Month: January 2017

Do I Make A Statement With My Natural African Hair?

I’m at that stage in my life when I have no idea what to do with my hair. It’s about slightly over an inch long (courtesy of a shave I did sometime in September last year, when I still didn’t know what to do with the full length, African mane on my head), partly chemically processed, partly natural. So on days when I’m leaving the house, I do the curl activator thing to make it look a bit presentable and comb it into an impressionable afro. If you can call it that.

This is my current hair situation. I was trying a kind of mohawk look sometime back.

This is my current hair situation. I was trying a kind of mohawk look sometime back.

 

This was my chemically processed, styled in curls hair sometime back at its full length.

This was my chemically processed, styled in curls hair sometime back at its full length. Forgive the 60s retro look that is oh, so old fashioned.

 

My once full length completely natural hair when I had belief in my original kink

My once full length completely natural hair when I still held belief in my original kink.

It’s not the first time I’m writing about hair on the blog. Because hair is a part of us. And especially African women who are blessed with kinky manes. That shrubbery on your head, if you would call it that on days that it just can’t sit right and frame your face right, always reminds you of your African roots. You can’t run away from it. You can perm it, like I have done in the past and recent past just to make it more manageable, but as soon as that growth of natural hair appears, you are reminded of your roots.

Not that it is a bad thing to be an African woman.

However, an African woman who chooses to embrace her natural kinky hair is a force to reckon with. I have seen celebrities try the no make-up look albeit successfully. I have also seen celebrities of pure African descent swear that the long, silky hair we were seeing on their heads was indeed natural. I have equally seen pictures online of natural, African hair that still didn’t look natural enough. So whenever I see an African woman walking around with what indeed looks natural and still appear confident in her skin, I silently salute her because I’m still not that confident with my natural one.

Nigerian Writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who has a penchant for rocking her natural mane. Bellanaija.com

Nigerian Writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who has a penchant for rocking her natural mane. Bellanaija.com

Take Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for example, who is never afraid to wear her hair natural. She has actually talked about African hair in her books. She is also considered a feminist. Not the bashful kind of feminist who got the script all wrong and ended up appearing bitter instead of passing a message. Which actually brings me to my blog’s title today, Do I Make A Statement With My African Natural Hair?

In many ways, yes.

It takes a lot of courage for an African woman to choose to wear her hair natural. Not with the wide array of styles and weaves to choose from, coupled with all the tricks available, to help make your hair appear fuller and much more silkier than it originally is. Hair is considered sacred in many religions. They actually refer to hair in Islam as “ornaments” which a woman is supposed to cover, to avoid unwarranted attention such as admiration, envy, sexual attraction and the likes. This just proves how much power hair actually has and especially on a female.

Therefore, when an African woman decides to celebrate her actual hair by choosing to wear it natural, she is passing out the message that she embraces all that makes her African. Including her hair which had once been considered undesirable for a long time, by the African female fraternity due to its texture. A texture that seemed unusual when compared to Caucasian hair.

She is making a beauty statement that by deciding to take the often unpredictable natural look route, she is not fazed by the desirability factor. She is confident enough to work with what mother nature blessed her with. And trust me, African men are totally turned on by African hair on a woman’s head that is well taken care of. So a woman is not only making a statement but embracing that which makes her an African woman. It oozes confidence to the opposite sex.

And while it has taken a very long time for African women to love their natural hair, it is refreshing to see a natural hair fad in Nairobi, a city I have resided in for sometime. It speaks volumes about the liberation of the African woman, who tried sometimes unsuccessfully to achieve that silky Caucasian hair look. Who literally tied her head with a head tie on those days when she didn’t have her braids or weave on, because she was not confident enough to venture out in all her African glory.

That woman has since seen the light and is rapidly moving in a direction that celebrates what was once considered unusual. That woman can be called a feminist who accepts herself first, before she can begin to demand for gender equality and for more opportunities for the oppressed girl child. That woman is a shining light in a dark tunnel.

