Afros! We’ve seen a surge of movements across the globe, interrogating and challenging the plight of struggles black people have been fighting against for decades. Unlike previous generations, today, we are at liberty to voice out injustices and express our dissatisfaction with the systems that hinder us from living our lives as authentically, and progressively as we’d like to. Of course, the struggles of reversing systematic oppression still ensue and the road is still long, however, we ought to acknowledge those who continuously stand in the gap, fighting for what is right.
While paging through the vital life lessons that Gogo teaches young Lisakhanya, I couldn’t help but smile, and feel a sense of pride as I reflected on the importance of instilling positive teachings about our African history, and affirmations of our black identity through a kiddie’s book titled, My Coily Crowny Hair, authored by Zulaikha Patel.
Zulaikha first gained the world’s attention when she became the face of the fight against institutionalised racism, camouflaged as hair restrictions, at Pretoria High School for Girls, at the young age of 13. She led a protest against racism, and for the decolonisation of hair policies in schools. This was followed by several protests across schools in South Africa, as a result caused a media frenzy that resulted in Zulaikha Patel being a household name as an activist.
The history of the afro can be traced back to our continent, Africa. Afros, braids, and other tribal hairstyles were the norm, and continue to form part of black culture. Hair at some point was used to define roles, hierarchy, status, and within the tribes’ community. It was also used as a way for the women to gather together and socialise, like in a modern-day hair salon. These various styles and their symbolism have passed down from generation to generation.
In “Coily Crowny Hair”, important and vital life lessons, Gogo imparts on the two girls as she ushers them through the museum, are pivotal in teaching young girls and boys, that it is perfectly alright to have confidence and pride in your hair.
African culture, its traditions and heritage have a long way of documentation in storytelling. With a historic dominance of Western media, across the continent and perceived views of what is appropriate culture has played a big role in the way people view hair. An example would be the much debated biases around synthetic hair, in order to fit into everyday life and especially the work environment (to a large extend caused by storytelling in books, magazines, and motion pictures).
This is why books such as these are welcomed and much needed, to tip the scale towards a prominent global acceptance of African black culture.
This discriminatory bias on what is acceptable in hair affects our mothers, sisters, daughters in magnitude and to what end shall it continue to be an acceptable passive aggressive racial bias. “My Coily Crowny Hair by Zulaikha Patel begins the journey for young people to never feel like they don’t because of their hair.
I don’t have children yet, but I do hope this book survives through to my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.