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Opinions Sat, 27 Jul 2013

Every African woman exudes heavenly beauty

WITHOUT A KITSCH WIG (PART 2 OF 2):

Compatriots,

The title of this feature is exactly its aim. Because Africa is the origin of human civilization, every African woman is the mother of civilization. Therefore, every African woman is a representative princess who epitomises humanity. She exudes indescribable heavenly beauty without a kitsch (tasteless) alien wig. This is a two-part article. Part 1 of this extended cultural criticism of African hair and cosmetology was posted recently. This is the second and last part.

AFRICAN IDENTITY, SLAVERY & COLONIALISM

There is also an anti-imperialist analysis of Caucasian-looking wigs on African beauties. It points out those who do so unconsciously replicate old Plantation Slavery and colonial psycho-cultural relationships that was imposed on enslaved Africans during Plantation Slavery by vicious European supremacists (this happened on African continent, the Caribbean Islands and Americas). Historical analysts, hierarchically explain those who uncritically mimic European looks and culture unconsciously regurgitate visual-aesthetic notions that position them at the top of beauty and desirability (see: Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair, by Ayana Byrd, Lori Tharps eds. http://www.amazon.com/Hair-Story-Untangling-Roots-America/dp/0312283229; The roots of 'good hair' are about survival, not beauty, by Lori L Tharps, http://thegrio.com/2009/10/09/i-know-a-lot-about/http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/black-hair-care-and-culture-story).

Personally I try, now I am older and less prescriptive (if still culturally critical) to understand the human rights of women – all women – to alter, make-up, reconstitute and dramatise a make-believe world as much they wish for themselves. So, of course, we women and men can alter and obliterate any part of our bodies (hair, skin, anatomy - orifices and appendages) and couture (cloths - sartorial) as we wish. What I argue here is that, a sense of balance must be considered in Africa’s body and hair madness. Our women and men must try to use natural cosmetic products which reasonably match their natural species/racial selves. Clownishness is no option!

What do I mean ‘clownish’? Africans generally have darker hue skin types compared to brownish, pinkish Asians and Europeans for example. So, one would expect those who wish to use cosmetics to adopt subtle approaches to making-up their skins and hair to compliment their darker skins. But you would agree that it is illustratively ‘clownish’ say, for a group of very dark-skinned young African men and woman to wear long blond wigs; lengthened their noses; bleached and pink-pale their skins; enlarged their appendages (up and down); reduce or enlarge their torsos; do liposuction and Botox operations, etc. They would definitely look alien, ghostly and Martian - clownish!

A subtle self-pampering covering and touching up of hair and body (for deserving older people, of course) cannot be amiss. I cannot understand relative infants messing around with chemicals unless they are witches and wizards working in an apothecary!

SENSIBLE COSMETOLOGY

The light blond hair look, in contrast with the deep dark ‘chocolate’ skin, will be aesthetically too contrasted - extreme. It will displace the point of aesthetic cohesion one assumes for that body colour type. There will be visual dissonance. What do I mean? People will comment negatively under their breath! Of course, this extreme contrast dissonance will not hold so blatantly if that African was called, Beyonce, Rihanna or Nickie Minaj - who is extra bleached light brown-skinned African anyway. So why risk your health copying them? - or have you got a death wish or something?

A more straight forward interpretation will be that extreme hair contrast indicates a totally brainwashed person who wishes to be ‘white’. This will fit the old colonial representation of the Ma Jemima-Uncle Tom, buffoonish, Sambo, Pickinini, carnival (‘cannibal’?), black-on-white minstrel show – where Africans imbibed and aped white racial archetypes to bolster their own trampled-down self-images as ‘arrived’ members of Plantation and colonial Society (incidentally this is also what our modern day politicians are doing - neo-colonial aping)!

