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Tania // Natural Hair Style Icon

Avatar • Jan 24, 2010

australia

Melanesian boys in Papua New Guinea
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Where are you from?
T:
I’m from an island country in the South Pacific called Papua New Guinea. I’m currently living in Australia where I study.

All my immediate family live in Papua New Guinea and have been there as far as we can trace back. I identify as Melanesian and am native to my country. I have spent a lot of time in Australia though so I consider it my second home but I go home to PNG when I get the chance.

What is interesting about your country?
T:
Its cultural diversity. We have a population just under 7 million, yet we have over 800 indigenous languages.

What is the natural hair scene like in your country?
T:
Natural hair is very common in my country. Hair textures vary, usually depending on what region you come from and range from straight hair to the very thick, kinky, woolly kind of hair. We kind of caught the late bus when it came to relaxers and perms. The idea of chemically altering the texture of hair only became popular in the last 10 years or so (until recently, I had no clue what a weave or a hot comb was- I had to google it, and it never occured to me that I could do a blow out or use heat to do all sorts of things with my texture until I started reading these blogs and watching YouTube) and I believe that can be attributed to media influences and globalization.

I would say natural hair is generally accepted but I have noticed that looser textures are held a little higher than kinky, or coarse textures. Another thing I’ve noticed is that it is more socially acceptable that if your natural hair is not long enough to be braided or tied back, that it be worn as a picked out afro. Any other style will earn you curious looks.

Tell us your hair story.
T:
I had my first relaxer when I was about 7. I had very very thick tightly coiled hair and wanted shiny hair like the little African- American girls on the product packaging so mum took me to the hairdressers. It ended up being a horrible experience because the lady that did my hair was rough and careless and the whole ordeal left me with ugly chemical burns. Mum and pretty much the rest of my family was all natural at that point so she had no idea how to care for my relaxed hair. I was tender headed and dealt with a lot of breakage so I had it chopped off.

I was natural for the most part and only put in a relaxer when I got bored with my picked out afros. Length never concerned me and I was fairly scissor- happy but I got teased about my coarse texture (usually by family members who likened it to ‘steel wool’. You know, the stuff you scour pots with!) because they couldn’t understand how I’d ended up with ‘bad’ hair when I came from a family of ‘good’ haired people.

I was still sporting an afro when I moved to Australia to begin high school. In addition to the cultural shock, I couldn’t get over how the other students genuinely loved my hair and grabbed every opportunity to dig their hands into it. Funny thing was, while everyone else was fascinated with my hair, I hated it because it wasn’t like everyone else’s. I fought with my hair because I did not understand it and wasn’t sure how to take care of it. Being at boarding school, I didn’t have access to things like coconut milk, herbs and methods that Melanesians have traditionally used to care for their hair.

I’ve come a long way since then and found alternatives that work for me. It has been a long battle for self acceptance but my hair and I are a much happier pair. I still have no idea what my hair type is (it may very well be 4z), but it has a healthy sheen and I doubt it could ever be ‘shiny’ in its natural state. I don’t fret over curl definition either (I just let it do its thing). My family still tease me a little but it’s usually good natured and I speak up when I think they’re going overboard.

Blogs such as this have also been a tremendous help plus I have been blessed with an amazing man who tells me I am perfect even when I’m looking my most tragic.

What would you like to see in your country in terms of natural haircare?
T:
I would like people to realise how damaging relaxers are and stick with being natural like our ancestors have done for hundreds of years before all of this was introduced. We had it right from the very beginning. Why change that?

Where do you buy your hair products?
T:
In Australia I find coconut oil at health food stores, I grab my avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil at the local supermarket and I order my shea butter on Ebay. I’ve also recently discovered henna and I find that at Asian supermarkets in my town. Back In PNG, we make our own coconut products or I find them at the local markets.

Why do you like being natural?
T:
Natural hair is fun, unpredictable and has a character of its own. You might set out to achieve a certain style but your hair decides it wants to do its own thing and you end up with a totally different look to what you imagined. That’s part of its charm and it sets you apart from the crowd. I enjoy not being a carbon copy of the next girl. People actually notice you and it is rewarding when you are approached and told that you are admired for your individuality. Living in Australia has enriched my hair experience because Aussies aren’t uptight about that sort of thing and my hair has never been so loved and complimented. I owe my ever-increasing confidence to my friends and all those lovely strangers that stop me to tell me my hair is beautiful and how it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever seen

