African Hair

Barolong Seboni

Africa, Botswana

The roots of our history
Are planted in our hair.
The big, bold afros of the 70s;
Strong, powerful, confident,
Greeting the sky like a clenched fist
Defiant in their stride
Bobbing from side to side.

The kinky close shaves
Of the first African slaves
Sweating their way across
Salty seas in strange ships.
Bald heads bare like broken backs
Split, and sliced by a whip,
Red like a watermelon.

Then came the liberated heads
Of emancipated dreads,
Skanking to the reggae beat
Flashed in black, green and red
Reclaiming souls that were sold.

Through our African hair
Lives our culture and landscape
The geography of our African spaces
The peopling of rural and urban places.

The kinky curls, dry like beans
Are like the open bushes
Sparse and scattered across the desert
To withstand the harshest seasons.
This is the Kgalagadi mop
With very little on top
To stop the sizzling sun.
Our African hair, so brittle
Is like the dry moretlwa sticks
And the hard brown berries, so little.
And up North beyond the Sahara
Their heads are not like our Savanna
The women have flowing strands
Black like the darkest wintery night
Long and sinuous like the Nile
That weaves through many lands;
Tropical forests, rich soils and barren sands.

But now in the new age I fear,
And openly have to declare
That we must really conserve
Our endangered, polluted, African hair:
It’s immersed in oils of all sorts
Steamed, creamed and preened,
Like plastic goods, glossy and sheened.

Our African kinky curls
Have straightened and unfurled
Like ropes and strings
And sometimes look like they will
Take off on their own wings.

We must preserve our heritage (hair-itage)
By conserving and protecting our hair
Because in every black curl
And every black strand
Is rooted our African world;
Our very African brand.