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Brazilian craze

Brazilian craze
There’s a craze about the Brazilian weave going on right now. If you walk out on any London street, the first African or Caribbean girl you see will probably be donning a huge mane of golden hair.

I have asked my friends and colleagues why they like Brazilian weave so much? Their answer is that it ‘transforms them into a beauty queen’.

Well, I for one am not convinced. Why Brazilian weave? We Africans have always taken pride in the originality of our hairstyle – whether it’s plaits, braids, cane/corn row, dreadlocks or normal straight weave, we’ve always had our own signature style. I’m sure we can still do our hair in different styles and shapes, and be proud of the outcome. If this is the case, why do we find it a struggle to accept our natural beauty? Could it be that Western definitions of beauty have altered the way we look at our ourselves? What will it take for Africans to accept that we are beautiful just as we are?

Paying over the odds

When I competed in last year’s Miss Southern African beauty contest, I didn’t wear Brazilian weave. I stuck to my African style – and it didn’t stop me from winning the contest.

The craze to look like an Amazonian is fuelling the boom in the trade in Brazilian hair in London and other major cities. African girls are paying over the odds for something that, in their view, will enhance their beauty. Imagine spending up to £2,000 on a weave, in these recessionary times when everyone is complaining about not having enough money to live on?

Now I am not against extensions, but I believe that hair is an art, and that there is a lot we can do to our natural hair to change our appearance. However when having extensions becomes an absolute ’must’ and women refuse to leave their house or let their partners see them without hair extensions,  surely that becomes a problem?

Harmful to health

I am aware that nowadays everybody, regardless of their ethnicity, adds extensions – but among African and Caribbean girls, the trend is developing into a fad. The thing to bear in mind is that chemicals used in the extensions (such as relaxers) can be harmful to our health. So the craze is not only hitting our pockets, it is also threatening our health. Call me old fashioned but what this obsession with ‘looking good’ says is: ‘We are not happy about the way we look.’

We should blame ourselves for not being satisfied with our bodies. Western definitions of beauty are just that – Western. As Africans, we need to set our own definitions of what constitutes beauty. Even in Nollywood (of which I am a huge fan – it’s bringing a definition of ‘African’ to the world stage) the women characters don weaves and wigs 99.99 per cent of the time. When will the ’Afro’ become more than a political and niche cultural symbol? When will we start regarding hair extensions as an embellishment rather than as a way of life? When?

Last review date: 15.8.2012
Next review date: 15.8.2014

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Nissi Mutale is a former Miss Southern Africa UK.

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