An Arab Perspective On Natural Hair

Cover of "Good Hair"

Good Hair- watch it!

I have natural hair.

An afro.

A big ass. Sexy. Afro.

I am an Arab girl. With an afro.

An Afro-Arab.

:-)

This is my coming out.

Because in the Arab world, as with every other ‘white obsessed’ culture, whiteness and sleek, straight hair is celebrated.

My grandmother has black silky hair to her butt.

My brothers have ‘good hair’

Silky soft, beautiful locks.

I, the only girl in the family, decided to go and grow a fro.

While everyone else chemically alters their hair, and pretends their hair is nice and swishy.

I decide. To flaunt my fro in front of everyone.

My mother, needless to say, was horrified.

Lol.

My brothers, do not know how to deal with it.

They have spent years being told, that sleek and sexy is the definition and bench mark for ‘Beauty’

These last couple of weeks, I spent at home with my three brothers.

They had no idea how to react to my fro.

Lol.

My oldest and youngest brother just ignored my hair.

To be fair to them, they had never seen my hair in its natural state.

Neither had I, since I was 11!!

So being the polite, well raised boys they are. They ignored it.

Ignored the tumbling mass of curls peeking from under my cap, like they couldnt see em.

They did not say: ‘ Hey QQ, your hair is different what did you do to it?’

Nope.

Nada.

Not one comment.

My other middle brother, however, bless his misguided soul….

Told me to go to the salon.

Lord help him!

You can understand what kind of crazy I unleashed on him.

I had been waiting. Waiting. Waiting. On someone to comment.

And here comes this unwitting brother.

Telling me to go to the salon?

AND THEN. AND THEN. Has the audacity to start giggling with my mum about how HE is the one in the family who has GOOD HAIR.

GOOD HAIR????

I saw red.

I unbraided my hair (it was in twists)

Fluffed out my fro into a MASSIVE thing.

And came at it, all hissing and spitting.

I put my ‘Shaniqua’ on.

‘GOOD HAIR? GOOD HAIR?’ I SAID.

`God gave us all different hair. My hair is like this. How God saw fit in his wisdom to make it. You want to say God was wrong to create me this way? Do you?? You think my hair isn’t nice? I need to go to the salon to fry it into some kind of limp chemically altered poor excuse for hair? Do you now? Well TOUGH!! This is MY hair. Its on MY head. Deal with it!’

Yes. I was all up in his face like a black girl on an American drama.

Hehe.

He looked like he regretted opening his mouth (good)

And I think he realised what he had said was bang out of order.

And I like to think I schooled him.

I will not let anyone tell me otherwise.

I have worked to accept myself with this hair, in a world where whiteness, and sleek, straight hair is lauded.

I have worked to conquer that low self esteem that drives every woman to the salon every month to get a relaxer.

I shall not let anyone mess with that.

Least of all my family.

My mother gave up trying to convert me back into the world of the creamy crack (what we ‘naturals’ call relaxers)

Well, not entirely.

But…kind of. :-)

I LOVE LOVE LOVE my natural hair.

I love that it can be curly. Or straight. Or an afro. Or a sexy up do.

I love that I can do my own hair.

I spend hours twisting it, braiding it, having rollers in it, deep conditioning, henna-ing, trying different products.

I love that I am not reliant on some stupid salon to make me feel good about myself.

That I do not worry about my ‘kitchen’ showing.

I don’t worry about my ‘real’ hair coming through and making me look horrible after a few months.

I really, really, really, don’t worry about people making me feel like I am not beautiful because my hair isn’t bone straight.

Or that I do not fit into their expectations of what a real ‘Arab’ should look like.

I have an Afro.

Its my hair.

Not yours.

Deal with it.

15 thoughts on “An Arab Perspective On Natural Hair

    • :-) Yep, I love Chris Rock. I was natural way before the movie came out but I loved how the movie made a lot of people finally realised that we are putting these horrible chemicals on ourselves from a young age. It was shocking, those people putting relaxers on little babies. And it brought home this issue how we drill into little children a sense of low self esteem about their hair and skin colour from a young age. Without even realising we are doing it! Sad isn’t it?

