With the story of Zalaika Patel from Pretoria Girls High doing the rounds which has people taking about natural hair and Heritage day approaching, the topic has really got me thinking as a coloured person, how we identify when it comes to our heritage and culture.
Since I was a little girl at around about the age of 8 or 9 I remember my mom taking me to a salon for a blow wave. I remember coming home and all my family being excited about my hair do. I noticed that hair was really important factor in defining a girls beauty. Growing up I as a teenager I always embraced my curly hair, people would tell me that my curly hair is better than my hair being straightened. Yet my family and other coloured members of my community would always judge if your hair wasn’t done for church for example. Wearing your natural hair in the coloured community is a sign of laziness. I remember on Saturday’s my mom would roll in my hair and this took hours including the lengthy wait sitting under the hairdryer. Following all of this, you had to wear a ‘Swirl Cous’ (stocking) to maintain the straightness and that your hair wouldn’t frizz or become ‘kroes’.
Being that I’m a fair coloured without the sterotypical coloured accent people assume I am “white”. I attended a mixed school from primary school at the age of 6. In Grade One I recall my mom always used to plait my hair so that it would be neat and acceptable for school. I could never wear my hair in its natural state because that would make me tardy. I started straightening my hair when I was 12 using Relaxers, Brazilian Blow Wave, you name it. Only after I started working did I realize there is no need for all of this and I started to embrace my beautiful thick curly hair. Don’t get me wrong, I still blow dry my hair and use curlers but that’s my prerogative as a woman, except now it is my choice and not because of someone else’s opinion.
In 2016 it is really difficult to define what being coloured means, we don’t all talk with an accent, we don’t all have gold teeth and drink brandy as the media would have you believe.
I was the first girl in my family to graduate from University, which I am very proud of. My generation has many opportunities that our parents didn’t.
This article is not about race but what I want you as the reader to take away is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Race is what the apartheid government used to separate us. We all have differences that make us unique and yet we have many similarities that bring us together as South Africans.
On Heritage day I will be celebrating what makes me who I am, embracing my natural hair and being a proud South African. Be proud of where you come from but don’t let it define you.
I would like to leave you with this poem I wrote during my 1st year of University.
What am I ? Not who am I, is always the question.
Why am I judged by my exterior and not the value of my interior.
They put me in a box with so many locks that keeps me confined in a world that is not defined.
It’s up to you to make a decision that is not based on your vision.
I am me
I am much more than what you see
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