African vs African American Hair Practices

By Christabel of Chys Curlz

I’ve been thinking of developing this story for a while now. It is the story of how girls were/are made to wear their hair shaved from grade to high school both in Ghana and in Nigeria.

[image src=”×500.png” width=”240″ height=”190″ title=”Girl” lightbox=”no” frame=”light” align=”left”]A little back story, I was born Nigerian and grew up in Nigeria until I was 10 years old when we moved to start a new life in Ghana. Since I spent most of my formative years in Ghana, that became more home to me than Nigeria was. There are many similarities between the two countries and one is the rule to have young girls wear a TWA until they graduate from high school.I think the reasoning behind it is the same as there is for wearing uniforms. It ensures homogeneity,also, the girls who could not afford to get their hair braided did not have the pressure to spend the money and thirdly, everyone looked “neat” and “presentable”. Now, that is not to say it was right or wrong, just giving the possible reasons.

As far as I can tell, this practice was mostly the case in public schools. I noticed that many (not all) private schools permitted their female students to wear their hair at whatever length they wanted as long as it was braided up neatly.  The only girls who were exempt from this rule (public and private school) were those who were biracial. There weren’t many girls who were biracial, but those who were, got to wear their hair long. Again, as a little girl, you don’t think anything of it. You just knew that their hair was “prettier” and more “manageable” than yours and it wasn’t a big deal. You didn’t read meaning into it (at least not consciously), you just accepted it.

I remember our final year of high school, many girls (me included) will grow their hair out but will tie it down with a scarf overnight to encourage the maximum shrinkage to avoid being punished (spanked) by a teacher. We did this because we knew that once school was out, we were going to get our first relaxers…good times 🙂

That’s me with the bandanna and our senior year of HS 🙂

This practice did not seem like such a big deal to me when I was growing up, but as I get older and upon going natural, I’ve been thinking about how it affected my love or lack thereof of my natural hair. You see, most of my Friends are Nigerian or Ghanaian and most of them – if not all – sport relaxers and will not let go for anything (although I’ve convinced 7 including my mama to BC yay! #teamnatural). But why is this the case though? Why is it that after growing up without relaxers we hold on to it so strongly. Many of the experiences I read on blogs pertaining to natural hair are those of African-American women. They relate how they got their first perm at 4,5,6, or thereabouts. The stories go on to say that since relaxers was the norm for them, they just kept getting them until their decision to either BC or transition.

This story makes you think about what we as women of color go through with our hair both here in America and around the world.  

What do you think about this story?


Source: Black Girl With Long Hair

  • I was born in London ,but raised in Nigeria , I vividly remember i started getting relaxer @ ten years old , i attended private school we weren't instructed to shave our hair ,but we had to wear the same hairstyles (conrow Styles). I know some schools made it mandatory to look the same for cleanliness and manageability , the only time i shaved my hair was when i was enrolled in boarding school . I know a lot of Nigerian women processed their hair so often back in those days !

  • Ykiki says:

    Times are changing now, and i think it will change, if it hasnt already changed. We now have the knowledge as well as awesome products, to take care of all textures of natural hair, and do all kinds of cool things to it, like braid outs and twist outs, and its just lovely. Natural hair is beautiful from loose curls to very tight coils, Africa please realize and embrace this and teach ur young girls better.

  • Jena says:

    damn this article was said. As an African America, I'm disappointed that even African people don't like their natural hair.

  • Tasha says:

    Wow! I never knew that. I thought that was the style in those countries. I didn't know u were forced to cut your hair because of the texture to go to public school. You would think the motherland would embrace the beauty of our hair than hide it or know the ways of growing it long and healthy.