 

Why Our West African Brodas Will Always Be Appealing To Kenyan Women

I must admit that this is a topic that has fascinated me for a while. These West African brodas( that’s how they pronounce brothers there for those who are wondering) who land in this beautiful country of ours and within months, have managed to successfully date this Kenyan damsel, who had proven outta many Kenyan men’s league for ages. What is it about these men that makes Kenyan women go gaga and agree to settle down with, after the entire society had already written them off as “too old” for marriage? Talk about classic stereotypes.

Please note that after interacting with Kenyan women who are married to or in relationships with West African men and careful observation, I came up with the below list of reasons;

1.West African Men Are Expressive

A Nigerian man in Nigerian inspired attire. Photo Courtesy of Google Images

A Nigerian man in Nigerian inspired attire. Photo Courtesy of Google Images

West African men are quite expressive. From the way they talk to how they dress. One time I was at the Hub in Karen with some of my relatives and this obviously, West African guy that for some reason looked like someone I had seen before on TV or a magazine, was in all white. From the African inspired shirt, to the trousers, to the sandals. In his company, was this tall, svelte, fashionably dressed lady in jeans and heels whom I had no way of telling if she was Kenyan or equally West African.

Now Kenyan men are going to bash me for this, but you rarely get to see a Kenyan man in all white and sandals and still make the sandals look fashionable in addition to looking damn good! Our Kenyan idea of a man being extremely smart is the official suit. Blame “this official suit looking good” mentality on the British colonial influence, but it has taken a long while for us to see Kenyan men play around with color and other styles that are still dapper. Trust these West Africans to dress in all these bursts of color and still look manly enough, for Kenyan women to literally feel like throwing themselves at their feet.

A West African man will not feel less manly, for expressing himself to a woman about how much she means the world to him. Every woman, not only Kenyan, would want to hear it from a man she’s with that he loves her to the moon and back. We have our own cultures back here in Kenya, that frown upon men expressing their emotions and perhaps prevent our men, from going all expressive about their feelings. I don’t know about the West African culture, Ghana and Nigeria and the likes and what they think about an expressive man, but their men are not about to shy off soon from adorning their women with expressive declarations of what they feel about them.

2. They are providers

I’m not trying to imply that the Kenyan men are not providers. As a matter of fact, just so you know, I have never dated a West African man. I have only interacted with a couple. However, the West African man came to Kenya and took provision to a whole other level. Of course there are those West African men who have landed in Kenya while making money in unscrupulous ways, to be able to throw it carelessly on “trivial” things like spoiling Kenyan women silly.

Kenyan women on the other hand have a reputation of being materialistic. We all get lumped in the same category of golddiggers even though some of us, might have no interest whatsoever in the materialistic things a man has to offer. Kenyan women equally have an East African reputation of being aggressive if the number of single women, successfully raising their children on their own while catering for the childrens’ every need, is anything to go by. Plus there’s a new crop of men who simply refuse to provide for whatever reason.

So it’s not like women generally latch onto men for money purposes. However, the feeling that a man can actually provide for your every need and feel no strain nor complain while doing it, is quite refreshing for a woman. And this is where our West African brodas got the script right. They will provide and provide to their maximum abilities. And especially if he is an upright, law abiding citizen, a woman can’t really complain, can she?

3. Their culture is fascinating

African Print Fabric. Pinterest

African Print Fabric. Pinterest

There’s a fascination with West African culture in Kenya. I mean, we consume enough afrobeat music from West Africa already! Do they listen to our Kenyan music themselves? I have no way of telling. It’s a different culture altogether from their accents, food, names, how they dress, how they act. Even the West African man’s physical build is slightly different from the Kenyan man’s. Different is sometimes fascinating to a woman. It’s a mystery that a Kenyan woman would like to unravel. So coupled with the other two reasons, I believe we are still going to witness many Kenyan-West African unions in future.

Thoughts? I can take the stones thrown at me 😛

We Need More Positive African Stories

I’m becoming addicted to watching  CNN. Nowadays, American politics, the war in Syria (as if that’s not depressing enough) and small bits of pieces of News from Europe dominate the channel. A couple of nights back, I was watching the African Voices segment on it and it was refreshing to see Africa painted in a positive light.

