Earlier this month, one of the Pulse participants here in South Africa decided to spice up her hairstyle a bit, and went to a local hair salon (fun fact: most salons in SA are run by Ghanaians and Nigerians). After six hours in the chair (and three packs of extension hair later) she walked out into the setting sun with cornrows. Why are we writing about this? Well, it turns out that the choice of hairstyle can be really ‘political’ here in South Africa, at least in parts of it. In the weeks that followed we had a mixed experience: On one hand there was a lot of positive feedback and excitement from people. While walking down the street with my colleague, she received so many compliments from strangers. In the music store, my co-workers’ choice of hairstyle really became a conversation starter. At the same time, my colleague was met with startled and terrified looks from people, at the supermarket or in the ATM line. Many people stared at length, and could apparently not get comfortable with the fact that a white woman was wearing cornrows, a style that is so common for black South Africans.
One of Field Band Foundation’s core values is diversity. Members learn to accept and respect each other, and to appreciate difference. Surely, my colleague was seen as ‘different’ wherever she walked. Her hairstyle became a statement. A healthy statement I suggest, in these times of xenophobia striking this “Rainbow Nation”.
Written by Eirik