The Big Chop

Melodi has done it! Cut off four years of carefully nurtured, painstakingly maintained, shoulder-blade length locks. I had been growing them for almost four years. Now I’m sitting pretty with a TWA (teeny-weenie afro). Honestly, it’s really not even an afro. I have about *that* much hair. I’m okay with it. It’s just hair and it will grow back. And I love my hair, the texture of it, the softness and the kinks.

So why did I do it? Well, I’m moving back to Nigeria. The Motherland, right? In Black American’s quest to find an African identity we have created our own notions of what it means to be authentically black. Hair is considered one of the main signifiers, and locks are the granddaddy of “real” blackness. Interestingly, the place where I had the most problems with my hair was in Nigeria. I couldn’t find a natural hair care salon to save my life. Most salons focused on either braids, perms or weaves. Additionally, locks just weren’t the thing in Nigeria. People never believed it was my real hair because they couldn’t understand why someone would keep the same hairstyle for so long. And I also don’t think they were used to seeing black women with long hair since majority of the women seemed to have damaged hair or kept it in braids or mixed with weave.

Hair in Nigeria is considered an integral part of fashion and something to be changed according to their whim. Women go from weaves down the back, to short wigs, to braids and back with reckless abandon. Wearing a permanent hairstyle such as locks seemed constrictive and unimaginative. They were always asking me when I was going to change my hair and telling me that my husband would want me to change my hair to keep the relationship fresh. BK said that was nonsense, but from my conversations with other guys, they may be on to something.

I told my friends that if I came back to Nigeria, I would get rid of my locks. Partly because maintaining my hair was so difficult, but mainly because I want to see how it feels to separate my hair from my identity. To view my hair as another interchangeable part of my wardrobe, and not have my choices weighed down by race, class or politics.

* Capetown, South Africa was completely different. I found a great natural hair care salon that focused on locks and hooked my hair up so nicely. I still don’t think they are as invested in hair politics in the same way as Black Americans.


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