K: I am a native Bantu of Kenya, and live in Nairobi, which is the capital city. I’m currently a student starting my A‑levels (equivalent of junior-senior year high school) which is a British system of schooling, not local. I mostly study music and art, since it is what I’m interested in doing as a career. I do many mural jobs for people, and write and record alot of music, vocal and piano.
What’s interesting about Kenya?
K: The breathtaking nature of the masaai mara, the capital city (where I live) with a national park (so I see baboons on the road, sometimes you get hyenas in your backyard, cheetahs), the most beautiful beaches in Mombasa, Lamu, Malindi, Turtle Bay, rock climbing at Hell’s gate in Naivasha, the people and the culture, which has alot of Indian, Arab, and tribal inluence. I love that probably every Kenyan has tea (chai) for one meal, or ugali. On the negative, however, 70% kenyans live in poverty, and the margin of wealth between the 30% and 70% is huge. Cities are now becoming realy developed, with the influence of pop culture. Kenya is also recovering from post election violence from 2008, and many still die of starvation.
What is the natural hair scene like in Kenya?
K: Most children have natural hair. It’s mostly common outside of the cities, also in primary school that are Kenyan system, your hair mst be in cornrows, or shaved. But each time I go to a hairdresser, they tell me how good my hair would look with a perm, and I’m always advised to perm my hair. Some people, however, admire that I went natural on my own, but they say their hair is tougher than mine, and that being natural would not suit them. People generally respond positively to my hair though, especialy many of my Indian friends, or other races with straight hair. Initially my school had a problem with my hair even though it was short and I was told to stop ‘seeking attention’. I understood that people who do not have kinky hair did not understand it or why I couldnt just get a perm, but they find it okay when I braid it.
Why did you go natural?
K: I was natural when I was young but each time I wanted to do something with my hair I would be told “but you have natural hair”. I was made to think I had limited styling options with my hair. Also when I was 10 many of my friends began to perm their hair. My mum was against it, but my parents allowed me to do it. My mum has damaged hair, and she told me my hair was becoming damaged and I believed her. I stopped perming for 3 years, tried to put dreadlocks, but ended up shaving it into a mowhawk, then shaving all my hair off. I was inspired by girls from rural areas with natural hair down to their backs. I kept my hair short because of the styles I like, but I’d like longer hair now.
What’s your regimen?
K: I used to leave my hair out like my grandmother did, and her hair would grow and look amazing, but I realized I had a different type of hair than hers and my father’s — their hair is more curly — so I had to do what worked for me (what my mum did for me when I was younger).
I don’t go to hairdressers much, I do my own hair or my mum does it for me. I usually wear protective styles and I wash and treat my hair once a week. I oil my hair regularly. I rarely ever straighten it with heat, I’ve only done that twice in this past year. Previously I’d straighten it every time I left it unbraided or once every 2 weeks.
I’m not very specific about the products I use, Head and Shoulders shampoo or Motions Products for oil, whatever is available that’s good for my hair. Even stuff in the kitchen like olive oil or coconut oil.
What would you like to see in Kenya in terms of natural haircare?
K: I’d like for Kenyans to be more proud of their hair. I wish many of my black friends who have brittle hair (and don’t know how to care of it) would not perm it as much and would stop telling people of other races how terrible African hair is.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
K: I have a channel on youtube kenyagal101. There I’ve put up a video of my song “Losing You”.…but I could take requests for covers 🙂