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