New York City, NY — by Mika Chipana
This story was originally published on New York University’s Washington Square News.
Hair matters. It is a part of our identity, our sense of self. Hair is an extension of culture, a unified experience. But my hair did not start mattering to me on a personal level until I had to love it and nourish it on my own.
Growing up in South Africa, my mother did my hair. It was a tedious exercise with broken combs and tears. Even now, when she oils my scalp, it’s a moment that bonds us. In South Africa, hairdressers take over when our moms grow tired of fighting with our coils. Eventually, hairdressers become a part of our families — that is how strong the bond is.
I didn’t realize what a luxury it was for me to be able to go to one of the multiple nearby salons every two weeks to have my locs freshly washed, twisted and braided. What cost me a reasonable $20 in South Africa now costs me $140 in America.
Why is something that can be cut and grown back so central to our identity? Faced with limited hair products and even fewer natural hair salons after moving to the United States, my hair became something that set me apart.
Even in a majority-Black country like South Africa, the range of hair products designed for my hair type could have been broader. But in the United States, seeing shelves after shelves of products for white hair but just a couple of products that worked for my hair frustrated me. In America, my hair became a part of my Blackness and my identity.
Read the rest of the story at Washington Square News.