To further expand our cultural freedoms, the way around this is to extend the limits of the “Blacks don’t crack” myth. I believe this holds not much can be done with the African in cosmetics. The cruel extension of this is that being ‘black’ defeats us from the long-term harm of dangerous cosmetic experimentation. But the ‘blacks don’t crack’ notion is challenged by, Andre Walker (Oprah Winfrey’s former hairdresser) who mercifully assures us we are not as ‘black’ we think – there is a little whiteness in us (most African-American women have warm undertones) so our blackness can ‘crack’! They are ‘light-brown’ (not ‘black’) skinned. So it is necessary to adopt warm undertones’ and ‘strawberry blonde hues’ to complement their golden undertones:

“Sure, Beyonce's blonde hair looks gorgeous - but pulling off the Goldilocks style is impossible for most black women, right? Wrong. Oprah Winfrey's longtime hairstylist Andre Walker says creating a natural blonde look is simple if you know how to dye your hair blonde. The first step for anyone planning a hair color change is to figure out the undertones of your skin tone," says Walker. "The majority of African-American women have warm undertones, so it's important to go with honey or strawberry blonde hues that complement these golden undertones." Walker also suggests steering clear of cool shades, such as ash blonds and platinum. No matter your skin tone, mixing in the blonde color with your natural hair color is key. Opt for lots of highlights, which blend better with your natural color base.” (http://www.totalbeauty.com/content/gallery/african-american-beauty-myths/p113812/page3).

I have never heard such pigwash in my life. We are not only second class citizens in the Diaspora, we are second-class pink too? If we were not Africans and they Europeans, Asian, etc, who the hell are we? The only valuable wisdom in this racialised lie is what I have already stated - the colouration of our hair has to complement the warmth (light-brown) or coldness (dark) of our African skins.

Another approach is to keep one’s natural hair but enhance it through say, dying and styles of cropping. (Chie Teacher Kofi be hair dresser today oo! Na waa for public education!). I see family members, family friends and some of my students copying Rihanna’s hair styles blindly. This is better done first if the colouration of skin is taken into consideration in deciding what hair dye to use. Secondly one can adopt many styles including: edgy bangs and close-cropped back; classic long-locks-with-layers-'dos; piecey-soft-an-colorful hair styles (I have the foggiest idea what I am regurgitating now. Chei research na waa!):

“With its edgy bangs and close-cropped back, Rihanna's haircut is beginning to rival her in notoriety. If you're looking for a way to stand out in a sea of Katie Holmes bobs or the classic long-locks-with-layers-'dos, then check out these hot photos of Rihanna's versatile hair. Whether it's piecey or soft, colorful or not, she always turns heads.” (http://www.totalbeauty.com/content/gallery/p_rihanna).

CONCLUSION

I conclude by quoting verbatim a discourse I had with a Danish woman in response to this post in public space: ‘What a looong post! Seems to be competing with the hair of ms Mandela. What has hair colour and styles got to do with slavery? I fail to see the connection!’

I immediately replied: ‘I like comprehensive posts that achieve their objectives. It was written in 4 hours. It must be read in stages. This is what I like doing - educating!’

She countered: ‘I think people should be allowed to play with their hair styles and clothes styles as they please. But it is good to put some focus on which signals we may be sending by choosing this or that style (or lack of style)... Grey hair looks great on people with tanned, brown or black skin. And I dont think blonde dyes are far from the natural greys as to contrast towards the skin. Any colour that goes in clothes with the complexion may also go as a hair dye. But maybe it is too youthful in the long run to have purple, blue and green hairstyles too. But I do love when people think AND dress out of the box. Maybe because I am a bit boring in that field myself...’

I replied: ‘Certain colours - grey and blond - while acceptable in couture as complementary hues, instantly age youthful African people who have darker skins. A friend of mine in Jamaica changed her hair to grey. I could not recognise her when I saw it. Also the memory and realities of European Plantation Slavery - which, incidentally Denmark actively partook (I will inbox you for some historical info) - has vivid resonance for the cultural, economic, social and political lives of Africans today.

‘My objective is to highlight and help combat such negative influences - to liberate minds. Read the article closely. The connection is lost somewhere in the stratagem of a sound knowledge of the vicissitudes wrecked on Africa by the hierarchical, colour-coded system that operated during both during European Plantation Slavery and colonisation!’

Regards

Columnist: Kofi of Africa