There was this Rwandese guy who is a designer and designs really cool, African print bowties among other items of clothing. We saw him drive to the market to buy vitenges(African print material/African batik fabric), visit the barber shop to trim his Patrice Lumumba inspired look and go for a morning walk. And I was happy that the world was seeing a different side of Africa. Not the usual depressing news of war, starvation, terrorist attacks,  political coups, poverty, retrogressive cultures, illetracy and what nots.

Internet Sources

Internet Sources

That’s not all Africa is made up of. The negatives and unprogressive life. I know by now that the Middle East is starting to get pretty tired of all that negative reporting of the continent. The African continent equally got so tired of it a long time ago, that an African would not hesitate telling off a foreigner, who still views the continent through the misguided lense of the Western media. And I think CNN is starting to move away from the stereotypes and depressing stories of Africa. Kudos to them!

There is alot about Africa that the world needs to know. It really irritates me when I encounter individuals on Facebook groups, who still think that Africa is lagging behind in the 20th century, when the rest of the world is so 21st century. You need to open up your eyes to what this continent has to offer, other than what you have over time believed is the real thing.

A lot of foreign news reporters will mostly visit the marginalized areas of Africa or the slum areas or conflict areas and do stories about those. Their intentions may indeed be pure as they would like to bring these issues to the world’s attention. However, most of the time, these kinds of stories only serve to mislead the recipients, who may lack the zeal to dig deeper about the African way of life.

Africa is a progressive continent. There are developed urban areas, improved infrastructure, up to date technologies, learned individuals, talented individuals, exposed individuals. It’s not all about animals and living on trees wearing nothing but a flap of skin to preserve our modesty. As a matter of fact, I believe some of the well dressed individuals come from Africa.

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

What many people from the West may not know is that aside from the Maasai culture in Kenya, there are more than 10 other different cultures from the 43 different Kenyan tribes.

For the longest time possible, Western media really concentrated on the Maasai community. And with good reason, don’t get me wrong! This is one of the communities in Kenya and Tanzania that has upheld most of its original cultural practices pre-colonial times. It is a rich culture that tends to fascinate the West and people not from the two countries.

However, it would surprise many that other communities in Kenya despite the Western influence in their way of life, still carry out their respective cultural practices to date. Take this personal encounter, for example. I’m sometimes a storyteller, so bear with me on this.

A friend of a friend was getting married sometime in 2013. So as is synonymous with my country, we do a traditional wedding first before the White church wedding that is Western influenced.

Internet Sources

Internet Sources

I happened to tag along. Now in her community, the girls have to be covered from head to toe in two pieces of a lesso (wrapper) for the hubby-to-be to identify who his wife-to-be is. In our midst, there were two girls who had the same skin tone and similar looking feet.

One was of course the lady getting married. And we had this hilarious moment, advising her to tie a colored band on one of her toes and alert her fiance about it via text, before we came out so that he doesn’t get confused and fined, for picking the wrong girl.

So the older women covered us up, all girls about the same height in the lessos and we were guided outside where the ceremony was taking place. Believe it or not, the hubby-to-be seemed a little confused and nearly chose the girl with feet that resembled his wife-to-be, despite the colored band he had been alerted to earlier missing on the girl’s toes.

I mean, these are some of the cultural practices from other communities in Africa, that the Western media can do stories on other than the usual. Just to show how over time the African culture has blended in with the Western culture.

If you thought illetracy ruled the African continent, you should take a look at the highly talented graduates, from many of our universities. People who come out of campus not with a job mentality but a vision to be self employed and despite whatever financial constraints they may face, strive to achieve their goals. And many times, if they are committed enough to their dream, their efforts pay off.

We do appreciate the genuine curiosity of foreigners who would love to truly know about our continent. But just don’t lump me in the athletics team in campus overseas, just because you assume being a Kenyan, I can automatically run. Not all of us Kenyans have the ability to do long distance running and that’s because we are equipped and talented differently. We possess a diversity.

