by Pamela Maringa

Modern society and media play a substantial role in influencing our lifestyle, possibly more than we realise. Our interaction with one another, our personal development, the perception of our bodies and even our decision making can be influenced by advertising and the media.

As a child in Limpopo, I had what many called “trouble hair”. I would relax my hair and by morning it would be an afro again. I used cream relaxer on my hair, for as long as I could remember. Like many other young girls, we are introduced to cream relaxers and chemicals early in our lives. They supposedly make African hair less of a burden, by making it less tangled and more manageable. She used to complain that my hair took long to fix. It was very painful and I would cry every morning.

I must admit, using the cream relaxer would make combing my hair less painful. I enjoyed what was considered “nice” hair, the relaxed hair. The feeling of having “Barbie’s hair”. I was told I was prettier. However, the creams were too strong and they would burn my scalp and have left me with scars.

Later in my life, I made a decision to cut my long relaxed hair. I wanted to start growing my natural hair. Because no one had short hair at that time, most people saw it as less feminine. I was asked why I am trying to be a boy. Many women wore flat straight hair, whether weaved or relaxed. Long straight hair was part of fashion at that time.  As my hair grew into an afro, my mom also hated it. She even threatened to relax my hair while I was sleeping. She said it always looked untidy no matter what I did. So I decided to get dreadlocks in case she was serious about relaxing my hair.

Today natural hair is advertised everywhere. Many black people have made a choice not to straighten, relax or put on fake hair. The natural way is now accepted and embraced. We have the media to thank for promoting natural hair. The stereotype around African hair has been lifted. It is no longer seen as less feminine or less clean.

Natural hair is beautiful. I see my naturally thick hair as a blessing and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m proud of it and I feel more grounded wearing it the way I do. My hair is the best representation of myself.

Parents, I think, should not let their children experience cream relaxers at an early age. They should let them be their natural selves. And in doing so they will come to love and embrace the things that are truly and freely given to them by God. They will wholeheartedly accept themselves as unique and beautiful.

My hair is no longer a problem. It is a blessing to be appreciated. Having an afro or relaxed hair should be a personal choice. It should not be dependent on peer pressure or on fashion advocated by advertising and the media.