Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wigs, Weaves & Extensions, Nuthin New Under the Sun

Egyptian Queen Nofetari
I was at the Do Over in the Los Angeles this week, and met up with a Ghanaian sister who told me she would be shedding her locks for something new.

Her plan was to wear her hair short and get some funky wigs and weaves and let her roots rest, eventually allowing her follicles to bloom.

Immediately, the bias in me, said, "Weaves!" with disdain. She saw my face as my mouth dropped. She quickly tried to explain her decision.

I felt embarrassed. This sister was a bridesmaid at my wedding. She will always be my sister and I wanted to ask her, "Why wigs? Just rock you!"

But, "Who am I?" I'm still trying to figure it all out myself; especially my hair.

When I made it back to Jersey last night, I was perusing through some hair anthropology data when I was checked for my judgmental thoughts. I forgot about the wigs and extensions found in multiple burial chambers of Egyptian pyramids adorning women and men.

From kinky, to puffs, to coily, to straight augmented hair was mummified to perfection. Like today, augmented hair was all the rage as far back as 3400 BCE (Before the Christian Era).

Wig with coily puff mane found with mummy.
Not only did this re-submission of information into my life sit my ass down in my natural journey, but re-affirmed that nuthin' isn't new, just revamped and reinterpreted.

Weaves, wigs, extensions, braids, fades, silky locks, faux locks, real locks, and Indian Remy hair are old hair trends with a contemporary feel.

In Egypt, the hot desert sun and sand were climates that made bald heads an easier style to rock for men and women. Plus it was the most hygiene-appropriate in preventing the oft-head infestation of lice.

Women and men, usually of royal descent would wear wigs and extend hair length with the use of human hairpieces from their own shorn hair or coifs of commoners.
I always asked, "Why is hair so important to black people and black women in particular?" Well, anthropological studies have shown that even in the days of Queen Tiye and Nofertari (the mummy picture above) hair communicated your wealth and social status.

Hair was an important commodity that was traded and sold. In fact, human hair ranked alongside gold and incense at one point in ancient Egypt.
Hair dyed with Indigo and black henna.

And get this, not only was human hair wigs and extensions were popular, but hair coloring. One mummy was found with a waist-length wig and her own hair colored with a vegetable-based dye to give it a yellowish color. The mummies natural hair was black.
Much like henna and indigo dyes still popular in North Africa and India, and even the ochre earth dye of the Himba women in Namibia, there are natural dyes.

So who was I to question my friend's decision of jazzing her hair with added pieces?

Though I still think that the wig and weaving process should be more humane and equitable in the trade of hair, and prolly, people will use this blog to continue to throw horrible Yaki #9 in their hair, and wear 29-piece weaves on their balding crowns, I think I need to reconsider selling the locks that sit on my shelf.

Even though the Korean store owners didn't want the coily manes of African descendants in Chris Rock's documentary, "Good Hair", it was, and still is all the rave.

Eco.Soul.Intellectual is a socio-cultural, political award-winning writer, journalist and blogger who lives between Newark and Los Angeles.

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♥ CG ♥ said...

This has been on my mind lately too. A couple of years ago I want anti anything that wasn't "ideal" for natural hair. I realized that I needed to get real with myself...I can't guarantee that I'll remain natural or not want to rock some "accessory" hair. I know I would've had the same reaction you did were this back then. I'm in an embrace what makes you feel cute mode these days :-).

Jeanne Petit said...

I'm very glad you posted this. I have been natural for yearssss - I stopped perming my hair as a simple way of doing what my hair "Needed" not just what I wanted.
Of course, it was not easy. How I looked was important to me and I love the look of straightened, pressed, curled and bouncy hair.
I never saw it as trying to be white, I was just trying to look nice.
I never felt like pressing my hair, perming it made me any less. My person, who I was, how I viewed myself on the inside did not depend on my hair. I am more than my hair, what texture it is, what color it is, how long or short it is.
I think sisters may have created yet another "trap" for themselves with this "natural" thing.
To me, choices are what it's all about. What makes you feel good, what enhances you, what helps you represent yourself if what's most important. Sisters should support each other in their choices...
Those who learned a lot about their hair in the "natural" hair wave going on at the moment -cool - but don't condemn another for wearing braids, wigs, color or braids. Lord knows keeping hair natural is like having a child...hmm hmmm

olga el said...

Keeping natural hair really isn't that hard. My regimen (or lack of one) is very simple. I've been completely natural (i.e. not even an occasional perm) for 4 years. The one time I tried extensions was in middle school. I love the simplicity of my nappy hair.

I agree on the no judgement thing though. Everyone has to grow at their own pace, in their own way--- even *if* a part of their beauty regimen does stem from self-hatred.