying about detangling and combing and all that kerfuffle. I even get to indulge in wash and go’s and let me tell you now, if you’ve got short hair please do not take those for granted you will probably never again be able to pull off a successful wash and go when your hair gains length. All long haired peeps (I was once nearly one of you) we all know what that means right?

What’s been the most interesting change since I cut my hair (although strictly speaking it’s probably not a change per se) is my hair texture. It’s a lot softer, fluffier and curlier than it was before. I have no idea why or how. Can anyone explain this?

I’ve decided to adopt a little bit of Susan’s approach to her hair regimen. She’s not really big on products. I personally like trying out stuff but I decided to keep it simple with my treatments. So now I use her hot oil treatment. Other than that I’m still using shea moisture curl enhancing smoothie and their dry scalp elixir which is supposed to stop itching. In the words of Tamar Braxton ‘lies you tell!!’ My scalp is ridonculously itchy and it’s driving me mad.

Conditioner wise I’m also still using the Giovanni Silk something or other conditioner. I had the shampoo but my brother used it all. I don’t think he understands that one does not use expensive hair products as liberally as if it were a £1 shampoo from poundland. Luckily he has got no idea what to do with conditioner so he has not touched that one…yet.

I told Susan I was going to do a length check but she burst out laughing incredulously. I agree it’s a silly idea what with no length but guys please take note of this picture, I shall come back to you at the end of my 10 week uni term and we shall compare. I have a feeling the results will be good…if only I can remember to sleep with a scarf on my head.