She is a natural hair blogger , runs Ahia Natural Nigerian and is also one of the organisers of the Naturals in The City event. Today on Femme Lounge, she answered some of our most pressing questions about natural hair. Meet Natural Nigerian!
Who is Natural Nigerian?
A person who is on a journey to a healthier and more natural lifestyle. From Hair to Toe
Why did you make the decision to go Natural?
If you mean hair-wise, there was no real epiphany, it was something that I sort of fell into. I had my last relaxer in December 2008 and it was a bit traumatic (severely burnt scalp). By that time, I had been re-touching my new growth every 6 months so it was easy to decide not to ever relax my hair again.
How has been the journey so far?
Interesting in terms of how it has affected other parts of my life (positively), my pocket (far less expensive) and my relationship with others.
More and more women are considering going natural every day, what are the most important things you think they need to know before they start?
1. The most important thing is to make sure that it is something you really want to do. Nigerians are not all very accepting of people that have Natural hair and if you are doing just because you consider it a fad, you will find yourself easily frustrated.
2. Every one’s Natural Hair texture is different. A lot of Nigerians have been relaxing their hair since they were children and have absolutely no idea what sort of hair texture they have until they decide to go natural. I know quite a few people who have gotten disappointed by their hair texture because it is not soft, curly or “oyinbo” enough. Be prepared to love what you discover. It is a part of you.
3. You do not have to spend a lot of money to maintain your natural hair but you do need to spend time caring for it.
One of the things women worry about when thinking of going natural is how to keep the texture soft and also how to keep up with daily styling, how easy is that?
The honest answer is that your hair will never be soft 24/7. However, with the right techniques, you can keep it moisturized for longer. For example, spritz your hair lightly with a liquid (e.g water or Aloe Vera Juice), follow up with a leave in conditioner and then seal it all in with a butter (shea/cocoa/mango) or an oil like Castor oil. My absolute best liquid to spritz in your hair is Aloe Vera juice. It is very moisturizing and makes my curls POP! You may need to do this process every few days. Of course your shampooing and deep conditioning regimen is the actual foundation that will make the process I outlined work. Styling will usually have to be done by oneself as there is limited support in normal Nigerian salons.
Is it a lonely journey or are there products and services in Nigeria tailored to meet the needs of Naturals?
I can gladly report that things are getting a lot better. When we first began our natural hair meet ups (NITC), we hardly had any vendors. Now we have more than we can handle, all offering a plethora of products that were hard to find a few months/years before. When it comes to services, however, we are very much an underserviced group. Almost all Nigerian salons do not know how to handle Natural hair. And a lot of them actually display an unwillingness to learn. Good news is that I know of a few people who have plans of starting their own natural hair salons. Once they are ready, they will make the announcements.
Some people keep natural hair because they think it is healthier; some keep it to make a political statement that black hair is good too. Do you think keeping Natural hair makes you more African?
Personally, I feel that my “African-ness” has never been in question. I do not feel comfortable taking a politicized view of Natural Hair. I have read the arguments for and against team natural as well as team relaxer and I do not believe that I belong to either – not in the way that it is spoken about. I wrote about it a bit here:
Has going natural evoked some form of introspection? Yes.
Do I agree that having natural hair means different things to different people? Yes.
Do I think that any one group should lord it over the other? No. We can all get along. People are at different points and roads in their life journey and the fact that they do not take the one you choose to should not make them the subject of ridicule.
I have heard many stories about the negative reactions many Naturals get, have you experienced that? How can one handle that?
Oh, definitely. It comes with the territory. You are going to need thick skin to rock your natural hair in Nigeria. It is a country of fashionable people and they do not take like it at all when folks refuse to toe the ‘fashionable” line. I would advise that one handles it with amusement. That is how I do it. I have only been upset once.
A Nigerian celebrity recently tweeted some tips on how a woman can get married and he advised women to “Get that Don King hair done, and stop forming Oh Naturale”. Do you think that is a good representation of what men think about Natural Hair?
I saw that unfortunate tweet. I would have to say an emphatic no! I have several male friends who love are freaked out by the predominance of foreign, flowy hair on the head of Nigerians and welcome a return to natural hair. They actually find it beautiful. The only caveat being that it should be neat and well presented.
Does it take extra effort to be attractive with Natural hair?
This is a very interesting question. My personal experience has been that my definition of beauty and what is attractive has changed sharply since I started rocking my natural hair. I actually almost never wear any make-up now as opposed to the minimal make-up I used to wear before. And when I look in the mirror, I think I am beautiful and attractive. Others may not agree but that is neither here nor there as far as I am concerned.
Some people think that they need more make-up and bold accessories to pull off the look. They are not wrong as that is their own definition of what attractive is. We must each determine our definition of what is attractive and not necessarily rely on others’ opinion of what makes us attractive.
You are one of the organisers of the Naturals in The City event; please tell us more about that.
Naturals in the City is a quarterly meet up for anyone that is interested in learning about adopting a healthy lifestyle. It is essentially a hair meet up but we typically have a nutritionist talking about diet and a Subject Matter Expert talking about things that are pertinent to health, hair or general lifestyle.
We also have lots of vendors selling Natural Products that are typically hard to find in Nigeria along some that are not.The organizers are Carib Health (Nutritionist), Screwy Haired Girl (Natural Hair Blogger) and Natural Nigerian.
Are there other events like this for people who want to learn more about Natural hair?
There is one in Abuja called Capital Naturals. There has just been the one meet up and it is organized by Deep Brown & Kinks (Natural Hair Blogger), Bibi Naturals (Manufacturer and Seller of Natural Hair and Skin Products) as well as Natural Nigerian.
What is Ahia Natural Nigeria all about?
Ahia in Igbo means Market. Ahia Natural Nigerian is simply the Natural Nigerian Market where several items for natural hair and skin care can be obtained at an affordable price. Each product we sell has been selected because it can be used in numerous ways (money saver!), is all natural and usually has no contra-indications (we will let you know if there are contra-indications). We particularly delight in finding and providing local products like our Cocoa Butter, Neem and Henna Powder among others.
Thank you Natural Nigerian!