There have been a few spotlights on natural hair’s rise in popularity in different African countries, such as the Ivory Coast, but rarely do we get accounts of the movement from the perspective of folks who are familiar with the movement here. Luckily, I had the opportunity to visit Johannesburg, South Africa a few weeks ago and get an inside look into the up and coming natural hair movement at the Johannesburg Natural Hair Meetup.
What people are thinking
At the meetup, one of the biggest concerns expressed was the acceptability of natural hair in the workplace. As in the United States, women in all fields of work felt empowered enough to wear their hair natural to their workplace — from media to business to law — but others in those same fields did not feel comfortable. Pushback against natural hair came from all directions: people’s families, their white South African coworkers, and their black South African coworkers and friends. The second biggest concern was the lack of availability of natural hair care products that we’re so used to in the US. However, South Africans have created their own natural hair solutions on their own, such as Nubian Nature, Africa Grace, Afro Amour, Asili, Earth Products, and many more.
Although the natural hair movement is only a few years old and has yet to gain traction amongst college-aged youth, there were a variety of natural hairstyles that I observed both on the streets and at the event. In the streets of Joburg, the most popular natural hairstyle was a cropped Caesar haircut, about a half an inch off the scalp. A good number of both men and women had dreadlocks, a higher percentage even in natural hair meccas like New York City and cornrows and braids were also very popular. Longer loose natural hairstyles past TWA length were few and far between, and I saw maybe four women with crochet braids, but most were worn undefined, not dipped and curled like we’re fond of doing here in the US. Surprisingly, unlike in West Africa, very few women wore head coverings, both in the downtown business district and in the more hip neighborhood of Braamfontein.
At the event, there was a mix of fros, twistouts, locks, cornrows and a few braids. Check out the gallery of photos from the event below!
What do you think of the spread of natural hair throughout the world?