Pop culture has made it possible for coloured girls to rock their curly hair a.k.a ‘wetlook’ as confidently as ever. More so, “big hair don’t care” has since also become a term coined in modern society among everyone. However, we all know that this has not always been the case and in some cases, the struggle continues. I write this piece not only to share my personal experience but to relate to all the girls who find themselves in the natural hair journey and what a journey it is indeed.
My name is Desiree Tan, a proud coloured girl from Witbank (Emalahleni), Mpumalanga. I was born in a small coloured township called Schoongezicht, which is locally known as ‘Overline’. I wouldn’t say there is an ideology of what a girl’s hair needs to look like, as people from my town pretty much come from all walks of life. While some take hair a bit more seriously than others, it’s all open for self-expression and convenience. Growing up, my mom latched onto the trend that all the mothers were jumping into- which was to relax their daughter’s hair. According to my mom, this was to manage my hair conveniently. According to me, it’s a way of subconsciously planting the idea into a little girl’s head that her hair isn’t good enough. Also, the damage that is seen later, takes away from the natural curl of the hair. So in my opinion, why do it?
Eventually, I was old enough to do my own hair and I could then decide what I wanted to do with my hair. Unfortunately, by then I had been sucked in so deep into the relaxing habit and continued with it into my early teenage years. When it was time for me to go to varsity, which obviously exposed me to a whole lot more, that too, changed my hair journey. By then I was already conditioned to think that my hair wasn’t good enough (toe dink ek mos my draad is nie so lekke nie) I had now been swept up by the weave trend. I had saved up and purchased myself a Brazilian weave. Toe dink ek mos nou is ek aan die brand and I kept up that superficial façade. Such is life I suppose and with a little more growth and self-confidence, I was no longer bothered what society might have thought. I haven’t relaxed my hair in at least 6 years and started wearing it out as a proper ‘boskop’. As awkward as that may have been at times, with my damaged and undefined curls, I persevered with my natural hair journey to this very day.
Wanne doen jy jou hare?
This was now the question that was often posed by my mother, simply because I no longer wore my hair as what was expected. In fact, let’s speak a bit about expectations when it comes to hair in the coloured community. If you were privileged enough to cross paths with coloured people from different parts of South Africa, you would realise that perceptions around hair differ while at the very same time are exactly the same. Follow me on this, while people in the Cape and Pretoria area are pretty much obsessed with doing their ‘glade hare’ and have their Ghd’s very close, which in itself is an idea that promotes what ‘great hair’ needs to be perceived as. Far and between these places, ‘different’ is a whole lot more accepted.
Like most things, we are often influenced by what we’ve gone through and know to be right and the correct way. As cliché as it may sound, Apartheid had a lot to do with what coloured people consider to be good hair. The pencil test, as they referred to it, was used in those years to determine whether coloured people should be classified as ‘black’ or ‘white’. This was done by running a pencil through one’s hair, if it got stuck, it would be considered a fail. Apart from the colour of your skin, this test would determine how the Apartheid government would racially identify you. In this case, the issue of hair is a lot deeper than we may think.
The notion that beautiful hair is straight and long is common among most. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against this, at times I too do the occasional blow-dry. However, people should feel free to wear their hair any way they want without being labelled lazy, rebellious or simply seen as having ugly hair.
Lastly, while our wet looks as coloured mase kinders don’t look the same, you might be referred to as boskop, kroeskop or woeskop- either way do not be deterred, keep doing you onse kind. It’s unfortunate that even within our own community we have rigid ideas of what is considered beautiful hair and beauty overall. While this article will not change the minds of everyone, I hope it sparks a sense of pride in all my boskop club members. Next time they ask you, Wanne doen jy jou hare? Simply respond:
Wie sê my hare is nie klaar gedoen nie?