During a Tedx talk, Speaker Mena Fombo humoured the audience to an old school game of Simon Says, except that instead of Simon she opted for ‘Mena Says’. She began by commanding the audience to clap their hands, and they did. Then, she commanded them to high five the person sitting beside them, and they did that too. Lastly, she instructed the audience to touch the hair of the person sitting in front of them, and a few followed the command while the rest hesitated. Then the room was filled with laughter, the reaction proved the point of Fombo’s talk that many people were uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger touching their hair and in fact found it disrespectful. So she started a campaign about it and she called it ‘No, you can’t touch my hair’.
By the end of the speech, I was clapping and nodding along with the audience. I was amused, yes, but another part of me was intrigued by the fact that the hair wave has become such a huge part of our lives that we’re now delivering speeches about it. Writers have written books. Google the word hair, and a blog will come up. There are chart-topping songs about it, and artists have created odd sculptors that resemble human hair. I’ve never cared much about my hair to write an entire sonnet about it and so I wondered why people all over the world did.
To find answers to my question, I conducted research and then I was watching the videos and reading the articles where I had my ‘aha’ moment. I realise that hair is much more than just visits to the salon and the pictures on Pinterest, it plays a bigger role in our lives then we believe. There is something magical that lies in our hair and it has been so for centuries, long before you and I were seeds of this earth.
When I was reading the different articles on the significance of hair to different cultures and countries, I felt like I was taking a pilgrimage across the globe. I was taught that hair, for many cultures, tribes and religions was a method of communication when words seemed to fail. For instance, the women and men of India will travel to the temples of Thiruttani and Tirupati to have their hair shaved as a sacrificial message to their creator when they sought divine intervention.
The Taiping Army of China rebelled against the Qing Dynasty with their hair by simply refusing to keep it in the regulated queue style. When the Rastafarians reclaimed their African identity. They altered not only their diet and lifestyle, but their locks spoke the loudest. And when the Black Power Movement fought for the equality of black women and men across America, it was not only their fists in the air that spread the message, but their afros that spoke volumes too.
Spiritual leaders and healers have been stating for years that our hair is a symbol of strength, not only physically (like biblical character Samson), but spiritually too. However, hair is also a symbol of an individual’s inner feelings, like the Navajo people of the United States. A shaved head symbolises grief, while to some of us baldness simply mean new beginnings. People have been fighting wars and protesting with their hair for decades. For decades, peculiar-looking hair has been discriminated against and shaved off as punishment. But hair is becoming the centre of attention yet again, in the 21st century and the optimist in me can’t help but believe that there’s a greater reason behind that.
In conclusion, my ‘aha’ moment might not have changed my life drastically like others may have, and I might not be ending world hunger, but I now understand why people across the globe obsess so much about their crowns. My ‘aha’ moment taught me that hair, whether long, cut, dyed, locked or braided speaks a language of its own. It is our closest connection to our creator, it is our weapon in war and when we get older and wiser, and the grey hairs start to peak, it becomes a symbol of the wisdom we’ve gained.
“This is my antenna, this is my wisdom, my badge of honour,” said Actor Thandie Newton. Furthermore, when I sit back and think about it, I realise that the true magic of the world around me lies in our hair.
Tell us: What does your hair mean to you?