The Politics of Black Hair in Congo

Robert Nzaou-Kissolo Aug 10, 2016 at 08:00am

August 10, 2016 at 08:00 am | Lifestyle

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Robert Nzaou-Kissolo

August 10, 2016 at 08:00 am | Lifestyle

Here, you can see a number of pictures of my lovely niece Nzoussi, wearing her beautiful long hair (which she hates and resents, by the way).

I was lucky to have taken these photographs of her as this was one of the few times that she was not wearing a weave or extension.

The time I spend at home in the Congo with my extended family is always a mix of excitement, happiness, and frustration. I fail to understand how a lucky girl like my niece refuses to embrace her natural, kinky Afro.

Instead, she wants soft and smooth hair, and even my compliments will not change her mind.

I couldn’t help to engage her by asking her the infamous question, “Who taught you to hate yourself?”

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According to her, girls with fake hair get more attention from men and women and look better…. 

The worst part is that she truly believes that Caucasians and Indians have it better in life. It makes me sad, but again, I’m only a man, what do I know about combing and managing Black hair?

But in observing Congolese society, I think the problem goes deeper.

My Salon de Coiffure project has revealed to me that most hair salons only advertise light-skinned models with fake hair, and as a result, girls are discouraged to look any other way. They believe that being beautiful means straightening or hiding their natural hair by any means.

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There is also the problem of status: Indian and Brazilian hair costs a fortune, so being able to afford them says something about your income bracket.

Believe it or not, in Congolese society, women with natural hair are seen as lower class citizens, because the only reason they don’t have fake hair is because they can’t afford it.

With our media still being predominantly Western-driven, Caucasian looks are seen as better. In addition, Congolese female TV anchors as well as women in government administration wear fake hair; in fact, the higher the position, the more likely they are to wear expensive weaves and Brazilian hair.

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It’s hard, if not impossible, to undo a belief when you are seeing the images all around you.

I found myself asking the question: “What are you to expect from a 20-something, when her first toy was a blond doll and not a brown one?”

Afterward, my anger and disappointment vanished.

I told her that I love her regardless, and that I don’t love her any less when she wears her fake hair.

er telling her that I love her regardless, I don’t love her any less when she wears her fake hair.

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