Women embrace their natural hair

Amanda Cooke, Kasuba Stuurman, Eleanor Barkes, Chantal De Kock and Simone Thomas, are the team behind Cape Town Naturally.

Gone are the days that people chose to sit for hours in a chair to get their hair relaxed, blown out or straightened as the natural hair movement takes root across the world.

The third Cape Town Natural Hair Fest takes place on Saturday December 15 and Sunday December 16 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

Amanda Cooke, co-founder of Cape Town Naturally, the event’s organiser, spoke about her journey to finally flaunting her natural hair.

Amanda, 43, from Strandfontein, said she started questioning why she straightened her hair and that of her 10-year-old daughter Caitlin. She had watched her daughter combing a cousin’s straight hair and saying that it was beautiful and that she wished she had the same hair.

“That was the spark. That’s when I asked myself what am I doing to my child. I am ruining her life by always straightening her hair and mine; by wanting myself to look like people with straight hair,” said Amanda.

“As coloured women, we are told to swirl our hair, look a certain way, roll our hair or to take care of our hair because we believe that the beauty lies in our hair,” said Amanda.

After relaxing their hair for the December holidays in 2012 , Amanda vowed to herself and her daughter that it would be the last day they put their hair through such an ordeal.

She started doing research on natural hair and discovered that it was part of a massive movement in the United States.

“I tried to find something in Cape Town on this and didn’t find anything. There was a small movement in Johannesburg but nothing in Cape Town. I started my blog on my natural hair journey. In 2012 I made up my mind and on Wednesday December 4 2013, I cut my hair and went natural.

“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, yet very liberating.”

She went through a phase called transitioning, when the natural hair is allowed to grow back and all the chemically-treated hair to grow out.

She found another blogger, Kasuba Stuurman, of Diep River, with the same vision and they connected. Chantal de Kock who worked with Kasuba also joined the team. Eleanor Barkes then joined the three women to start Cape Town Naturally.

Ms Barkes, who used to stay in Vredehoek, but currently lives in Brighton, England, said there were no salons where she could straighten her hair when she moved to Japan six years ago. “It made perfect sense for me to start embracing my natural hair. There were challenges along the way, as it was tough to find curly hair products.”

The women started Cape Town Naturally in 2014, with their first event in March 2016 attracting 35 people.

Simone Thomas joined them after this event and they decided to go even bigger. For the next event they aimed to attract 350 people but 800 people pitched up. “You can imagine how excited we were about this,” said Amanda.

Their second Natural Hair Fest in 2017 at Canvas Event Space in Paarden Eiland, had 1 200 visitors.

“It is not an easy decision to make; take some time to think about going natural. We have been brainwashed and taught to have straight and long hair. Men too have been made to be attracted to women with straight hair. People think that being natural is lazy. It’s really not as you have to spend more time washing your hair, for example,” said Amanda.

She said they do not turn people with straight hair away at the door.

Chantal, who grew up in Athlone, but currently lives in Southfield, said: “The festival is really about celebrating our diversity and showcasing the practice of self love and acceptance. It’s about so much more than hair. Hair is just a medium to reflect self love.”

Simone, who grew up in Parkwood and now lives in Kuils River, added: “The Natural Hair Fest is an expression of the new view we as coloured women have concerning beauty and how we view others and ourselves.”

“Natural hair is not a statement, it’s not a phase that people are going through but getting in touch with your roots,” said Amanda.

And, said Kasuba: “Natural hair is about shifting the hurtful narrative that plagues women of colour – letting them know that they can embrace their outer beauty as long as they love their inner self.”

The third Cape Town Natural Hair Fest takes place on Saturday December 15 and Sunday December 16 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

The festival will launch on Saturday with performances by Claire Phillips, Don Vino Prins and others, from 6pm to 10pm. On Sunday, The Black Ties will perform and the festival runs from 10am to 5pm with weekend tickets at R380 each and Sunday tickets at R125 each.

The first 500 guests will receive a free goody bag. For more information contact mandy@ctnaturally.co.za