Hair – African vs European

The Nordic woman has long blond hair which she uses as part of her winter attire. It falls over her shoulders as a blanket and keeps the neck warm. The neck carrying the crucial blood vessels and nerves to and from the brain is one of the vital areas that is able to send a message that the body is warm. Its a matter of what the brain thinks it feels. So much so that advertisers of winter clothing use the subconscious association of hair with a feeling of warmth and security to subliminally target buyers.

The folk tale, Rapunzel where a girl is shut up in a castle by an evil witch and is freed by a charming prince may be nothing more than an enactment of the battle between the evil winter, represented by the witch and the bright summer awakening represented by the prince and the crucial role hair plays in her survival.

Hair is associated with continuity and growth and with fertility and sex. It is therefore not surprising that it is used so powerfully in this age of marketing and advertizing and with even greater effect than the more obvious and overt sexual signals.

During the summer the hair is gathered up and held with pins above the head or done into pig tails to remove the blanket from the shoulders and exposing them to the precious sun. For those with fast growing hair it is sometimes just cropped above the shoulders during the summer.

In Africa, the sun is deadly and the African adapted to his environment by having melanin in his skin to help block the deadly rays of the sun. As for hair he would never let it fall over his shoulders as a thick blanket as this would smother him to death. He therefore developed several hair styles that either made the long hair into ropes or was simply cut and kept short. The genetic adaptation of curly hair that trapped air in it ensured that the little hair on top of his head acted as a good insulator for the head against the burning sun.

The thatched roof of an African dwelling was also an adaptation to the African sun. The thick insulation ensured a cool inside environment. This roof was like the curly hair trapping a mass of air for insulation. The sleek smooth and thin iron roofs constructed in most of Africa today trap no air within themselves and hence the rooms under them are extremely hot inside.

To appreciate the coolness of an African grass thatched hut, it is necessary to remove ones shoes and step in with bare feet. (not with socks). Coming in from a long walk in the burning heat, the coolness of the bare earth floor is transmitted through the feet into the whole body. The experience is difficult to explain in words and is probably best experienced. It is not a feeling that is easily measurable and tabulated. The brain receives the message of coolness just like the Nordic brain is affected by the neck warmth. Walking in with shoes is a waste of this wonderful opportunity.

The African grass thatch is fast disappearing and is being replaced by cheap iron roofs poorly adapted to the African environment but at least provide crucial drinking water. In hair the cheap solution is a plastic weave from China labeled, human hair which however is waterproof like the iron sheets. Others in imitation of Western idols let their hair down on their shoulders getting hot under the collar like their men counterparts in dark suits and ties.


11 thoughts on “Hair – African vs European

  1. Interesting take on hair. I loved reading this, I actually learned something new about the grass thatched roofs. Proud to be African!


  2. Nice post relating the African hair;however the reason we rush for Chinese or other imported plastics is because the African hair is very difficult to maintain,unless we put dreadlocks.


    1. I believe African women are deconstructing the myth that the hair which grows out of their head naturally is difficult. The natural hair movement from African-Americans women who finally decided to go back to their roots after generations of being told they are not beautiful came to Africa. It took the diaspora community to remind us that natural hair needs to be well understood the same way Nordic/white hair has been understood, researched and advertised. African hair is different, rightfully so and deserves the respect other diversities have been afforded for centuries.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This site is interesting.Could we please do something beyond just reading.We should start annual festivals in every county in Gikuyu land where we would prepare traditional food exactly the way our great grand parents did including UCURU WA MUKIO and dance the Gikuyu music same way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. So long as modernity and blessed richness of the house cannot translate into cheap camaraderie. Lets learn and return festivals a little later


  4. This is quite fascinating. I’d never thought about our hair and skin from such a viewpoint & thinking about it , it indeed makes perfect sense . Thank you for your writing, your helping us find ourselves again & get back what was lost . There’s something that happens deep inside as one reads & uncovers who they truly are, it’s healing and settling, thank you once again


  5. We need to teach ourselves to love what grows from our scalp and learn how to take care of it. We cannot continue to give the excuse that it is the reason we buy fake hair. Africans were known for their elaborate hairstyles in the past. They did it then, we can do it today.

    “Do not remove the kinks from your hair; remove them from your brain.”—Marcus Garvey

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this poweful comment. For too long we have heard the excuse. “Our hair is unmanageable” Thank you once again Mũthoni.


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