There is a growing conversation around natural hair and African women are making decisions on whether to wear their hair naturally or have it straightened, permed or wear a weave.
With social media, the conversation seems like a superiority war between natural hair enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts. There are pages supporting both sides and some are reminding women that they can wear their hair however they want.
Adanna Enwezor, convener of the African Hair Summit is acknowledging the choice women have.
In this interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, she explains how keeping natural hair is the best way to improve health and well being.
Enwezor narrates her entry into the natural hair movement, the importance of the African Hair Summit, the impact of the natural hair industry in the economy and the role of parents in teaching children the pride of their natural hair.
Below are excerpts:
What is the Hair summit about?
The African Hair Summit is the leading gathering of natural hair and skincare enthusiasts from all over Africa.
Why are you very passionate about natural hair?
I was pregnant with my second daughter and I got a lot of advice to be careful with what I put in my hair. So I got texturizers because they said it was milder. I was burnt and I was shocked because that’s mostly what children use.
It pushed me to research and I found out that the black hair and beauty industry was linked with a lot of illnesses including cancer, fibroids and hair loss.
I was wondering why people were not talking about it. A woman’s hair is her glory.
If you meet people who suffer from hair loss or alopecia, you will see that it affects their self-esteem. Hair is very important and it is linked to our scalp, which is our skin.
It’s very important that we pay attention to them because, if not in the future, we will see a lot of ladies who do not have any self-esteem.
What are you doing to sensitize parents on the dangers of using these chemical products?
This is also one of the reasons why we have come here. If you want to get people’s attention, you go to the right organisations. I agree that the home is a very crucial place.
I remember when I was growing up, I had very long natural hair and when I got into secondary school, I decided to relax my hair because my friends all had relaxed hair and I wanted to be like them.
Again, because my mum’s hair was relaxed, I was under pressure. I remember her asking me not to relax my hair and I pointed out hers. Every mother should know that your children look up to you so much and you have no idea how much they want to be like you.
So we are really pulling in a way to get in more women organisations involved and we are hoping that through these organisations, we can also reach out to a lot of women to have them come to the event, learn and embrace healthy life choices that can be mirrored by their children.
This year, we are also working with schools. Last year, we had a couple of schools at the summit. We want the children to see firsthand that this is a big deal and it is an event to be natural, to embrace our roots.
It is now something worth celebrating and we want them to come and join in this celebration of our culture, we as a people.
It is something that is at the forefront of our thinking at this point. We are engaging them young and we are also looking for ways to bring in the parents as well.
How many African countries will be represented at the 2019 African Hair Summit?
We are expecting people from the AU; we are expecting people from Ghana, Kenya, Congo. People are coming from a lot of African countries.
But more interesting for me are people who are coming from within Nigeria.
A lot of people are coming from different states including vendors who are coming with their products. It’s very interesting to see how much the movement is growing and how well the industry is picking up here.
What is the central focus of the 2019 African Hair Summit?
Hair Economy, health and wellness: Redefining the business of beauty for Africans. It has everything to do with our health, our well-being and our culture as a people.
Just like we have done in previous years, we have created these platforms to raise health awareness on the health issues that have lingered in this industry.
We also create business opportunities for people who want to start up businesses in the industry.
We have a lot of unemployed people in the country and the poverty and crime rates have gone up. We are looking at using this channel to engage more people to use the natural resources to create businesses in this industry.
We have an abundance of resources including Shea butter, coconut and carrot oil. A lot of people are not aware of this. In the communities that produce Shea butter, there is a lot of poverty.
People don’t know that the Shea butter that drops on their ground is money. That if properly processed and packaged, it can become an export commodity. You can begin to sell in Nigeria because there is a growing demand for these products.
So, we are using the platform to open up people’s minds to these things. We have access to these things. Some of us have farms behind our houses. There is really no excuse to say “I don’t have money or I don’t have a source of income”.
We are now beginning to raise this awareness about these opportunities in these industries and this year, we are going to have more government organisations key into these things. The NEPC, SMEDAN, SON, NAFDAC.
These are the organisations we are expecting to see at the summit this year to be able to engage more with the people on how to successfully start up businesses in the industry and grow them into international brands.
Ifu-Ennada is one your envoys, what informed this choice?
Ifu-Ennada has a natural hair brand product line and she is very passionate about natural hair. We work with people that are very passionate about natural hair.
It’s going to be a place where you can draw inspiration, meet people one on one, get inspired to start your own natural hair brand and hear firsthand stories.
Dakore (Egbuson-Akande) went natural 20 years ago and that’s something we didn’t even know until she came last year.
It’s very interesting to see how people get inspired through other people’s stories and that is one of the reasons for the African Hair Summit. (NAN)