  1. I am a multi racial woman. Afriacn American being the most dominant. Although I have been mistaken for asian, Middle-Eastern, Somalian, Puerto-Rican, and who knows what else. I happened across this and thought. Wow, I didnt realize it was the same everywhere. I had an epiphany about my hair about five years ago, and decided to go “natural”. In my community, I was met with shock (especially at work). You see, I also had to cut it all off in order to start fresh. I noticed that I wasnt treated the same at work. It hurt, but made me that much more determined not to live in the “fake” world that I had been used to. My husband supported me whole heartedly, and that at least was a comfort. Within a coule of years I had a nice healthy “fro”. I started noticing friends and colleagues making the switch. Agirl came up to me that I knew from college and said that I had inspired her to go “natural”. I love my hair. You are absolutely right, God in his perfect wisdom saw fit to give me dark beautiful curly hair, and I celebrate that. It is sad that to feel beautiful, society expects you to be as close to “white” as possible. When I was a young girl, my grandmother even told me to use a bleaching cream and an umbrella in the summer so I did not get darker than a paper bag. I am glad those days are fading. Rock your “fro”! own it, revel in it, love it, be proud of it, And THIS will change the world!

    • I reject the notion of ‘whiteness’ ; That everyone has to conform to that particular standard of beauty.

      I de-programmed myself. I looked at pictures of girls with gorgeous curly afros and twists, and locks on blogs, and youtube vids, and eventually I noticed myself saying: ‘wow, that hair is gorgeous’ ‘Its amazing!’ ‘How can I get my hair to look like that’ I literally. Sat down and decided to change my perspective and my perceived version of beauty.

      We CAN change the world. :-)

      Its difficult for me being a Muslim natural, because I cover my hair most of the time. So people don’t normally see my afro textured hair. And when I smile enthusiastically at another natural at the bank, or in a shop, she usually just wonders why I’m smiling at her. Lol. So I feel a little isolated in my natural journey.

      But this was a start :-) and I appreciate your comment! :-))))))))))

  2. In no means do I intend to offend you, but aren’t you more a KENYAN girl, than an Arab girl? Just a touch of honesty here, being an african I find it hard to relate to someone who seems to embrace their arab side more than their african side. If you were born and bred in Africa, you are african..Just saying.

    • I totally agree. I am Kenyan and African of course. But I am Arab by ethnicity and culture. Same as how you can have a British Indian. Nationality and ethnicity are different. I am equally proud to be Kenyan AND arab.

  3. OMG i totally understand what u mean. I am somali and i never knew that there are some somalis who relax their hair. I was shocked and then curious. Thank god i never put that shit in my hair. My whole life my mother braided my hair or straight ironed it, it was her way of “maintaing it” and she usually complimented me more when it was straight. The year before the good hair movie came out i went to a different stylist and she was a asian lady and she kept saying why dont i put a bit of relaxer in it so it will be easier to “deal” with at the time i didnt understand what she meant because i never heard of the creamy crack, weaves, extensions ect. We somalis straight iron or put a wig on if we want straight hair and of course there are those somali men and women who have natural straight hair. The funny thing was that all those years of watching tv i never once doubted the african american women on tv had fake hair. I always thought they just had naturally straight hair lol. That movie though opened my eyes to not just the world of relaxers and chemicals but also to african american culture. Even though i lived in america for over 15+ years i never once had a african american friend. In a way it was a introduction to african american culture. In east africa or at least among us somalis there are two types of people when it comes to hair. There are those who flat iron their hair and you never see their naturally curly hair and then there are those who dont iron their hair. Not ironing or having straight hair is somewhat in my community tied to religion. Islam tells us not to alter our hair, so when i went natural all my friends thought i was becoming religious. Its the religious girls who dont chemcially alter their hair since its “haram” and the funny thing is that they are the ones with the longest hair in our group.

  4. Lol @ Sarah. It’s funny how us black people take it for granted that everyone knows about blow drying(torture if you have kinky hair like mine) or chemically straightening black hair. QQ thanks for this article. I’m growing my hair and the other day i had undone it and blow dried it so it was a screaming afro which I tied up in a scarf. When I went home I was scared of my boyfriend seeing it because of the negative perception that people have developed towards natural hair. I thank God he loved it! What’s sad though is when I’m at the salon people always advice me to straighten my hair because it’s very thick and hence it would look great straightened. what they forget is straightened hair is high maintenance and it ends up cutting if you’re not careful. I don’t want my hairline to start 2 inches away away from where it naturally begins which is the case with many ladies that straighten their hair. With straightened hair you can’t swim too often because it will cut, you can’t participate in sports too much because the sweat is not good for chemically treated hair and you have to go to the salon every week to get it treated!!!! I think I’ll just do dreads once it’s long enough.

  5. This is exactly what happens in my culture too! I can so relate! My family is from the Dominican Republic. No one, and I mean no one with naturally kinky hair wears their hair naturally. They all relax it. I’ve seen very few dominican woman rock their fro’s. Coily/kinky hair is also considered “bad” hair which is bazaar considering that most Dominican people have this kind of hair -.-….love this post and your writing style!

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