There has been a boom of the natural hair movement (a celebration of the kinky hair), of African fashion (through the explosion of African Fashion Week and of the Afropolitan marketplace), an opening up African art and aestheticism (through artists like Mary Sibande, Toyin Odutola and Yinka Shobinbare) and the emergence of new role models (Richard Turere, Lupita Nyong’o, Chumamanda Ngozie Adichie) who are not just proudly African, they have now become the African Ambassadors to the world on how an African woman exudes beauty and brains whilst till fully embracing their identity on a world stage.
Nigerian doll maker Taofick Okoya recently made international headlines when his range of African dolls outsold the barbie for the first time in Nigeria and are giving now taking on the barbie doll in global sales
Since the inception of his business, Seven years on, Okoya sells between 6,000 and 9,000 of his “Queens of Africa” and “Naija Princesses” a month, and reckons he has 10-15 percent of a small but fast-growing market.
The Johnson’s Baby company recently launched a new range of haircare under the natural hair baby product targeted at the African market for African baby hair. These products are shown to help keep the child’s hair detangle. The Johnson’s Company is seeking to tapp into a growing market. There is a growing middle class in Africa which though in a cosmopolitan world, seeks to assert its identity and that of its offspring through use of African names as baptism names and the encouragement of natural hair.
The beauty and cosmetics industry is having to adopt to this renewed awakening following years of beauty products that promote a more western-centric view of beauty; long flowing hair and lighter complexions.
Johnsons is seeking to fill the void created by this awakening and a lack of products that cater for African Children hair. According to their marketing, it should no longer be hard to maintain your child’s natural curls. It brought the thought of natural hair versus permed hair. How we got to permed hair and why today people are embracing their kink and curls.
Growing up I did not have a good impression of my natural hair. It was kinky and hard to comb. Living in the coast and exposed to the Arab kids’ hair, I obviously wished I had theirs. Mind you, among the kinky haired I am presumed to be lucky. It may be long but that just means more work. So when I got to class five my mum got my hair permed because I was joining a boarding school. I was beyond thrilled. At that time, permed hair was winning the battle in the African women’s choice. This was a trend that was developing as we tried to emulate the westerners’ culture. We emulated their clothes, way of speech (twanging) and finally their hair.
I’m glad though that today we are embracing our natural hair among other things. Some of the westerners want our kinky hair. It is lovely because it is becoming a trend to spot dreadlocks, afros and braids like “Afrokinky” to create that hairdo. So when you are sitting in the saloon and imagining that it is more expensive to maintain your natural hair, think again. You could be surprised.
The whole African theme is going strong because it is influenced by the generation Y. The generation that we grew up knowing will be the leaders of tomorrow. We were always on the spotlight as lazy bums because we wanted to put ourselves first before work. In that, we are driven by their emotions more than logic (not that we are illogical). That is why the passion to be different and embrace (what we as Africans have for a long time taken for granted) our natural hair, fashion is catching on. The Johnson’s ad is great because the generation to come will have an appreciation of their culture. Having shaggy kinky hair (the hairdo) and wearing African print is hip. Go on and rock it.