In a SASO BPC trial in May 1976, Steve Biko was asked, among others, about the meaning of the phrase “black is beautiful.” His reply was,
“I think the slogan has been meant to serve and I think is serving a very important aspect of out attempt to get at humanity. You are challenging the very deep roots of the Black man’s belief about himself. When you say ‘black is beautiful’ what in fact you are saying to him is: man, you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human being; now in African life especially it also has certain connotations; it is the connotations on the way women prepare themselves for viewing by society, in other words the way they dream, the way they make up and on, which tends to be a negation of their true state and in a sense a running away from their colour; they use lightening creams, they use straightening devices for their hair and so on. They sort of believe I think that their natural state which is a black state is not synonymous with beauty and beauty can only be approximated by them if the skin if made as light as possible and the lips are made as red as possible, and their nails are made as pink as possible and so on. So in a sense the term ‘black is beautiful’ challenges exactly that belief which makes someone negate himself.” (Biko, S. 1978. I write what I like)
I don’t disagree with Biko. He may have said these words a long time ago and under different conditions than we have today, but they still ring true to this day. In fact, in recent times there has been even more advanced methods for women to continue the “negation of their true state.”
There are many beautiful black women, which would, in part, explain why some among us struggle with choosing, and sticking to, one.
Some of the beautiful women are naturally beautiful. They can have short hair and still be beautiful instead of using “straightening devices for their hair.” They can just moisturise their natural lips and be beautiful without resorting to a situation where “the lips are made as red as possible.” They don’t have to negate their true state. No need to tweeze their eyebrows, attach fake eyelashes, attach fake hair nor attach fake nails. They are beautiful when they wake up before taking a bath and remain beautiful afterwards. Their beauty doesn’t depend on what they wear, they would make any outfit seem stunning. Sadly, some among those women are not aware of that they are beautiful. As a result, often, they spoil their beauty by attempting a “negation of their true state” that Biko spoke of.
There are also women who are beautiful, but whose beauty can be aided by moderate “negation of their true state.” A good hair style and a moderate application of make up. However, some among them do not know that they are beautiful and make up only supplements that beauty. They would apply make up as if their oxygen intake depended on it. Thus spoiling even the semblance of beauty they had that needed to be supplemented.
A friend once suggested that ugly women exist, I don’t believe him since I have never seen one. Pardon me for not dwelling much on this category, it is beyond the scope of this text.
I am suspicious that the quest of beauty among some black women may be unwittingly subjecting other women to abuse and super-exploitation.
Let me admit that I am no expect on extension hair pieces, but I gather via the grapevine that there is a high premium on Brazillian and Indian hair pieces. Apparently, this is because they are real human hair, durable and reusable. I then wonder about the source of those human hair. A quick google search reveals that the hairs are sold by women who cut them for religious reasons in India. As expected, the conspiracy corner of my brain believes that is only half the truth. So we have a missing half to complete that truth.
I suspect as more black women enter the middle class or date among the middle class men, the demand for Brazillian and Indian hair pieces increases. Over time, if it is not already happening, a creative entreprenuer in Brazil will begin to farm Brazillian girls out of whom he will harvest their hair for export to South Africa. I doubt he will target rich well-off women, it would be poor women who would be kept in concentration camps. He will investigate what would make the hair grow faster the same way the farmer uses genetical modification or fertilizers. He will then feed this to the poor girls to speed up production in order to meet the demand. This is the kind of abuse and super-explotation that I suspect women who pursue beauty at all costs could be unwittingly contributing to.
If this is happening it is inhuman. Human beings should not be treated like sheep whose hair is shaved off to make expensive jackets. If you use those extensions or plan to use them once you afford them, spare a thought for where they came from and whether if you were Indian or Brazillian, would you have willingly sell your hair or those of your daughter.
It would be interesting to get views of the activists who were against Umkhosi wokweshwama and against the eating of live oysters on what they imagine to be the source of the human hair extensions. Maybe their concerns end with beef and oysters but does not extend to human beings.
I wish to state under oath that this is not a business idea for entreprenuers in Durban to begin being creative about their compatriots who may or may not be concentrated there. I shall not be held responsible for the misinterpretation of this text that may result in the abuse of women anywhere in the world.
I must hasten to reiterate that this is subject that I know nothing about and therefore would welcome being enlightened to the humane ways in which the Brazillian and Indian hair pieces are harvested out of literate rich women who give them away for the benefit of their black peers who need them for their beauty and still be left with enough to remain beautiful themselves.
As far as I know, neither the ISO nor the SABS have established standards on what beauty is. Women who are fond of make up, fake hair, fake nails, fake eye lashes and fake eyebrows should pardon Steve Biko and I for the earlier remarks. It is just a matter of opinion, which I admit was unsolicited. Please go ahead and add that make up you might just end up looking like the women in the tv ads. Good luck!