Point of View // 10.07.2011

The Age Old Debate…

Article by Chembo L

A few decades ago, having natural was trendy. That big healthy natural afro that our mothers proudly carried on their heads has vanished off the fashion scene-at least in Zambia. The majority of us young women today have relaxed hair for one reason or the other. As for me, my hair has been relaxed from a very young age – it was long and surely made me look quite pretty. But is that it? Does relaxed hair really make us look prettier?

I have kept my perm because I am unsure what I’d look like with natural hair and to be honest, I go by modern society’s view which is that permed hair makes us look that much better.

Let’s see what others from Zambia and a few other countries, say about why they have relaxed or natural hair….

“Not very long ago I used to have natural hair. I liked it short and shiny, plus it was very cheap to maintain, when I looked in the mirror I could see the real me. I was then advised by my Aunt to relax it, as she would say “you look like a villager in natural hair.”  I believe that in natural hair someone looks so real and beautiful. I feel relaxed hair is expensive to maintain though it adds beauty as you would style it differently each day.”

Gloria Mwanandiwa – Zambia


“Personally I would prefer to have natural hair- dreadlocks to be more specific.  But  one thing I hate more than having my hair permed is having people constantly touch my head pulling and prodding and twisting- no thanks!  It makes me  wanna scream so I settled for a lesser evil:  s-curl.  It’s  short, can be treated at home or in 5 mins at the barbers.  I don’t even need a comb to make it look good every morning,  just a scoop of gel rubbed thru my hair and that’s it am flying out the door…”

Mayiwase – Zambia


“I have relaxed hair because it’s a social cue. I reached an age where I could perm my hair, so I did, but for no apparent reason. I really didn’t have to perm it because I could manage it when it was natural….”

Patricia – England


“My hair finishes when I relax it.”

MKL- England


“Well I have permed hair because it is much easier to maintain and style.  Oh – and I don’t also carry the afro look well. If not braided, I would not know how else to style my hair.”

Anonymous – USA


“My natural hair is just too stubborn- whereby combing it is actually painful. If I had the nice soft natural hair, I would definitely have kept it that way. But I had to perm it in order to be able to comb it.”

Connie – South Africa


“Frankly speaking I do not know why I have permed my hair” (Smiles)

Annie- Zambia


“My natural hair is really coarse and so it’s painful to comb. I would not have relaxed it if my hair was soft.”

Mulima – Zambia


“In the 60s I used to have an afro – a huge one. I later permed my hair because it was fashionable – you could style it according to your outfit. Relaxed hair was manageable especially for a working woman. It was not as time-consuming to maintain as the afro. I then went back to natural because I wanted to have short hair, more air flowing through my head, its cheaper and I am aging….”

JCL- Zambia


“Back in the 1970’s I used to have natural, thick and coarse long hair. I had it relaxed for easier maintenance and styling in whatever manner I wanted. Natural hair is easy to maintain when it is short. As soon as it extends one needs to blow it more often to have a nice look…..when it was long I had to use a hot comb to maintain it and sometimes I’d burn my forehead.  So now, relaxed hair is easier to maintain.”

Aunty Jane – Zambia


There you have it.  What do you say?

What we ought to remember is that we should not judge anyone by their hairstyle because really it’s just about the maintenance of it. As our dear India.Arie sang, “I am not hair…..” and so we need not expect someone to have a certain personality or behave a certain way because of their hair, clothes, and so on.

3 Responses to “The Age Old Debate…”

  1. GyftedArtyst says:

    I love this piece because I just took out my braids and went natural again, (twists) I love the natural look, I feel more beautiful. Yes, maintaining natural is hard, but it is how much time and effort you put into it and whether one is ready for that. I don’t mind putting braids in, it isn’t because I do not love natural hair, it is because I am comfortable enough to know what I want now without asking for advice. That is also important too.
    Great article, and yea Zambia’s Reppin Tempo :)

  2. Hi fab article and really enjoy what you post on you blog.

  3. Tinah says:

    I have been natural for 4 years now because perming my hair was not good for my burning scalp, some sections of my hair are very soft and others are coarse. I like thick and curly hair which is a look I can only get with natural hair. Natural hair will be hard to take care of at first, but once you know which products work on your hair, it is not so hard. There are so many looks one can get with natural hair compared to permed hair. With so many women going natural in Canada and the USA, there are so many products in the market one can use to get a different look, activate the curls or maintain their hair. I have nothing against permed hair but I do believe people should not be perming kids hair when they are very young, and having the “bad hair good hair” talk. All hair is good hair.

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