Being from the African continent and proudly so, I would advice anyone seeking to do an African story to intergrate himself or herself with the African society. Visit the developed areas, watch how the African carries his/her day to day activities and trust me, despite what we may face as a 3rd world continent, you are going to get beautiful, positive stories to tell the world about us.

The Kenyan-Indian Connection

Nairobi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta after their press statements at State House in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh (PTI7_11_2016_000128B)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta after their press statements at State House in Nairobi, during the PM’s visit to Kenya. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh

The day before yesterday therebout, I chanced upon a post by a local media station on Facebook, claiming that the Kenyan-Indians had requested to be recognized as the 44th tribe of Kenya. So I was curious to read the comments and the vitriol that spewed from Kenyans could not be masked in the comment section. I’m not sure if the Indians among us read those comments and what they felt about it.

As I have already mentioned before on my blog for the sake of my foreign readers, the Indian community came to Kenya in the 1890s to aid in the building of the Kenya-Uganda railway. Many opted to stay and bring their families after it was completed. So when we are talking about the Asian community, as we like to refer to them in Kenya, we are talking about 3rd and 4th generation Indians who only know of Kenya as their home.

It may surprise you though, that the Kenyan-Indians upheld their culture and still practice many if not all, of their Indian cultural practices to date. It may surprise you further, that many Kenyan-Indians have chosen to get married to their fellow Indians and stick to their close knit way of life. To the other Kenyans, this tends to come off as snobbish and probably racist?

It’s not something we openly talk about but when given a chance, Kenyans can really talk ill about the Asian community. This was evident in the many comments I scrolled through on the Facebook post. Many of the bitter complaints arising from the kind of treatment metted unto them while working for Indian bosses, who have a reputation of being hard to please and too harsh for their liking.

In essence, I think Kenyans would really appreciate it if their Indian brothers and sisters chose to intergrate with them. I also think that the foreign culture of Indians in general greatly confuses them. It is a culture that is rich and Kenyans would love to understand it but fail miserably at it, with the level of silent suspiscion between the two groups that simmers just beneath the surface.

My childhood best friend in the 8 years of primary school happened to be a Kenyan-Indian. I have equally worked for an Indian boss. Therefore, when I talk about the Asian community, it’s not out of bitterness or a need for vindication. It’s basically to bring issues to the fore, that have for a long time been swept under the carpet yet they affect our Kenyan society.

Trust me, there are many Kenyans of African descent who have worked for Indian companies and bosses and have a long list of complaints regarding unfair treatment. But why is this so? Methinks colonialism and ancient Indian culture played a huge role in contributing to this kind of sour relationship between the Kenyans and Kenyan-Indians.

During colonial times, of course the Black Africans were at the lowest on the tier. As a result of their skin color and culture considered primitive by the colonialists who had their own hidden agendas, the Black Africans were looked down upon and suffered many injustices as a result.

The Indians were of course lighter with silky hair and therefore not really prejudiced against as much as the Black Africans were. They were of course not considered to be of the same level as the European colonialists, but they were placed somewhere in the middle, above the Black Africans.

It should also be noted that the Indian coolies who came to offer labor in building the railway line, landed in Kenya at a time when colonialism was just taking root. Coupled with their ancient caste system that grouped individuals in society according to their social standing, it was inevitable really for the Indians not to look down upon the Black Africans.

By Independence, the enterprising Kenyan-Indians already had a presence in many economic spheres. Not so for the Black Africans in Kenya who had been long suppressed by the colonial system. Indeed one of the first president’s agendas was to eradicate illetracy among mainly the Black African community.

It is however unfortunate that the preceeding generations of the Asian community in Kenya, held on to what their forefathers believed in and passed it down to their own children. The Indians chose to stick to the familiar thus limiting their interaction with the other Kenyans in society.

At my time in primary school, I would still see Indian kids from different classes, opting to form a large group of friends despite their age differences. The memory is still vivid in my mind when my Indian friend once tried to include me in one of these groups.

