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By Hlonipha Mokoena
“Your beard feels like pubic hair.” That was one of the aboriginal blame that addition hurled at my hair. She was a inferior at my school.
She would blow my beard and echo this book to all present. I had to abuse her with abandon to get her to stop affecting my beard and comparing it to her pubes.
This is one of the aboriginal dilemmas that atramentous bodies face: do I let bodies blow my beard and beneath what circumstances? The question, “can I blow it?” becomes one of the best awkward amusing moments and can breach relationships afore they alike start.
This allure with the arrangement of atramentous beard (please don’t alarm it “ethnic”), is not new. In bondservant societies, white women would generally drudge off the beard of their apprenticed changeable agents because it allegedly “confused white men” .
Today, atramentous women with bristling beard – that is, accustomed and chemical-free – are adorable admitting the accepted address to the contrary. Anticipate for archetype of how Lupita Nyong’o has become a domiciliary name alike admitting she is bristling and has aphotic skin.
It’s not aloof appearance or trends: throughout history, atramentous women’s beard has absorbed artists and photographers and has been carefully affiliated to abolitionist political movements such as the Atramentous Panthers and South Africa’s own Atramentous Alertness Movement. It again seems like a absurdity for the adolescent women at South Africa’s Pretoria Girls High Academy to be told that they should “discipline” their beard by adequate it.
Desire and fear
But it’s absolutely not a contradiction, back admiration and abhorrence generally augment on anniversary other. In the documentary produced and anecdotal by Chris Rock alleged “Good Hair”, the actor Paul Mooney states it plainly: “If your beard is relaxed, white bodies are relaxed. If your beard is nappy, they are not happy.”
This is not aloof able rhyming. Mooney is pointing to the actuality that bristling beard is accordingly associated with commodity that is out of ability for “white people” – happiness. Back you action your accustomed hair, you are free; your beard is wild; you accept a new “hairstyle” everyday; you are radiant; you are regal. These are out of ability for best bodies and it makes them unhappy.
It is additionally about conformity. By allotment not to aggravate and acclimatized your hair, you are additionally allotment to let your beard accurate its personality rather than attending like anybody else’s hair. That’s why it makes bodies unhappy.
Notice that I accept generalised the affair to bodies in accepted rather than autograph about white people, because misconceptions about what atramentous beard is are additionally broadcast by atramentous people. In fact, I would altercate that best white bodies don’t apperceive annihilation about atramentous hair, and get best of their misconceptions about what it is from atramentous people.
A history of atramentous beard myths
There are two capital misconceptions that are burning for compassionate what the administering anatomy and headmistress of Pretoria Girls High may accept been cerebration – or not thinking.
The aboriginal delusion is that accustomed beard is “dirty”. The additional is that accustomed beard does/doesn’t abound (hence the attraction with beard length, beard extensions and dreadlocks).
Many atramentous women and men who abrasion weaves and relax their beard will explain their best by either adage that their accustomed beard is “unmanageable” or that accustomed beard is “dirty”. This is one of the best constant stereotypes about atramentous hair. Bodies will alike adduce the “anecdotal” affirmation that Bob Marley’s dreads had 47 altered types of lice back he died. These are burghal legends of the affliction affectionate because they bolster the average that alone atramentous beard attracts lice, and added vermin, which is artlessly scientifically untrue.
Historically, the allegory comes from images of the pejoratively alleged “fuzzy-wuzzy” that British soldiers who were angry Sudanese insurgents in the Mahdist War beatific home. This war, from 1881-1899, popularised the angel of the agrarian Afros that bodies now brainstorm back they anticipate of atramentous hair.
These images are ambiguous for the simple acumen that they advance these Sudanese soldiers did not “dress” their beard or ablution it, back in the images it generally looks unkempt. Nothing could be added from the truth. Across the African continent, techniques for bathrobe beard were as assorted as the hairstyles that they produced.
The “Afro” accordingly is not some affectionate of accepted African hairstyle. It is aloof one of several hundred means of growing and advancement coiled hair. So, back a atramentous being decides to “dread” or lock their hair, they neither charge nor accumulate “dirt” in it to accomplish it lock. Our beard (as does all hair) locks artlessly back it is larboard uncombed or unbrushed.
The affiliation of locks with clay partly comes from the Caribbean area Rastafarianism emerged as a subculture. However, alike in this instance, the delusion is that dreadlocks according Rastafarianism.
The Rastas got their locks from Africa. To be exact, disordered African beard was transported to the Caribbean by images of Ethiopian soldiers who were angry the Italian aggression which began in 1935. They vowed – application the archetype of Samson in the bible – that they would not cut their beard until their country and emperor Ras Tafari Makonnnen (also alleged Haile Selassie) were absolved and the emperor alternate from exile.
Before the war the Ethiopian aristocratic sported actual accurate Afros. The alone cessation we can ability is that it is alone beneath altitude of war and colonialism that atramentous bodies present their beard as “unkept”. Back at peace, the hairdressers and barbers did their jobs and kept atramentous beard attractive fabulous.
Policing atramentous hair
The belief about how continued atramentous beard can or should be are as countless as the belief that accustomed beard is “dirty”. The delusion partly comes out of the abstraction of measurement. Accustomed African beard is coiled and so to admeasurement it, one would accept to amplitude out the coils. This is why attached the advance of the beard by the amplitude of cornrows or breadth of strands doesn’t accomplish faculty at all.
How would you apperceive – after uncoiling it – how continued a atramentous person’s beard is? One atramentous person’s crew will attending actual abbreviate because of “shrinkage” and addition atramentous person’s locks will attending actual continued because of a apart coil.
The angle that continued atramentous beard is or should be cut or akin to an “acceptable” breadth is aloof benightedness masquerading as “neatness”. No two atramentous people’s beard “grows out” the same.
Pretoria Girls High is not the aboriginal academy to try and badge atramentous people’s hair. In an commodity blue-blooded “When Atramentous Beard Is Against the Rules”, the New York Times responded to beard regulations that had been appear by the US Army on March 31 2014. These banned twists, “matted” beard and assorted braids – all of which were apprehend as references to accustomed African beard and hairstyles.
Whose “common sense”?
Conservative institutions – schools, militaries, corporations and so on – accept the appropriate to appoint a dress code. However, these should not be based on fractional ability area these institutions artlessly don’t do any analysis into what some of their prohibitions absolutely beggarly and instead await on “common sense”.
Unfortunately, back it comes to atramentous hair, “common sense” is the atomic reliable apparatus for decision-making, back alike atramentous bodies are consistently alteration their minds about what they appetite to do with their hair. As an announcement of our culture, atramentous beard is as adaptable and artificial as our account about it.
To attack to fix such expressions in rules and regulations is to abjure atramentous bodies what the Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop alleged our “Promethean consciousness”. As atramentous people, our beard is an announcement of the absolute possibilities that arise from this artistic and adventuresome consciousness.
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