The Evolution Of The Natural Hair Movement In Nigeria

Throwback to 2013. The first thing any guy says to me is, 'I love your hair', or 'your hair's really pretty, I'm sure it takes a lot of effort to manage it' or something along those lines.

My natural hair became a conversation starter, a pick-up line that never got old. I reveled in all of those compliments but I had no idea they were going to become few and far between.

The natural hair movement in Nigeria has been quite fascinating to watch. It has grown and evolved. It was received with pure disdain but is now well accepted. The war between the #teamrelaxer and #teamnatural has been nearly won with the relaxed ladies holding on to till the very end. Every day, people are joining the bandwagon for reasons known to them either from falling out of the bad hair care system in Nigeria or simply going with the perceived ‘trend’.  You also have mothers who previously loathed the idea of wearing natural hair to embracing it and stealing taking products behind your back. It's been quite a journey and we're just getting started.

The very edition of Naturals In The City in 2011

The very edition of Naturals In The City in 2011



In 2011, a couple of natural hair 'veterans' slash enthusiasts came together to organize the very first natural hair meet-up in Nigeria. The idea was to educate Nigerian women about this safer and practical way to grow healthy hair. Given our love-hate relationship with relaxers, this idea wasn't exactly embraced with open arms. It was going to take a while. But these women kept at it. Need I say that they were the pioneers of the natural hair movement in Nigeria? Every year - sometimes twice a year - they gathered a group of people that were interested in growing their natural hair and educated them about everything they needed to know. Because frankly, the Internet was oversaturated already and Nigerian women won’t mind a more simplified version. Naturals in the City will be having its eigtheenth edition in March. Now a quarterly event, it has evolved from a natural hair meet up to a natural lifestyle meet up. After the abusive relationship with their relaxed hair, Nigerian women are done and have finally accepted their natural hair. This draws more light on the scenario earlier. It's 2016 and guys no longer pay compliments to your hair because there's nothing special anymore. Their mothers and girlfriends have natural hair.



Of course, like every new concept, it comes with its peculiar challenges. These being products and hair stylists. For the longest time, Nigerian women depended heavily on foreign products. The case of being more superior and functional in quality and sometimes quantity. To be honest, we could not blame them. We were literally moving into a new era with outdated tools and it just couldn't work. Well, this situation put quite a number of people in business. Their job was to import these products and sell to us. Never mind the outrageous profit. Of course, in the long run, this wasn't sustainable as we had to look inwards and inwards did we look. A couple of years later, we were officially manufacturing natural hair products using indigenous materials in Nigeria. So, we had all natural products for our natural hair. It doesn't get better any than that. This was a major breakthrough but people still needed to accept these products over their foreign counterparts. It took a while but today there are tons of natural hair brands and this can only mean one thing - well asides from the economic situation; we're finally moving forward and making progress.

Natmaine styling a volunteer's hair at #NITC1

Natmaine styling a volunteer's hair at #NITC1



Then we had to deal with inexperienced and quack hairstylists who knew next to nothing about styling natural hair. Don't forget that this was a new concept that most of us learned from the Internet. It wasn't like it was taught in schools so we still had to deal with the same old system. Of course, another abusive relationship was birthed. Some of us went as far as educating these stylists about the rudiments of natural hair care but those of us that couldn't be bothered stayed far away from the salons. After all, managing natural hair can be self - taught as long as you're ready to put in the work. Naturally, a few experienced naturalistas took the initiative and went on to set up natural hair salons. So, we had a just a handful for about a ton of us. This led to exorbitant pricing, a clear case of demand and supply. This also meant that most of us would still not be able to afford these prices. Again, we're back to square one. But on the flip side, this encouraged the average Nigerian naturalista to be less dependent on salons in general and take better care of their hair by themselves for themselves.

Cross section of attendees at #NITC15

Cross section of attendees at #NITC15



So, when you have everyone trying new products and styling their hair by themselves, what do you get? Natural hair blogs. Suddenly, some Nigerian women felt the need to share their unique experiences particularly to show how they're pushing through in spite of it all. Of course, we had the naturals amongst us. Those with the skill and dexterity of professional hairstylists. The only thing they needed was some encouragement and support and before we knew it, new Instagram pages were being opened displaying their services. At the moment, it has become a monthly thing.

Attendees shopping at #NITC15

Attendees shopping at #NITC15



When you have all of these in place and have made significant progress in a naturally tough environment, you celebrate when you can or you go ahead and pass on the knowledge. Natural hair events are new in. They come in form of training, workshops or simply meet ups. You can never go wrong with a gathering of natural hair enthusiasts because there's an invisible bond that binds us all. From the newbies who can't differentiate a leave in conditioner from a deep-conditioner to the veterans to never style their hair beyond two strand twists, there's always something for everyone.
 

Natural hair in Nigeria has come to stay and we're here for it.