As a young coloured girl growing up on the Cape Flats during the nineties I was very insecure. Understanding why I look the way I do, and what my heritage was, was simply something we did not discuss as a family. The one consistent message that was reinforced was “your hair is not right, fix it.” And by “fix it”, we meant straighten it, make it anything other than what it naturally is. I did just about everything to it. Coloured, styled, relaxed, cut it, you name it, I’ve done it!
Only when I was much older I realised I used my hair as a crutch, a means to fit in, to cover up insecurities about myself. I worked through these issues and emerged a feisty, defiant woman who really didn’t care much for other’s opinions about my appearance. Especially not my hair. I understood that my hair was who I am, it carries my DNA! Since then I’ve worn my hair in its natural state with pride.
Fast forward many years, I now have two sons. Storm (9) has sleek curly hair and Phoenix (3), a big beautiful afro. The hair issue raised its ugly head again because Phoenix had “kroes” hair. This is a derogatory term for ugly, coarse hair. My family were appalled by this. The snide remarks were hurtful. “He is such a cute boy, pity about his hair.” “Just cut it off, it looks terrible.” I understand well where this “not good enough” syndrome comes from. For generations this was how people of colour were indoctrinated, so when my grandmother makes these kinds of comments I know it’s a wrapped-up piece of baggage, compliments of our history.
This lead me to join forces with four other women and we started Cape Town Naturally. We realised there needs to be a safe space for people to learn about self-love, acceptance of self and an appreciation for authenticity and natural beauty. Since we started three years ago, thousands of women and men have joined this rallying cause. We now host the Cape Town Natural Hair Festival, the biggest event of its kind in the country, where we bring together people from all walks of life and celebrate our diversity.
My goal is to change society’s perception of beauty, to instill pride and confidence in women and young girls, and raise boys who see the beauty in each and every person. No matter what their race, gender, hair type or size.
It’s not just hair, it’s so much more.
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About the Author
Chantal is the Programme Manager of the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme and is responsible for its overall operations and functioning. She has extensive experience in the Development Sector, is a qualified SETA Assessor as well as an entrepreneur in her own right, with several business interests. She is one of the co-founders of the Cape Town Natural Hair Festival and has been an integral member of the Fetola team for over ten years.