British Nigerian film maker Zina Saro Wiwa has produced a short film on her journey to wearing and discovering her natural hair. In ‘Transition‘ the Op-Doc for the NY Times she chronicles the seemingly quiet natural hair revolution occurring in the black community. According to one study by a consumer research and spending firm, hair relaxer sales went down by 11 percent between 2006-2011. The numbers of black women choosing to wear their natural hair is on the rise. Interestingly, Saro Wiwa says she found that none of the 50 or so women she interviewed for the project saw their decision to go natural as political. Although this may have been so during the Black Power movement in the late 60s and 70s.
Mainstream US media whether print or broadcast has still yet to reflect this changing aesthetic in the black community. Earlier this year hollywood actress Viola Davis shocked everyone when she wore her natural hair to the Oscars, where she was nominated for her role in the Help. After over two decades in the film industry, Davis had worn one wig, weave, extension after the other to conform to a more accepted image. Natural hair is still sometimes viewed as an act of rebellion and or militancy in the media.
While the natural hair trend is growing in the US, in West Africa the trend is reversed. As African women become more affluent, perms and expensive Brazilian and Indian weaves have become the norm in the metropolis of Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal. African women prefer the straight weaved hairs of Beyonce and Rihanna than to maintain their hair in its natural form. In Accra local salon sign boards are covered with images of black celebrities with perms and weaves.
Perhaps as natural hair becomes more popular among black Americans, our sisters on the continent will evolve in that direction as well.