I was in South Africa last week, and while I went on pleasure, I ended up mixing a bit of business in there as I was invited to be a special guest at the Johannesburg Natural Hair Meetup! I love seeing how natural hair is celebrated in different countries, so I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity, even though it was only 6 hours before my flight to return to the US. Keep reading for my rundown of the event, as well as for photos of the main attraction – all the beautiful attendees!
The event was a mixture of presentations and giveaways, followed by a panel discussion and time to shop the vendors!
The Basics of Natural Hair
Ruth of Natural Sisters and started off her presentation by asking the audience how many of them knew what a cowash was. To my surprise, a good amount of attendees didn’t know! That just goes to show that though you may think that some natural hair knowledge is basic and fundamental, there are still people learning and who need help! Here are some of Ruth’s tips for having a great natural hair journey:
- Have a routine that works for you
- Keep your scalp clean
- Balance protein and moisture
- Be consistent with your regimen
- Keeping a hair journey helps track which products work
- Take photos to help you realize your hair is growing
- Protect your hair, especially your ends
Quick Styles for Natural Hair at Every Length
It was my turn to speak next! Now y’all know I believe updos are the most versatile natural hairstyles that literally work for every possible occasion, so I decided to do 3 different updos on naturals with 3 different kinds of hair. The key to all of the updos that I do for myself, and the ones I did on my models, is that they are quick – 5 minutes or less. They also almost always involve some form of twisting as well. In order to make this possible, you have to start with stretched, and well moisturized hair that reduces the need to detangle, comb, and part, which take time.
For the TWAer: While I think people in the TWA stage should focus on building a strong regimen, and should enjoy the ease and simplicity of their hair. Nonetheless, I gave my model a flat twist headband from ear to ear that helped lay down her natural hair in case she wanted a more demure look for work.
For the fine-haired natural: Fine haired naturals might think that they don’t have enough volume to do updos, but there are always tricks you can do to make your hair look larger than life! I showed the attendees a trick to have a volumnious pompadour – take the section and twist the ends loosely before pinning down. This gives your hair more height than if you just pulled it back and pinned it down. In the back, I simply did two roll, tuck, and pins!
For the long haired natural: Rather that relying on my go to Celie twists that I planned for my long-haired natural, I decided to do a simple half-updo style that works perfectly for those days when your hair is on fleek but for whatever reason (say, you’re at a wedding), you don’t want it to steal everyone’s attention. By simply pulling some of your hair back, you can tone down the volume of your hair without compromising your length!
Health and Beauty from the Inside Out
Charlotte of Better4Life and Africa Grace started off her talk by getting us to stand up and stretch, which was much needed for me. She shared her personal story of being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease decades ago, and realizing that the only thing that made her feel better was improved self-esteem and changing her diet. Though she was the only white person in the room, Charlotte captivated the audience and spoke on what she knew, and left alone what she didn’t; for example, she started off from jump saying that her hair was nowhere near as exciting as the rest of ours! She then proceeded to touch on a few key notions for having your best life from the inside out, including:
- Trust and believe that you are beautiful
- The only difference in health is whether you live out of LOVE or LOATHING. Do you love yourself and your life or do you loathe them?
- Stop trying not to age! Your wrinkles are the trophies of your life’s success!
- The importance of using natural hair and skin products – what grows in the soil is good for your hair
- Live your life from a point of love, and live your dreams
Accentuating Your Hair With Your Style
Maxine Jafta, a personal stylist, let us know a few trendy ways to look cute that pair perfectly with natural hair. She highlighted African prints, vintage looks, head-to-toe single color, and color blocking that she saw among the event attendees as awesome looks to try. Maxine even called me up and shouted me out on my color blocked look! BTW, South Africans can DRESS! Even on the streets, everyone – men and women – whether they were dressed for work or just kicking it with their friends, had effortless urban chic style.
I sat on a panel with all the presenters plus Mbali who runs a Facebook page called I Don’t Buy My Hair, I Rock My Own and we were barraged with a ton of questions! Some people asked me about dry hair solutions (stay tuned for my trick that you might’ve seen on Instagram), taking care of natural hair while swimming (saturate, oil & condition your hair BEFORE putting on your swim cap to protect against chlorine), and taking care of natural hair while exercising without having to wash every day (use a headband to get rid of sweat, and use tea tree or peppermint oil to keep your scalp nice and fresh). Other questions really dug deep into the concerns of natural hair, especially kinky textured hair, and being “neat”. I’ll leave that for another post because it’s too much to flesh out here!
There were so many awesome vendors, including hair products, accessories, and even clothes! I was captivated by Saris for Change, which uses donated fabric and teaches women to sew blouses and kimonos for economic empowerment. Several attendees were rocking creations by Saris for Change so I had to buy one for myself! It’s on the rack in the photo above, can you guess which it is?
All the natural hair product companies at the event use only all-natural ingredients in their products, and it was interesting to hear each founder’s individual story about why they decided to create a hair line. Considering the lack of accessibility to mainstream natural hair products like we have here in the US, it is an important aspect of the rise of natural hair that these companies are springing up by and for naturals in South Africa! I hope to feature a bunch of them on the site, and they each sent me back home with at least 1 product to try to expect some reviews as well!
So many beautiful heads of hair! From fros to cornrows, locks to crochet braids, and colored hair to TWAs, almost every natural hairstyle was represented in this meetup!
Thank you so much Margaret for inviting me to the Johannesburg Natural Hair Meetup and for helping me round out my Jozi visit! I truly enjoyed meeting some of my South African followers, dropping the small nuggets of information that I possess, and learning more about the state of natural hair in South Africa. Can’t wait to come back again!