Identity

 

Who am i?

At various stages in my life i have repeatedly asked this question. I searched for a definition, clung to numerous labels and sought validation all in a bid to find myself. I, like many people came to a realisation that i cannot be defined by a single sentence, or by the validation of others but rather that i am more than a single sentence or the name on my birth certificate.

My identity is a complex creation with an array of dimensions. African, Black, British, Female and 20 something are the boxes i tick on forms, however they do not quantify all that i am.

Today i patiently twisted my hair with coconut oil, moisturiser, Shea butter and castor oil. Many would associate these products with a ‘naturalista’, a person wearing their natural coily afro. Today i identified as a naturalista.

Growing up i struggled with my hair, in fact i hated my hair. I hated that it had a mind of its own, it was ‘wild’ short and dry. My hair was not classified as beautiful nor desirable, it was deemed ‘ugly’ and ‘unkept’. Shame was associated with my tiny coils that refused to grow and required effort, my mother made many trips to the hairdressers to make it ‘pretty’ however one by one the braids fell out. My scalp refused to comply and this refusal often saw me plead with God for long straight blonde hair like Becky in my class. A part of me is saddened by this recollection, slightly disgusted even. Why was my hair the dictator of my beauty, my identity and my self worth? Why did people laugh at my patchy braids, why did my mother cry over my tight coils and why did my teachers think it was okay to tell me that my hair was not good enough?

I spent endless hours in the salon getting my hair straightened by chemicals, chemicals that had no business gracing the scalp of an innocent child. My hair was straight, thin and short, most importantly straight. One step closer to looking like Becky with the good hair, one step closer to pleasing my teachers, finally mum looked at my hair with pride and i for a brief second felt beautiful… a week later it would break and i would be back to looking like an ‘unkept, wild little african boy’.

This story is not a bitter tale of self hate, it is a reflection of growth. The internet has provided me with a powerful network filled with other girls like me who have grown up failing to reach the bar of beauty. It has enabled me to find peace with my natural beauty, to recognise that there is more to my identity than the length and type of my hair.

My hair is short, it is classified as 4C the kinkiest type there is. It is beautiful. I am no longer ashamed of my hair, it is my hair after all, i mean no amount of Brazilian or Peruvian bundles will replace it because 4C is what my scalp grows and 4C is what God gave me. 4C is another box i now tick, a new dimension that represents a small part of my identity. I love my short, ‘wild’ afro, i am a proud naturalista.

xo

image source: pinterest.

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