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The Natural Hair Movement in Ivory Coast is Making Waves, But Still Faces Stiff Resistance


In Abidjan, hair can be a contentious topic. Many Ivorians are persuaded to eschew their natural hair in favor of chemical straighteners, wigs and extensions. Afros and dreadlocks are rarely depicted on local television, and those that wear their hair naturally can be shunned from their offices.

“I have one friend who has natural hair, and she has to wear a wig to work. They will not even let her inside the building with natural hair,” says Azi Oyourou, founder of Re-Zen Up, one of the few salons in the capital that specializes in natural hair styles.

The tide is slowly starting to turn, however, thanks in part to the efforts of a community movement, Nappys de Babi.

The group currently hosts bi-monthly meet-ups where participants exchange stories and tips on how best to care for natural hair.

“My hair was breaking and one day I just decided to clip it. It was something I just did for myself with no motivation to start a movement,” says Mariam Diaby, the group’s founder.

“When I started the group, I just started with three or five friends who were wearing their hair natural. We added another friend, and another, and in three months we were about 200. Today we are a group of 8,500.”

Since then, the movement has become mainly one of encouragement (Daiby has reappropriated the word “nappy” to be a mash-up of “natural” and “happy,” while Babi is shorthand for Abidjan). Earlier this year, members around the world sent in clips of themselves dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”

Still, those embracing their natural locks continue to face resistance from the community at large.

Bibi Gnagno writes a blog on the subject and has launched a natural hair consultancy and product line in Abidjan. American-born, the Ivory Coast transplant was fascinated with local perceptions of natural hair so much that she’s in the process of filming a documentary, titled “Is that (all) your hair?”

Gnagno has interviewed dozens of women about their attitudes regarding their hair.

“I ask women, ‘Now that you’ve gone natural, what comments do you get?’ For some of them, it’s: ‘What’s wrong with you? Do you not have enough money to go to a salon? Did your husband leave you? Go get a perm,'” she says.

“It’s starting to change slowly but surely, but it’s not as rampant as it is in the States. But it’s on its way,” she adds.

Read more at CNN

What people are saying

13 thoughts on “The Natural Hair Movement in Ivory Coast is Making Waves, But Still Faces Stiff Resistance

  1. Maman Sagbe says:

    This is so troubling. If Black women cannot be Black in Africa, where can they be?

  2. Troubling is an understatement sister. Never underestimate the crippling effects of colonisation on the African psyche. But some of us are on the path to healing. It's not easy, it's a daily fight but one day the we WILL overcome. Fighting is in our DNA.

  3. Deven Brown says:

    Thinamazulu Zulu KIck em all out.

  4. Shawn Jay says:

    Colonization is a hell of a drug.. got Africans thinking that its wrong to be African…. Garrett Morgan did some things right…but, that relaxer he invented set us back an insane amount of time.

  5. Em Adams says:

    Once you visit different countries in Africa, it will be very clear to most that you have just put yourself another 2 or 3 degrees away from White people, now you have to go through their Black representatives who protect Whiteness more fiercely than do White people. It can be daunting!

  6. And I'm hoping by referring to 'Africans' you include the diaspora in the mix.

  7. Deven Brown lol easier said than done. Anyhow the world doesn't work like that anymore – as human beings we were meant to live together – equally – unfortunately some people decided otherwise.

  8. Shawn Jay says:

    Thinamazulu Zulu Most definitely. When I speak of Afrikans, I speak of our family all across this world. Its happening in America with the hair too…just not as much with the skin lighteners though… I agree with u big time.

  9. For about two years now I have said many American black women are going natural while African women have embraced perms, weaves and extensions.

  10. You've said more than you know. This was an incredible statement.

  11. Thinamazulu Zulu where do you get the idea we were meant to live together? we were never meant to live with white people or any other race except Black. every group was given their land to live on. you think I want to live with people who hate me because I don't look like them?

  12. unfortunately, this is true but we can run them out. let them go to england or america.

  13. we started the trend way back in the 60s with the Black Power Movement.

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