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revolution girl
10 years ago

stunning! and–wow, i am loving the dress in the first pic A LOT

lexibugg
lexibugg
10 years ago

I AM SO THRILLED TO SEE A NATURAL FROM PNG AND THE MICRONESIA/MELANESIA/ POLYNESIA AREA SINCE SO MANY OF THESE INDIVIDUALS HAVE HAIR SIMILAR TO OUR OWN. IT’S ABOUT TIME. BUT I WAS ALSO SADDEN TO READ HER COMMENT ABOUT THE PERM BOXES. IT REINFORCES MY BELIEF THAT WE NEED TO REALIZE THE EFFECT OUR HABITS HAVE ON WOMEN OF COLOR THE WORLD OVER. I WAS ALSO SADDENED TO HEAR ABOUT THE HAIR HIERARCHY. WHERE I GREW UP IN ALASKA I HAD MANY FRIENDS FROM SAMOA, TONGA, NEW ZEALAND, MICRONESIA AND MELANESIA, WHOSE HAIR TEXTURES VARIED FROM BONE STRAIGHT TO… Read more »

b.
b.
10 years ago

She’s so cute!!! It’s cool to see someone with hair like mine halfway around the world. I’ve looked at pictures of people (particularly women) from PNG before and marveled that they had hair like me. What I’m trying to say is that Tania’s story reinforces *again* (for me) what I keep finding to be true: Natural hair — particularly tightly-coiled hair — is *global* and more common than my little Western worldview thinks it is. Thanks for sharing, Tania, and best of luck in your studies!! Also…do you know of any coconut products (handmade or mass-produced) that you find in… Read more »

tammyaka
tammyaka
10 years ago

such a beautiful woman and her dresses are tres chic!

Dani
Dani
10 years ago

Definitely the coolest place that you’ve ever interviewed anyone from. How did you hear about her/she hear about you?

Nika
10 years ago

beautiful girl, beautiful hair

http://www.iriechic.blogspot.com

Kweenie
Kweenie
10 years ago

You are beautiful! …And you make me want to visit that part of the world now. 🙂

dajewel
dajewel
10 years ago

wow!!!! i love her dresses, esp in the first pic! love her spirit!! is very interesting to see that relaxers and hot combs weren’t popular in that side of the world till maybe 10 years ago! wow!!

SBF
SBF
10 years ago

This girl is a stunner.

Nikki
Nikki
10 years ago

Who knew there were so many cute black people in Australia? I like how PNG really weren’t up on relaxers until recently. I’m sure it would be great to visit there and see just see people who are comfortable with themselves. And p.s. I love all of her dresses so bright and cute!

Shell
10 years ago

I love seeing a natural from a totally different culture from ours.
Great post.

Alice
10 years ago

Her hair is super cute! And those dresses are adorable!

Alice
http://diaryofakinkycurlytransitioner.wordpress.com/

Afrika
10 years ago

Beautiful girl, inspiring story.

Lisa
Lisa
10 years ago

Her answers seem contradictory. She says chemically altering hair did not gain popularity in her country until 10 years ago and she had no idea what a pressing comb was. Yet, she says she got a relaxer at age 7. Is she only 17 years old? I love her Afro but her naivete about chemicals doesn’t ring true to me.

Aisha
Aisha
10 years ago

Finally! I am incredibly fascinated by the people and culture of Oceania. I’ve noticed in the pictures I’ve seen that most appear to be natural, which was confirmed in this article. I think being somewhat isolated from the world has been a good thing in terms of their self image, because they aren’t bombarded with western images (at least not until recently). I would love to visit someday soon.

Anyway, great interview and this is my favorite feature of your blog.

Aisha
Aisha
10 years ago

I also find it interesting how scientists classify people like this as “Asian” when they are clearly of African descent. Here is a quote from Foreign Minister Ben Tanggahma of Papua New Guinea: “Africa is our motherland. All of the Black populations which settled in Asia over the hundreds of thousands of years, came undoubtedly from the African continent. In fact, the entire world was populated from Africa. Hence, we the Blacks in Asia and the Pacific today descend from proto-African peoples. We were linked to Africa in the past. We are linked to Africa in the present. We will… Read more »

thelady
thelady
10 years ago

beautiful woman, and I love her dresses

Brit
Brit
10 years ago

beautiful! and her personal style is fabulous as well!

BCU
BCU
10 years ago

This is truly amazing and beautiful in more ways than one. This makes me want to expand my horizons (i.e. travel plans) even further.

Anuli
10 years ago

She’s beautiful and looks like Pam Grier in that purple shirt.

DaliSalvadorAde
10 years ago

What a cool interview! I’m proud to see a natural repping from PNG. I have good good friends from New Zealand, and although its a bit far from PNG, I’m happy to see a gorgeous natural woman doing her thing from the pacific. However, what still saddens me is how westernization is taking over countless countries and defining what is views as beautiful. It seems like the “good hair”/“bad hair” dilemma strikes everywhere. Oh well, its strong women like Tania that are redefining the rules. So cool.

tiana
10 years ago

wow!!!! where is she getting all her chic clothing?

Steph
10 years ago

I enjoyed this interview. I’ve always been fascinated with this part of the world, and I plan to visit Australia within the next couple of years. Good to know my hair will be appreciated!

Coffey0072
10 years ago

Very intriguing profile feature. I love reading about people of color, from exotic locales and their hair stories!

Nalena
Nalena
10 years ago

I love her afro! I also don’t think her answers are at all contradictory. Just because she may have gotten her first relaxer more than 10 years ago that does not negate her statement concerning when relaxers became popular.