One Asian girl in particular, carried on speaking in Gujarati despite my apparent lack of understanding and my friend’s obvious struggle in communicating back in the same language, thus opting to reply in English. It was the last I would agree to tag along. However, there were and are still those Kenyan-Indians, who do not mind interacting with the Black Africans as was evidenced by my friend back then.

I think the thing that irks many Kenyans the most though, is the fact that we have heard of stories where if an Asian got married to an African, he/she would be considered an outcast by his/her family. This was quite evident in the My Bukusu Darling saga, where an Indian girl in Western Kenya fell in love with her father’s employee, an African and moved in with him.

It was evident that her parents did not agree nor approve of it and many Kenyans doubted the union would last. It is not everyday we get to see an Indian marrying a Kenyan of African descent. True to the majority’s doubts, the union between these two individuals did not successfully weather the family storm. Quite soon enough, the marriage broke.

This and many other misplaced beliefs between the two groups is what makes genuine interaction nearly impossible. Over time, Kenyans have equally developed an attitude toward the Asians, that further hampers hopes of the two groups integrating.

When a Kenyan walks into an Asian owned business/company as an employee with a set mentality that he/she will be mistreated, then justified acts of sternness by the Asians present, will be interprated as acts of cruelty. It is what fuels the constant whines and complaints about difficult Asian bosses and causes others to steer clear of the Kenyan-Indians.

As for the Kenyan-Indians, the mentality that an African cannot be trusted to do a good job, be a good friend or an upright individual, is what creates that level of suspiscion that you can almost feel, when sometimes interacting with an Indian. The superiority complex that still makes a section of Kenyan-Indians, to view themselves as better and of a higher social standing than the Kenyans of African descent further stretches the divide.

The Indians in our midst are an enterprising lot that have greatly contributed to the Kenyan economy. However, some of these backward mentalities, religious and social stances that we stubbornly hold on to, are what makes Kenyans be wary of the Kenyan-Indians and harshly criticize their suggestion of being recognized as a tribe.

My 2016 In Perspective

Happy New Year Readers!

I have been MIA for a while. Well, I’m back now and I decided to do a recap of how my just ended 2016 unfolded.

Favorite song of the year:

My favorite song of the year 2016 definitely had to be Yemi Alade’s feat Sauti Sol’s Africa. I loved and still love everything about this song from the video to the musical arrangement to the Nigerian meets Kenyan fusion. This is a song I will listen to for a long time.

Career:

My career decided to play tricks on me for the better part of 2016. Let’s just say I tended to make some decisions regarding my career that were not very wise as I would eventually discover. That’s definitely something that’s going to change this 2017.

Blogging and Writing:

Well, I have been doing these two for the longest time possible and 2016 continued to prove to me that I should keep up with it. I got opportunities to contribute to a Kenyan digital magazine twice for the October and December/January issues.

Earlier on in the year, I also got an opportunity to meet with a popular columnist on one of our dailies, who gave me a wealth of ideas as well as advice concerning the direction my writing should take. He actually inspired some of the changes I made on the blog. My most favorite posts that I did for the year 2016 had to be;

http://www.definitelylorna.wordpress.com/african-women-and-sexism

and

http://www.definitelylorna.wordpress.com/the-day-we-decided-black-lives-dont-matter

I’m hoping to do many more insightful and interesting posts this year so watch this space 🙂

Love Life:

2016 was pretty interesting on that front. No knight in shining armor yet. Lots of sifting through guys who are just not ready for committed relationships yet. I had a lot to write about relationships in 2016 on the blog plus valuable lessons were learnt. So let’s just see how 2017 unfolds in that department.

Family:

Thank God for family! How would we survive without that? Family came through this year for me every step of the way. The best feeling is knowing there are blood relatives, who have your back even when things might seem not to be going right.

 

For my fans who have kept up with me do drop suggestions on the comment section below, on topics you would like me to tackle this year on the blog falling under the categories;

feminist ramblings, banter, musings and relationships