Vacra
Vacra
10 years ago

I love PNG! It’s great to see someone profiled that hails from that area. That dress in the first pic is amazing, I love all the bright colours.

justicefighter1913
justicefighter1913
10 years ago

Awwwwsome! She looks fabulous and I’m so happy to see diversity in other cultures as well:)

Belle Muse
10 years ago

She is GORGEOUS!!!!!

emma
emma
10 years ago

wow. it amazes me to see the diversity of brown people! and those little boys!!! GORGEOUS! i find that children are always so beautiful but…idk…those guys were amazing looking. i just want to pinch their cheeks and watch cartoons with them. they look a little devilish though, remind me of my little brothers friends. he he he. 🙂

Wambui Wamutogoria
10 years ago

First of of all I love Tania coz she has broken every stereo type of women from PNG, she’s very culturally inclined and chic at the same time. All I see of people from PNG is village scenes and tribal aspects o their lives. Being from Africa my friends in the states would tell me the same thing about how they had a certain image or Idea of how African chix were and now I fully understand what they meant. Thank you for sharing your story with us and enabling us to relate to you.

Angel
Angel
10 years ago

Gorgeous! This makes me miss living in Australia even more. Happy Aussie Day!! 🙂

On a side note, while travelling/living in that part of the world I was very surprised at how many black woman I saw that were natural. It was very refreshing. Particulary, when in Fiji, I couldn’t believe how many afro’s I saw. It was rare to see a woman with straightened hair.

T. Ava
T. Ava
10 years ago

I am so glad to hear that Aussies embrace natural hair, especially since I am heavily considering moving to Australia for grad. school.

thank tania. You look fab.

Tanisha
Tanisha
10 years ago

Thanks Tania for sharing your story. It’s good to see you rocking your natural tresses on the otherside of the globe. I agree with a commenter above, your story makes me want to travel to that region. Looking good girl! Keep it up.

B.Sara
B.Sara
10 years ago

Please please do a profile on Fiji. That’s one melanesian country where they absolutely love their afros. A friend visited in the 90’s and said that the all the Fijian women wear their beautiful afro hair large and proud.

laela
laela
10 years ago

Gorgeous! I love the cultural geography lesson. Admittedly, I am kind of ignorant about other cultures and that there’s a greater ‘black diversity’ beyond the Diaspora. Thanks for sharing!!

mo
mo
10 years ago

Another fabulous profile!

Tania is a beautiful girl with beautiful hair. I’m glad I got an opportunity to hear from someone from PNG. And, I’m continually fascinated by how much Oceanic/P. Islanders resemble Africans. (I’m Nigerian.) It makes me feel warm inside…more connected…to know that a migration thousands of years ago didn’t wipe out the beautiful features we all have! Thanks again!

Gina
10 years ago

This is a great interview. I always wanted to see that part of the world. I love this part:“stick with being natural like our ancestors have done for hundreds of years before all of this was introduced. We had it right from the very beginning. Why change that?”

Tania
Tania
10 years ago

Hi everyone. Wow, thank you for your compliments and for showing me so much love!! @B. you asked about coconut products and the only two that come to mind right now (mass produced) that I haven’t seen on blogs so far, are Inecto and Palmers coconut hair products. There are locally produced ones that I know of. Unfortunately it’s so small scale that I can’t even source them on the net. But there are also a few Fijian brands out there. @Lisa.I did get my first relaxer before they became popular and I’m now in my early 20s.These days relaxer kits are… Read more »

Dee
Dee
10 years ago

So I am a few months late but I had to comment. I just love your hair and style. I recently moved to Australia from Canada (I’m Bajan Canadian studying here). Just the other day I had an Aussie man ask me if I was from PNG b/c of my hair. I have a twa and it was in a wash and go style. I thought it was a bit strange and random b/c I didn’t even know where PNG was at the time! I do find a lot of people here in Australia love me hair and find it… Read more »

jazz
jazz
10 years ago

So, I love the dresses you have on in every picture. I love your hair too. I wish i was able to get access to some of the homemade coconut milk products from papua new guinea you were talking about.

Tania
Tania
10 years ago

Hi Dee 🙂 You are sweet! Thank you for the compliments. I guess there must be a lot of natural PNGns where you are if an Aussie mistook you for one. lol. That had me grinning when I read that. Our curls and kinks get a lot of love down here and it’s great! I was also excited to read that you plan on going to PNG. I hope you do end up visiting and share your experiences. Just be sure to know a few people before you head up there.I’d be happy to help out should you have any… Read more »

Eunice
Eunice
3 years ago

Excuse me for my late comment but I totally enjoyed going through the interview… Wow!! I’m so proud that a wantok has written on our hair type. I’m Papua New Guinean as well ( Morobe/Bougainville) and I could totally relate to your story. I have “steel wool” hair while everyone else in my family has lightly loose hair and pretty much went through the same struggle with accepting my hair like you did. Now that I’m older, I’ve come to accept my natural hair as it is and have completely stopped using relaxers. I know have a natural afro that is cheap… Read more »

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